Nº 1 2014 > Editorial
Busy times ahead in 2014 — building on the successes of 2013
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré ITU Secretary‑General
The year 2013 was busy and productive and, with so many activities lined up, I have even greater expectations for 2014. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on 22–25 January, I was delighted to hear world leaders and corporate executives praise the work of ITU and recognize information and communication technologies (ICT) as key enablers of economic and social development.
Broadband Commission for Digital Development
In March, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development will meet in Dublin, Ireland, where its Working Group on Financing and Investment will convene for the first time. The Commission will hold its autumn meeting in September just before the United Nations General Assembly.
You will recall that in September 2013, the Commission held its eighth meeting in New York, releasing its report The State of Broadband 2013: Universalizing Broadband. Its Manifesto, released in November 2013, emphasizes broadband’s role in driving growth, delivering social services, improving environmental management, and transforming people’s lives.
In December, we reached first-stage approval of G.fast, the new ITU broadband standard that will make it possible to achieve access speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s over existing telephone wires. This will give consumers an over-the-counter solution to support bandwidth-intensive services.
Gender is another important area of focus for the Broadband Commission. Its Working Group on Gender also released a report last November warning that if remedial action is not taken, there could be 350 million fewer women than men online within three years, up from 200 million. The report is titled Doubling Digital Opportunities: Enhancing the Inclusion of Women & Girls in the Information Society.
At ITU we are looking at how to increase the number of women pursuing careers in ICT, as well as at ways of leveraging ICT to increase the social and economic empowerment of women and girls.
Girls in ICT Day
On 24 April we will again celebrate Girls in ICT Day. I completely agree with the United Nations Secretary-General’s statement at Davos that we must erase gender inequality and harness “girl power” to reach development goals. ITU’s gender task force has done good work in developing an action plan to implement our gender policy, approved by the Council. Our statutory committees and short lists will include women as well as men, and all staff will be trained on gender mainstreaming.
The most important ITU event this year will be our Plenipotentiary Conference, to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 20 October to 7 November 2014. ITU Member States will decide on the future role of the Union, determining our ability to influence ICT development worldwide.
As the top policy-making body of ITU, the Plenipotentiary Conference will elect the senior management team of the organization. It will also elect the 12 members of the Radio Regulations Board as well as the Member States that will constitute the next ITU Council for the period 2015–2018.
Given the commitment of the Republic of Korea, we are confident that the event will be a success. Our Member States are preparing for the Plenipotentiary Conference at the regional level and we look forward to their constructive inputs.
World Telecommunication Development Conference
The outcomes of ITU's sixth World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC‑14), which will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 30 March to 10 April 2014, will feed into the work of the Plenipotentiary Conference. The objective of WTDC‑14 is to identify priorities for the development of telecommunications and ICT, and to determine the activities of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D) over the next four-year period.
As part of our work to prepare for WTDC‑14, we held regional preparatory meetings around the world last year, from Chisinau, Moldova, for the Commonwealth of Independent States, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for Asia-Pacific, then to Montevideo, Uruguay, for the Americas, to Accra, Ghana, for Africa, to Manama, Bahrain, for the Arab States, and to Belgrade, Serbia, for Europe. Along with each regional preparatory meeting, we held a regional development forum to get inputs from key players, especially from industry. We also concluded the series of ITU Connect Summits in all regions with the ITU Connect Asia-Pacific Summit, held in Bangkok, Thailand.
Emergency broadcasting, use of white spaces…
Just before the ITU Connect Asia-Pacific Summit, an ITU workshop on emergency broadcasting held in Geneva last November highlighted the need for international cooperation to enhance the reach of broadcasting in emergency situations. Terrestrial radio and television broadcasting plays an essential role in emergencies, and a report on the subject will be finalized early this year.
Meanwhile, ITU provided satellite terminals for both voice and high-speed data to the World Health Organization to support its humanitarian work in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. ITU also supplied 40 Thuraya satellite phones to facilitate health relief efforts in the worst-affected parts of the country.
The global management of spectrum remains one of the critical functions of ITU. In January, industry players, regulators, operators, manufacturers and research institutions met in an ITU workshop on the use of white spaces by cognitive radio systems. They explored ways forward in dynamic spectrum usage, and considered international and national regulations as well as best practices.
Regulators depend on best practices, and these are currently being studied by ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R) Study Groups 1, 5 and 6. ITU supports sharing arrangements to promote more efficient use of spectrum while protecting other services. By mid-2014, ITU–R Study Group 1 (responsible for spectrum management studies) is expected to report on best practices in spectrum management for cognitive radio systems. ITU’s global mandate for spectrum management will become even more significant as we experience exponential growth in data and connected devices.
Internet of Things, connected cars, and smart sustainable cities
We are indeed on the cusp of widespread deployment of the Internet of Things technologies. This is clear from the agenda of an interactive workshop in February on Internet of Things — Trends and Challenges in Standardization. Its results will inform the drafting of future ITU technical standards that will ensure the smooth operation of networks supporting innumerable interconnected devices.
