Nº 5 2013 > Smartly digital Asia‑Pacific
Smartly digital Asia-Pacific
Cambodia hosts ITU Asia-Pacific Regional Development Forum and Preparatory Meeting for the upcoming World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2014
Cambodia hosts ITU Asia-Pacific Regional Development Forum and Preparatory Meeting for the upcoming World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2014.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was the venue of the successful Asia-Pacific Regional Development Forum and the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the upcoming World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2014 (WTDC‑14). These two ITU events were held back to back from 29 April to 2 May 2013 and were hosted by the Royal Government of Cambodia through its Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.
The theme of the Asia-Pacific Regional Development Forum was “Asia-Pacific: Smartly DIGITAL (Digital Intelligent Greener Innovative Transparent Accessible Living)”. Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) considered this theme well selected because of the region’s impressively positive trends in regard to information and communication technologies (ICT).
“ITU figures show that by the end of 2013, there will be 89 mobile-cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in the Asia-Pacific region. Of the estimated 2 billion broadband subscriptions worldwide, Asia and the Pacific will account for 895 million. Six out of the 25 top performers on the ICT Development Index (IDI-2012) are from the Asia-Pacific. Looking at these figures, we can certainly say that Asia-Pacific has gone digital,” Mr Sanou commented.
The Forum was attended by 172 participants from 21 Member States of the Asia-Pacific region, four recognized operating agencies, four scientific/industrial organizations, three entities dealing with telecommunications, and eight regional and international organizations.
During the Forum’s opening ceremony, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of ITU, reminded participants of the Union’s mission to connect the world, and to bring the benefits of ICT to all the world’s people, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. “I firmly believe that if we can succeed in achieving our mission, then we will see unprecedented social and economic improvement for all, and we will continue to make bold steps in accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals — and indeed other sustainable development goals as we move forward”, said Dr Touré.
Dr Sok An, Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister, officially opened the one-day Forum and encouraged participants to find creative ways of solving the development challenges of the region. He reported that Cambodia is at a critical point in its socio-economic development as it moves steadily from a least-developed country to a lower middle-income economy; a goal expected to be achieved by 2015–2016.
Referring to the continuing close cooperation between Cambodia and ITU, Dr Sok An acknowledged the valuable assistance the country has received from the Union. Cambodia has successfully managed its transition to a vibrant telecommunication market, with the expansion and upgrading of its telecommunication infrastructure. As one of the first countries to have more mobile-phone subscriptions than fixed-line ones, Cambodia now boasts a mobile phone penetration rate of 139.4 per cent.
“Currently, there are eight mobile operators and two Long-Term Evolution technology (LTE) test licences have been granted, making the telecommunication market vigorously competitive,” the Deputy Prime Minister said, adding that “The IT and communications capacity and skills of Cambodians, particularly our younger generation, will be a major factor for the future success of Cambodia’s socio-economic and cultural development, and our capacity to look outwards and to compete successfully in our regional and global future.” About 95 per cent of children across the country are enrolled in school, and they ought to have access to ICT. “Previously, our aim was education for all. Now we should be aiming to achieve access to telecommunications for all,” he stressed.
The Forum was structured into four sessions, as follows:
- Session 1: Harnessing digital opportunity through broadband
- Session 2: Digital empowerment for all
- Session 3: Creating a smarter, safer and greener society
- Session 4: Multistakeholders’ round table: Ways forward
Many stakeholders focused on the topics of economic transformation, and people’s empowerment and engagement, as well as innovation. They considered that the development of infrastructure, human capital and bridging the digital divide were a necessary foundation for a smarter digital society. Among the key issues highlighted during the course of the sessions were cybersecurity, spectrum management, and widespread access to broadband.
Speakers recognized the importance of political will in building a digitally inclusive, literate and empowered citizenship. According to participants, what will require particular attention going forward are such matters as privacy and security, energy efficiency, e‑waste management, and the harmonization of emergency numbers — with a single clear and well-advertised distress point of contact that is coordinated internationally and regionally.
