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Global Connect Initiative

The Global Connect Initiative: Accelerating entrepreneurship and economic opportunity by expanding internet access globally.

Over 4 billion of the world’s 7.2 billion people do not yet have access to the Internet. More than half of the earth’s population remains without the remarkable benefits that the Internet and related technologies bring to economic and social development. In the least developed countries, only 1 in every 10 individuals has regular access to the Internet, and rates are even worse for women and girls. To address this problem, on September 27, 2015, the U.S. Department of State launched the Global Connect Initiative with the goal of connecting the next 1.5 billion people to the Internet by 2020. The Global Connect Initiative is a multi-stakeholder effort based on the notion that all stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, civil society, multilateral development banks, and international organizations, must play their part to expand connectivity. It seeks to mainstream the idea that connectivity is as critical to economic development as other forms of infrastructure, like roads, ports, and electricity.

On June 24, 2016, through an executive order the President of the United States created the Global Connect International Connectivity Steering Group (Steering Group), bringing together 12 federal government departments and agencies, all relevant policy offices within the Executive Office of the President, as well as one independent federal commission, to ensure a coordinated and consistent approach to agency implementation of the goals of the Global Connect Initiative with the Department of State as chair. The executive order called on the initiative to focus on: encouraging foreign countries to prioritize Internet connectivity in development plans, promote the formation of region-specific multi-sector working groups to ensure technical and regulatory best practices, and encourage the development of digital literacy programs in developing nations.

The Steering Group agencies have realized substantial progress in advancing these goals in five categories of action, with over 40 programs and activities that have reached more than 30 countries.