Another major highlight is the symposium on the “Future Networked Car” from 5 to 6 March 2014 during the Geneva Motor Show. Leaders from the auto industry, motor sport, international automobile associations and ICT experts will discuss developments in intelligent transport. Specific sessions will examine the potentially game-changing automated driving; connecting road users and roadside infrastructure with a view to increasing safety, reducing emissions and boosting convenience; and will also explore how to integrate connected technologies into vehicles without causing deadly driver distraction. ITU and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Inland Transport Committee will jointly organize a session on human factors and regulatory requirements for the introduction of automated driving.
This year will also witness many discussions on the technologies and cross-sector partnerships that aim to build smart sustainable cities. In particular, ITU and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will organize a series of events on this, as well as on other related topics in Montevideo in March, hosted by the Government of Uruguay. The drive towards smart cities represents a convergence of specialized skills around the common goal of responding to the socio-economic and environmental sustainability demands of a rapidly urbanizing global population.
The Council and World Telecommunication and Information Society Day
Each year, ITU celebrates World Telecommunication and Information Society Day on 17 May, to mark its founding in 1865. This year the Council will be meeting on 6–15 May, and we hope that councillors will stay on for our celebration (on 16 May) around the theme of “Broadband for Sustainable Development”.
The 2013 theme “ICTs and Improving Road Safety” was in line with the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, which dedicates the period 2011–2020 to improving global road safety. ITU has been developing standards for safe user interfaces and communication systems in vehicles, designed to optimize driving performance by eliminating unsafe technology-related distractions. I am also pleased that the allocation of harmonized, globally available frequency ranges for automotive radar applications is on the agenda of ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015 (WRC‑15).
As you know, we will be celebrating ITU’s 150th anniversary in 2015. We plan to highlight the Union’s contribution to creating a connected world, and the work of ITU staff in making this happen. We will also look forward to 150 years of an innovative ITU engaging with the broader ICT ecosystem.
As a start, the Council will consider a draft Strategic Plan and a draft Financial Plan for the period 2016 to 2019, elaborated by its working group established last year. These plans will be submitted to the Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan.
Global Symposium for Regulators
ITU’s 14th Global Symposium for Regulators will take place in Manama, Bahrain, on 3–5 June 2014. Under the theme “Capitalizing on the potential of the digital world”, participants will seek ways of bringing all the benefits of the digital world to everyone in an informed, responsive and safe manner.
“Fourth-Generation Regulation: Driving Digital Communications Ahead” was the theme of the 13th Global Symposium for Regulators, held in Warsaw on 3–5 July 2013. The symposium examined challenges that regulators face in a networked world and adopted best-practice guidelines.
WSIS+10 High-Level Event and multistakeholderism
The tenth anniversary of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) approaches, and a comprehensive preparatory dialogue is already under way. The Second Multistakeholder Preparatory Meeting took place on 16–18 December 2013, constituting a step in the WSIS+10 review process — a United Nations undertaking in which ITU is actively engaged.
The WSIS+10 High-Level Event will be held in 2014 to review progress and propose a new vision beyond 2015. Among the achievements of the WSIS process so far is its multistakeholder character.
The success of multistakeholderism was also demonstrated at the Fifth World Telecommunication and Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum, held in May 2013. The forum showed that we can involve all stakeholders in discussing difficult topics, and emerge united. Internet governance is a critical factor in expanding connectivity and improving broadband access for all. The forum adopted six non-binding Opinions in this area, covering topics such as promoting Internet exchange points, and fostering an enabling environment for broadband connectivity.
This year, ITU will be holding its 12th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium. ITU is widely recognized as the world’s most reliable and impartial source of global data on the state of ICT infrastructure and uptake worldwide. With ICT networks now essential for service delivery in every industry, accurate data on ICT penetration, pricing and access are increasingly of interest.
The 11th World Telecommunication and ICT Indicators Symposium, held in Mexico City on 4–6 December 2013, recognized the need for accurate data on indicators to support each country’s plans for social development and economic growth.
ITU’s annual report, Measuring the Information Society, released in October 2013, showed that mobile broadband over smartphones and tablets had become the fastest growing segment of the global ICT market. From a measurement point of view, the challenge now is to identify those who are without access to ICT.
Youth from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa debated climate change on 8–10 January 2014 at ITU, during the FerMUN14 Model UN conference organized by the Ferney-Voltaire Lycée International. I will transmit the impressive results of this meeting to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Climate Summit, in New York in September.
Work on defining the post-2015 sustainable development agenda is well under way which includes the launch on 18 February of a crowdsourcing platform developed and facilitated by ITU in support of the Global Partnership for Youth: https://crowdsourcing.itu.int/. This continues the great work of the BYND 2015 Global Youth Summit organized by ITU and the Presidency of Costa Rica which gave young people a voice that can be heard by decision-makers throughout the world. President Chinchilla presented its outcome — the Youth Declaration — to the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
ITU Telecom World 2014
ITU Telecom World 2014 in Doha, Qatar, in December, will bring together global ICT leaders for strategic debate, knowledge-sharing, innovation-showcasing and networking.
“Embracing change in a digital world” was the theme at ITU Telecom World 2013, and debates centred on how the dramatic changes in the ICT sector can be harnessed to improve people’s lives everywhere. I was pleased to launch the Global Cybersecurity Index, to boost awareness about the importance of securing cyberspace.
Strategically located at the crossroads of three continents, Qatar provides the ideal location to continue the ITU Telecom World conversation on harnessing the power of next generation technology for the benefit of the ICT industry and the people of the world.