Nº 2 2014 > What the regions want
Great expectations from WTDC‑14
In preparation for the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC‑14), ITU held six 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.
Following is a summary of some of the main needs of the six regions, as stated in the final reports of these regional meetings. Many of the needs are similar to those endorsed at WTDC‑10 in Hyderabad as regional initiatives for the years 2011–2014.
The regional preparatory meeting for Africa was held from 2 to 4 October in Accra, Ghana, at the invitation of the Government of Ghana. The growing demand for information and communication technologies (ICT) in Africa in recent years has increased requirements for broadband infrastructure development, ICT skills acquisition and policy and regulatory harmonization across the continent.
Strengthening human and institutional ICT capacity building through both enhanced training systems at the national level and increased technical cooperation between African telecommunication/ICT administrations and training institutions are seen as priority needs. As elsewhere, developing local content and languages online and the skills required to meet the ICT needs of persons with disabilities are other priority areas.
ICT policy and regulatory harmonization to achieve subregional and regional integration of telecommunication/ICT infrastructure, services and markets is another pressing concern, as is technical standardization to increase network/service connectivity. Reducing the level of intra-continental traffic routed by extra-continental transit centres and establishing a regional framework for cooperation on e‑waste management are other objectives.
African States require further assistance in the development of broadband infrastructure in both urban and rural areas, with particular emphasis on subregional and continental interconnection and emergency communications. Support is also required at the national, regional and global levels on spectrum management and to ensure the smooth transition to digital broadcasting. More specifically, this entails inter alia assistance in using the tools to improve international coordination of terrestrial services in border areas; developing policies that promote efficient spectrum utilization; the transfer of spectrum management and digital broadcasting technology skills; help in meeting the deadline for the analogue to digital switch-over; and ensuring affordable access to digital services.
Finally, as elsewhere, African countries need to boost their preparedness and response capacities to address growing cyberthreats. This will require enhanced coordination to effectively implement cybersecurity strategies to protect consumers, in particular children and other vulnerable persons, and measures for privacy and personal data protection. To counter cyberthreats, national and regional computer incident response teams will have to be trained and deployed, and a legal framework on cybercrime developed.
The regional preparatory meeting for the Americas was held in Montevideo, Uruguay, from 20 to 22 August 2013 at the invitation of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining, Uruguay.
Governments in the Americas acknowledge the urgent need to increase knowledge of the many information and communication technologies available today and to put in place an enabling regulatory environment to facilitate broadband uptake. Other priority needs relate mainly to emergency communications, digital broadcasting, broadband access, lowering Internet access costs, and ICT human capacity building.
The priority in the area of disaster management emergency communications is to develop or strengthen disaster preparedness and response mechanisms, including early-warning systems, particularly in small island developing States and in the least developed countries that are highly exposed to the adverse effects of climate change. This will require increased coordination and the development of appropriate policy, regulatory and legislative frameworks for emergency communications at both national and subregional levels.
Consensus prevails on the need to address the transition to digital broadcasting and spectrum management issues at the national, regional and global levels. Developing countries in particular are identified as requiring assistance in using the tools to improve the international coordination of terrestrial services in border areas. Building spectrum management and digital broadcasting technology skills as well as the promotion of strategies to increase access to digital broadcasting at affordable prices are other identified needs.
With regard to broadband access and uptake, national plans are needed to guide policies for increasing access to broadband services and promoting investment in networks in both rural and urban areas, especially in landlocked developing countries. Assistance in developing and assuring broad access to ICT applications for e‑government, e‑health, e‑education and e‑commerce is also required, as is the need to support non-profit cooperatives providing services in underserved rural and suburban areas. Another area of need concerns the consolidation and dissemination of information related to the deployment and operation of interoperable international mobile telecommunications (IMT), satellite and fibre optic networks suited to provide enhanced broadband coverage and connectivity in rural areas at affordable prices to users.
Identifying ways and means to reduce telecommunication service and Internet access costs, as well as possibilities to develop national, subregional and regional IXPs, are areas viewed as requiring further study. Another goal is lower costs to access international fibre-optic networks, especially for landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.
Strengthening the capacities of Member States, especially developing countries, to create an enabling environment for ICT development, and encouraging them to actively participate in fora on global ICT policy, including on cybersecurity and Internet governance issues, are other target areas.
