Celebrating International Internet Day

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Statement by Acting Administrator John Barsa

For Immediate Release

Thursday, October 29, 2020
Office of Press Relations
press@usaid.gov

 
Today, we celebrate one of the most groundbreaking inventions in human history. On October 29, 1969, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Stanford University first connected over a long-distance computer network. The teams only sent two letters before the receiving computer crashed, but those first bits of data marked the first Internet transmission in history.

Since 1969, the invention of the Internet has transformed the world as we know it, and revolutionized the way we do business across every sector around the globe. The Internet is a powerful tool to transform lives, bolster economies, and help accelerate the Journey to Self-Reliance. Yet four billion people in developing countries, approximately half the world’s population, still do not have access to the Internet. And it is not a foregone conclusion that digital technologies will benefit those who stand to gain the most from them.

At the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), we are committed to achieving open, interoperable, reliable, inclusive, and secure Internet and digital infrastructure that promote democracy, consistent with American values of respect for individual rights, competitive markets, and freedom of expression. We are committed to ensuring the people in the countries where we work are not left behind, and to protect them from authoritarian abuse of these powerful tools.

The recent rise of fifth-generation (5G) broadband networks has expanded both the challenges and the opportunities presented by Internet-enabled technologies. USAID recognizes 5G as both a national-security and a global development priority. We base our approach to 5G in our first-ever Digital Strategy, released in April 2020. The Strategy outlines the Agency’s commitment to improve development and humanitarian-assistance outcomes through the use of digital technology, and explains how inclusive digital infrastructure – including next-generation wireless networks – plays a critical role in the Journey to Self-Reliance.

USAID strongly supports the whole-of-government effort promoting the Clean Network worldwide. More and more countries around the world are signing on to the Clean Network in support of open, secure, reliable systems that are not impacted by “Trojan Horse” and “backdoor” technologies emanating from the People’s Republic of China and companies like Huawei and ZTE.

As we continue to navigate the new digital age, capitalizing on digitally enabled opportunities like 5G while mitigating the risks of manipulation and malign influence will be essential. USAID is taking a strong leadership position within the U.S. Government interagency and among international donors to support open, interoperable, reliable, inclusive, and secure digital ecosystems in emerging economies as a prerequisite for a safe, secure, and thriving world.

Last updated: October 29, 2020

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