Nº 10 2012 > The year 2012 in review
Working towards tomorrow's hyper-connected world
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
The year 2012 was rich in world events organized by ITU. This review highlights some of the peaks of our achievements, based on the solid mountain of work carried out for our members. With so much to do, I am confident that ITU’s high performance will continue in 2013.
At the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT‑12) held in Dubai on
3–14 December, around 1600 delegates from 151 Member States revised the 24-year old International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs).
The updated Regulations will help bring the power of information and communication technologies (ICT) to everyone, everywhere, notably the 700 million people worldwide who still do not have mobile phone network coverage, and 4.5 billion people who are not yet online.
The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA‑12), held in Dubai on 20–29 November, called on ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T) to expand its work on e-health, software-defined networking and e-waste. The Assembly also called for the establishment of a review committee to ensure that ITU–T’s structure continues to meet the needs of the continually evolving and convergent ICT landscape. It also called on ITU–T to ensure that new ITU standards (ITU–T Recommendations) are accompanied by implementation guidelines.
WTSA‑12 adopted a resolution inviting ITU Member States to refrain from taking any unilateral or discriminatory actions that could impede other Member States from accessing public Internet sites and using the resources that the Internet makes available.
ITU’s annual Chief Technology Officer (CTO) meeting, held in Dubai on 18 November, assembled 21 private-sector executives to discuss ITU’s role in the standardization ecosystem and the associated priorities of ITU–T. Acknowledging increasing industry convergence powered in large part by ICT, the CTOs charged ITU to develop mechanisms that better integrate the needs of “vertical” sectors in ITU’s work on international standardization, to enable such innovations as e-health, e-learning, intelligent transport systems, mobile money and smart grid.
ITU Telecom World 2012, held in Dubai on 14–18 October, brought together industry representatives and government leaders at the highest level to engage in five days of dialogue on networking, knowledge-sharing, and the challenges of the ICT sector as well as the opportunities arising from it. Debates centred on the roll-out of broadband connectivity, the challenges of cyberthreats, and the need to promote cybersecurity, as well as the vast opportunities unleashed by smart applications in such critical sectors as health and education, and their role in achieving sustainable development.
The first ITU Humanitarian Awards were presented in Dubai during ITU Telecom World 2012, in recognition of commitment and consistent leadership in supporting the use of telecommunications to save lives during disasters. Awards were presented to Industry Canada; Australia’s Ministry for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy; Inmarsat; Iridium Communications; and Thuraya. Navin Kapila, a Consultant, received an individual award.
The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC‑12), held in Geneva from 23 January to 17 February, revised the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits.
Over four weeks, WRC‑12 addressed more than 30 agenda items focusing on the allocation of scarce radio-frequency spectrum to provide new opportunities for radiocommunication services, including those for the safety and security of maritime and aeronautical transport, as well as those dedicated to scientific purposes related to the environment, and to disaster prediction, mitigation and relief.
The achievements of WRC‑12 include allocating spectrum resources for mobile broadband and addressing the digital dividend issue in particular through harmonization of the use of the 700 MHz band by the services which most need it. Attention was also given to Earth-observation radiocommunication applications, which are crucial for monitoring and combating climate change and for disaster prediction.
ITU received the prestigious Emmy Award from the United States National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, for the standardization of loudness metering for use in broadcast audio (Recommendation ITU–R BS.1770).
ITU’s Radiocommunication Assembly, held in Geneva in January, agreed on specifications for the next step in mobile broadband wireless technology — IMT-Advanced. With the completion of an intensive programme developed by ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R) to stimulate global development of future IMT technologies, and following a detailed evaluation against stringent technical and operational criteria, “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” were accorded the designation of IMT-Advanced (commonly called 4G).
ITU–R Study Group 6 (Broadcasting service), agreed on new recommendations focusing on 3DTV programme production and broadcasting in the two formats that are in use worldwide: the “720p” and the “1080i/p HDTV” environments. Recommendations were also agreed on digital interfaces used in studios for 3DTV programme production, and on general requirements for 3DTV. ITU–R Study Group 6 also agreed on a Recommendation for methods to evaluate the quality of 3DTV images.
Another recommendation agreed on by ITU–R Study Group 6 concerns ultra-high definition television (UHDTV) — ushering in a new age of television. The ITU–R Recommendation lays out the quality standards for UHDTV in two steps. The first level of UHDTV picture levels has the equivalent of about 8 megapixels, and the next level comes with the equivalent of about 32 megapixels.
Connecting the world
Industry and government leaders at ITU’s Connect Arab Summit held in Doha, Qatar, on 5–7 March, identified market opportunities worth over USD 46 billion for new regionally focused projects designed to enhance ICT access, applications and services throughout the region. These investment opportunities focus on priorities for the region, including building a regional Arab ICT highway, developing e-services, empowering local people through training, leveraging ICT for youth job creation, strengthening cybersecurity, and protecting Arab heritage and culture. The Summit set out four development goals around access and infrastructure, digital content, cybersecurity, and innovation.
ITU’s Connect Americas Summit held in Panama City, Panama, on 17–19 July, focused on the five regional priorities for the Americas region for the period 2011–2014, adopted at the World Telecommunication Development Conference in Hyderabad, India, in 2010. It closed with a declaration from Heads of State and Government from Latin America and the Caribbean aimed at mobilizing “the human, financial and technical resources needed to connect the unconnected and to strengthen the role of ICT as the engine of economic prosperity and sustainable development, as well as poverty reduction in the Americas region”. Commitments to the tune of USD 53.4 billion were called for to fund ICT projects.
