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New initiative to highlight and bridge the worldwide digital divide.

The Wireless Broadband Alliance has launched World Wi-Fi Day, an initiative that will accelerate affordable wireless connectivity around the world. 

Taking place on 20th June, and with the full backing of the Connected City Advisory Board, World Wi-Fi Day will focus industry, policy and public attention on addressing the divide between connected and unconnected societies. The Wireless Broadband Alliance is encouraging cities, government bodies, fixed and mobile operators, technology vendors, Internet giants and service providers, as well as retailers, to come together to deliver connectivity to everyone, everywhere.

Wireless connectivity provides tremendous opportunities for communities, from the development of roads and water systems through to improvements in transport, healthcare and education. But the digital divide in both developing nations and developed urban centers is still a major issue. While billions of people in developing nations are completely unconnected, there are hundreds of thousands of people in developed markets like the U.S. who are still struggling to gain Internet access, due to factors such as poor infrastructure or slow Internet speeds. For example, according to the San Francisco Digital Divide Report, over 100,000 people in the city have no Internet access at home, while an additional 50,000 people cannot take full advantage of Internet connectivity due to slow Internet access.

World Wi-Fi Day will be a global platform to recognize and celebrate the significant role Wi-Fi is playing in getting cities and communities around the world connected. It will champion exciting and innovative solutions to help bridge the digital divide, with Connected City initiatives and new service launches at its core.

“There is a growing divide between the digital haves and the digital have-nots – and this is not just an emerging market issue, it’s a global issue. From developing countries in Africa and Asia, through to the under-appreciated ‘urban unconnected’ in the world’s largest economies. As the only universal unlicensed and affordable public access network, Wi-Fi connectivity will be the key to bridging the global digital divide – connecting the unconnected and underserved,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

“The Wireless Broadband Alliance has a vision and hope for connectivity and World Wi-Fi Day is acting as catalyst for this effort. We are encouraging all stakeholders, including cities, governments, operators and tech giants like Facebook, Google and Microsoft to reverse this trend, and ensure affordable, sustainable connectivity for all,” Shenwai continued.

World Wi-Fi Day is being backed by the Connected City Advisory Board (CCAB), a body which aims to deliver on the vision of Connected Cities around the world. With senior representatives from New York City, Barcelona, Dublin, San Francisco, Singapore, San Jose, Mexico City as well as the governments of Delhi and Philippines amongst those involved, the CCAB helps cities maximize the opportunities presented by universal connectivity and aids in the development and execution of Connected City plans.

“Affordable, sustainable broadband connectivity is the lifeblood of the city of the present, and of the future, transforming the way communities operate and improving quality of life,” said Vijay Sammeta, CIO of City of San José and Co-Chair of CCAB. “Even in San José, a recognized global hub of technology innovation, we have a lot to learn and a lot to do before we can claim full urban connectivity. I’d call on all stakeholders to participate in World Wi-Fi Day to address the issue of the unconnected in a meaningful, transformative manner.”

“Connectivity continues to transform and improve the way we live in the world,” said Miguel Gamino, Chief Information Officer for the City and County of San Francisco. “There’s tremendous opportunity and responsibility for government leaders, technology providers, and innovators to participate and collaborate to make Wi-Fi available to anyone and everyone. World Wi-Fi Day gives the world a day to celebrate and commit to a connected life.”

Alphonso Jenkins, Deputy Commissioner for Telecommunications Planning at New York City Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications and Co-Chair of CCAB also added, “Connected Cities have the power to drastically improve our society, our economy, our environment and our welfare. And this doesn’t just improve life for citizens, it helps develop our nations. It is for this reason that the City of New York is making connectivity a priority and supporting World Wi-Fi Day, as we truly appreciate the profound significance that wireless connectivity plays within our communities.”

The Wireless Broadband Alliance is supported by more than 135 leading names in the telecoms industry, including operators and technology companies such as AT&T, BT, Cisco, Comcast, Google, Intel, Liberty Global and Orange.