Wrapping up the debate, Eun-Ju Kim, Director of ITU’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, reiterated the importance of public-private-people’s partnerships — which she called “smart partners” — to realize a smart digital society for all in the Asia-Pacific, including people with disabilities, and regardless of gender, age, culture and location. She said that the outcomes of the Forum would serve not only as an input to the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for WTDC‑14, but also as an input to the preparatory process for the overall review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10).
During the Forum, in the presence of Dr Sok An and Dr Touré, Mr Sanou officially handed over the National Broadband Policy document, developed with the support of ITU, to So Khun, Cambodia’s Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. The document is an output of the Asia-Pacific Regional Initiative on “Broadband Access and Uptake in Urban and Rural Areas”. This initiative is supported by the Korean Communications Commission of the Republic of Korea.
The Asia-Pacific Regional Development Forum is an annual event aimed at providing a platform for sharing information on opportunities and challenges in the region, as well as best practice in policy, technology, regulatory and economic matters. The Forum is all about open dialogue among stakeholders — ITU Member States, Sector Members, Academia, and other industry players.
Setting the regional development agenda
The Asia-Pacific Regional Development Forum was followed by the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for WTDC‑14, which was chaired by Chin Bun Sean, Cambodia’s Secretary of State for Posts and Telecommunications. Around 130 participants representing governments, the public and private sectors, industry, international and regional organizations, and non-governmental organizations deliberated from 30 April to 2 May 2013 to identify priorities at the regional level for ICT development, taking into account the contributions submitted by Member States and Sector Members from the region.
In his opening address, So Khun, Cambodia’s Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, acknowledged the close association and cooperation between Cambodia and ITU. “Priority areas identified at past world telecommunication development conferences have benefited Cambodia enormously”, he said, adding that the country’s “Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is privileged to be part of this very important Forum as host, and we would like to express our appreciation to ITU for this opportunity and its trust”.
Welcoming delegates to the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting, Mr Sanou said that the event marked an important milestone in the preparations for WTDC‑14, which is to be held from 31 March to 11 April 2014 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The Regional Preparatory meeting was an opportunity to report on the implementation of the Hyderabad Action Plan adopted at the last WTDC in 2010.
Mr Sanou noted that the Asia-Pacific region ranks among the most dynamic and fast-moving regions of the world in ICT development. He gave an overview of the work done by BDT over the last two years to implement the Hyderabad Action Plan, reporting that “BDT has 72 on-going projects valued at USD 75 million. The overall implementation of the Operational Plan was 96.5 per cent in 2011 and 97.5 per cent in 2012.”
Over the course of three days, delegates discussed in detail all the 33 contributions submitted to the Preparatory Meeting. The ITU secretariat presented ITU’s results-based management approach, as well as the current strategic framework of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D).
The Preparatory Meeting arrived at a set of proposals on priorities for the Asia-Pacific region. Developed through an ad hoc group, these proposals will serve as a basis for formulating contributions to WTDC‑14. The proposals match the objectives of the ITU–D strategic framework, as shown in the table.
Mr Chin Bun Sean commended delegates for their contributions and hard work and for coming up with important recommendations on priority areas and topics for the future work of ITU–D, including its working methods, Study Group Questions and regional initiatives for Asia-Pacific. He described the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for WTDC‑14 as the beginning of a process to achieve greater coordination in the region. “I am indeed very pleased to be part of this process, and as Chairman I will seriously monitor and follow up the progress of the outcomes of this Regional Preparatory Meeting with the aim of ensuring that the priorities of the region are taken into account at WTDC‑14 in Sharm el-Sheikh, and are eventually adopted in the ITU–D Action Plan for the period 2015–2018, defining the mandate for the activities of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector for that period.”
Dr Touré thanked the host administration for making possible a “remarkable Regional Preparatory Meeting” for WTDC‑14. He invited the delegates to attend ITU’s next major events in the Asia-Pacific region, including ITU TELECOM World 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand, from 19 to 22 November 2013, which would be held immediately after the Connect Asia-Pacific Summit on 18 November 2013 at the same venue, where top leaders from Asia-Pacific are expected to announce financial commitments for the development of ICT in the region.