Migration from analogue to digital broadcasting
At the Global ICT Forum on Human Capacity Development, held in Cape Town on 22–25 October, the focus was on the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting. ITU released a publication on the Digital Dividend: “Insights for Spectrum Decisions” and launched the ITU Academy; an integrated approach to delivery of training through an e-learning platform that will run interdisciplinary courses catering for a wide range of ICT educational needs.
ITU and its cybersecurity partner, the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), joined in partnership with the Information Technology Authority (ITA) of Oman to establish the first Cybersecurity Innovation Centre to cater to the needs of the Arab region. With a total investment of over USD 2 million from the Oman Government and ITU, the Centre will benefit from ITU-IMPACT’s state-of-the-art systems, such as the Network Early Warning System (NEWS), and the Electronically Secured Collaborative Application Platform for Experts (ESCAPE).
ITU’s regulatory report “Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2012”, released in May, highlights the importance of a solid national regulatory framework in accelerating broadband roll-out and stimulating the development of new digital goods and services. Subtitled “Smart Regulation for a Broadband World,” the report sheds light on the often complex legal and regulatory issues now emerging as broadband becomes pervasive and increasingly serves as a driving force for the development of other economic sectors.
The Broadband Commission for Digital Development published its first country case studies on the state of broadband development in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Panama, the Philippines, and Romania. The report examines the effect of broadband connectivity on economic growth and access to basic services such as education and health.
The Commission also released its first global broadband report, the State of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion for All. The report evaluates the roll-out of broadband around the world and provides country rankings on economic impact, penetration, national broadband policy, and connecting people.
International delegates to ITU’s 12th Global Symposium for Regulators held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 2–4 October, endorsed a set of regulatory best-practice guidelines designed to provide a framework for innovation, investment and competition in cloud infrastructure and services, while ensuring protection of consumer interests.
Women and girls in ICT
As part of ITU’s “Tech Needs Girls” campaign, ITU hosted a high-level dialogue at New York’s Institute of International Education to draw up a road map that will help break down barriers and overturn outmoded attitudes in a bid to attract more girls to technology-related studies and careers. ITU also launched a “Tech Needs Girls Prize” to spark creativity, to be awarded as part of the 2013 celebration of “Girls in ICT Day”, which is celebrated throughout the world on the fourth Thursday of April every year.
For Girls in ICT Day 2012, more than 1320 events were held in nearly 90 countries, providing an estimated 30 000 girls and young women with a better understanding of the opportunities offered by the ICT sector.
ITU launched a multilingual Girls in ICT Portal to assist girls and young women to prepare for, and pursue, a technology career. The portal currently houses some 500 programmes to give females a boost in entering what remains largely a male-dominated sector.
The laureates of the 2012 World Telecommunication and Information Society Award — Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina, Sun Yafang, Chairman of Huawei, and Geena Davis, Hollywood icon and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media — have all contributed to providing the best possible opportunities for the female half of the world’s population to benefit from information and communication technologies.
ITU named Geena Davis Special Envoy for women and girls in ICT. As well as promoting ITU’s new “Tech Needs Girls” campaign, Ms Davis spreads the word on the importance of further extending access to technology to women worldwide.
A new report (released in April), by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development confirmed that broadband can help the world move towards a low-carbon economy and address the causes and effects of climate change.
ITU signed an agreement in March with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention aimed at protecting the environment from the adverse effects of e-waste.
ITU and the World Meteorological Organization co-hosted a meeting of United Nations System Chief Executives in a paper-smart environment. The meeting was held at ITU headquarters on 13 April.
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 20–22 June, recognized the essential role of ICT and broadband networks as catalysts for sustainable development, and called for improved early warning systems and Earth observation.
Participants at the 7th ITU Symposium on ICT, the Environment and Climate Change, held from 29–31 May, in Montreal, Canada, encouraged ICT manufacturers to make their products more easily upgradable without the need for replacing the entire device. They called for a lifecycle approach in the eco design of ICT, taking into account how components in a device can be recycled.
Participants at ITU’s Green Standards Week urged ITU to establish new best practices and standards for green technologies, and to create a global platform for the exchange of information on green ICT.
A new draft Recommendation ITU–T L.1001 standardizing the requirements for a universal power adapter was agreed by ITU–T Study Group 5. Designed to promote an adapter lifespan of at least ten years, the standard will reduce the number of power adapters that need to be manufactured by widening the range of compatible devices and facilitating adapter reuse and recycling.
Andreas Kamilaris, from Cyprus, won the second ITU Green ICT Application Challenge, a global competition to find the best ICT application to help promote “Sustainable Energy for All”.
Participants at the ITU‑EC forum on “Greener Smarter Better Cities” called upon municipalities, the ICT sector, policy-makers, as well as international and regional organizations to identify priorities to boost the development of sustainable, smart, climate-neutral urban areas.
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2012, held in Geneva on 14–18 May, agreed on a review process (WSIS+10) for measuring progress on the implementation of WSIS outcomes. Co-organized by ITU, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the WSIS Forum defined strategies to help countries and organizations more effectively harness the power of ICT to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and beyond.
The winners of 18 WSIS Project Prizes were announced during the Forum. The prizes recognize outstanding success in implementing development-oriented strategies that leverage the power of ICT. The 2012 edition of the WSIS Stocktaking Report was released at the Forum, showcasing more than 1000 innovative ICT-oriented projects covering the period 2010–2012.
ITU’s report, “Measuring the Information Society 2012”, shows that ICT uptake continues to grow worldwide, spurred by a steady fall in the price of telephone and broadband Internet services. Based on ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI), the report ranks the Republic of Korea (once again) as the world’s most advanced ICT economy, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland. The report also identifies countries which have made the most progress in ICT development — these dynamic ICT markets are mostly in the developing world.