Nº 9 2013 > m‑Powering Development Initiative
A better tomorrow
Empowering people through mobile technology is a shortcut to a better future — we call it “m‑powering”. Seeking to leverage the ubiquity of mobile technologies beyond basic communications by delivering business, education, health, banking and other services, ITU has launched its m‑Powering Development Initiative. “Mobile cellular technologies have reached people in the remotest corners of the world. The time is now ripe to leverage this phenomenal growth to empower people to meet their goals for sustainable development and shape the future we want”, says ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré.
Progress in m‑Powering will lead to socio-economic development in urban, semi-urban and remote rural areas. ITU’s initiative aims to provide an international, multistakeholder platform to make sure that happens.
Dr Touré has called for partners to join ITU’s m‑Powering initiative to help achieve sustainable development, in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and the principles of the information society. The m‑Powering Development Initiative is the result of a series of ITU activities aimed at expanding and enhancing telecommunications services, with a focus on the developing world.
Mobile technology can act as a catalyst for national, regional and international development, fostering growth and eliminating socio-economic barriers. It can help stimulate economic growth for all nations, thereby contributing to a truly inclusive information society that improves the daily lives of all citizens.
Advisory Board sets strategy
The first Advisory Board Meeting of the m‑Powering Development Initiative took place on 15 October 2013 at ITU headquarters and was opened by ITU Deputy Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. Leaders in the telecommunication community with a track record of making a real difference in the field of m‑powering development have joined the Advisory Board. They include eminent personalities from diverse backgrounds with a range of interests and expertise in the mobile industry.
“The objective of this initiative is to create an ecosystem around mobile technologies that will help bring a human face to ICT’’, said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. Harnessing the capabilities of mobile technology for citizens in the developing world and creating win-win outcomes for all involved is an important task, he said, concluding that ’’For a better world, a more peaceful world, we must harness the power of mobile communications to empower every global citizen to realize and unleash his or her full potential as a productive human being.”
Under the chairmanship of Dr Sam Pitroda, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors, C‑SAM and Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, the Advisory Board will provide strategic direction for the development and implementation of the m‑Powering initiative. “The launch of the m‑Powering initiative by ITU is very timely and innovative. The initiative has a sense of urgency and provides a unique opportunity for us and other partners to democratize ICT and eradicate poverty across the globe. It is an initiative that has at heart those who are at the bottom of the pyramid”, said Dr Pitroda.
Board members agreed on the importance and timeliness of the m‑Powering Development Initiative and on the significant impact that mobile ICT have on the way that people work, interact and live. Recognizing that the pace of industry change, project financing, the ability to scale up pilot projects and the promotion of successful models are critical factors to be considered, the Advisory Board discussed and agreed on the following strategy:
Creating an ecosystem: An ecosystem should be put in place to help attain the objective of extending the benefits of ICT to all citizens.
Setting up a sustainable network: To make use of information for effective decision-making it is important to reach out to key stakeholders at the right time.
Converging technologies and services: Technological convergence and neutrality should be kept in mind so as to ensure inclusive coverage of all viable current and future technologies.
Considering social, cultural and political dimensions: In addition to commercial and financial aspects, it is important to consider the social and cultural dimensions and take the political landscape into account.
Sharing success stories and good examples: The m‑Powering Development Initiative and its Advisory Board could be a platform for the exchange of ideas as well as the sharing of best practices — especially those achieved in difficult areas and under challenging circumstances — to help others replicate and scale up successful solutions.
Promoting public-private partnerships: Creating incentives for public-private partnerships could be facilitated and further backed up with an outreach activity.
Establishing trust: Ensuring that practitioners such as teachers and doctors understand the opportunities that mobile technology and service delivery offer is a necessary step in achieving development through ICT.
The integration of tools and a regulatory framework can only nourish the ecosystem that the Board desires to establish.
Platform for action
The Advisory Board will meet twice a year, and its work will not duplicate that of other initiatives. ITU can act as facilitator to bridge the gap between governments, operators and service providers. At the same time, ITU can provide solutions in the field of standardization and interoperability, which will enable the optimum use of frequency resources.
The Advisory Board, which will meet again in the first half of 2014, decided to create the following working groups to survey the landscape and take stock of the activities being carried out in their respective fields: Working Group on m‑Health, led by Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); Working Group on m‑Education, led by Professor Tim Unwin, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO); Working Group on m‑Sports, led by Iñigo Arenillas, Director of Africa and Middle East, Real Madrid Foundation; Working Group on m‑Commerce, led by Evgeny Bondarenko, Vice-Chairman of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector Study Group 2, and Deputy General Director of Intervale; Working Group on Advocacy, led by Kathryn C. Brown, former Senior Vice President of Verizon Communication Corporation; and Working Group on Business Models, led by Mokhtar Mnakri, Chairman and CEO of Tunisie Télécom.
An Executive Report of the Advisory Board meeting is available at http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Initiatives/m-Powering/Pages/default.aspx. Videos and interviews with the Chairmen and Board members are available at