The regional preparatory meeting for the Arab States took place in Manama, Bahrain, on 29 to 31 October 2013 at the invitation of the Government of Bahrain.
Bridging the digital divide between the tech-savvy and the least developed Arab States is a major challenge faced by governments and other key stakeholders in the region.
There is an urgent need, especially in the least developed Arab countries, to eradicate digital illiteracy and to develop digital Arabic language content and ICT applications that can support multilingualism in order to facilitate wider access to ICT. Particular emphasis is being placed on promoting ICT access in remote rural areas and for persons with disabilities.
At the same time, the region acknowledges that further progress must be made to enhance know-how on technical and economic aspects of broadband communication networks, and to increase regional cooperation on conformance and interoperability.
Growing threats to cybersecurity have highlighted the need to formulate regulatory, legal and technical measures, and to create national computer incident response teams, especially in the least developed Arab countries, to address this pressing issue.
Protecting children online and launching awareness campaigns to alert them to potentially abusive and harmful Internet content are also priorities, and plans are being considered to establish a regional centre to prepare and disseminate special awareness programmes.
To achieve smart and sustainable development corresponding strategic plans and regulatory frameworks need to be formulated complemented by an exchange of relevant expertise between countries in the region. As part of this process, Arab States recognize that a study should be undertaken to assess the negative effects of e‑waste in the region and to find appropriate solutions to deal with the problem.
A consensus exists on the need to harness ICT tools throughout the region to address challenges posed by the scarcity of resources such as water and by the adverse effects of climate change, as well as to implement a gradual transition to clean and sustainable energy and “smart cities”.
The eradication of digital illiteracy in the Arab region and development of educational e‑content in Arabic for schools and universities are viewed as particularly urgent and important issues.
The regional preparatory meeting for the Asia-Pacific region took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from 30 April to 2 May 2013 at the invitation of the Government of Cambodia.
Telecommunication and ICT needs vary considerably across this vast region reflecting both its diversity in terms of development and income levels, and challenges related to the remoteness and vulnerability of some countries.
The least developed landlocked and small island developing States in the region have particular needs linked to their relative inaccessibility and, especially their case, exposure to the adverse impacts of climate change. The development of an enabling environment for broadband infrastructure and enhanced access to affordable ICT services, particularly in remote rural areas and islands, are needed for these countries to become more integrated into the world information society.
For this to happen these countries emphasize the need to further develop broadband access and the use of ICT applications, as well as skills to establish, manage and use next-generation broadband communication networks, to accelerate the transition to digital broadcasting, and to address spectrum management and convergence issues. Promoting digital literacy and multilingual local digital content are also seen as essential steps towards reducing the regional digital divide.
Emergency communication technologies, including early warning systems, for countries in the region affected by recurrent natural disasters and climate-related hazards need to be identified and put in place within appropriate national and regional policy, regulatory and legislative frameworks. Ensuring the availability of dedicated equipment for emergency radio communications and the skills required to operate it efficiently are other priorities in certain areas. More generally, there is a consensus that a regional mechanism for sharing information and best practices on utilizing ICT in emergencies should complement these measures.
As elsewhere, cybersecurity is a major concern that has prompted calls for national, subregional and regional frameworks to address the issue. Certain countries have also emphasized that more must be done to ensure environmentally sound e‑waste management. Further study on the effective utilization and optimization of fibre-optic cable for submarine networks is yet another priority for some countries.
Commonwealth of Independent States
The regional preparatory meeting for the CIS region was held in Chisinau, Moldova, from 19 to 21 February 2013, at the invitation of the Government of Moldova.
Reducing the regional digital divide by bringing the benefits of ICT to more people, especially in rural areas, is a paramount objective in the CIS region, where broadband networks are recognized as the core infrastructure needed to support advanced applications and services for governments, businesses and consumers.
ITU continues to collaborate with telecommunication and ICT administrations in the region to help respond to the demand for improved broadband infrastructure to access ICT services at an affordable cost and acceptable quality in urban, rural and remote areas, using energy-efficient technologies.
The aim is to increase connectivity for all sectors of society, including state social institutions, training centres, and healthcare and social rehabilitation centres, and to develop public skills in the use of ICT to access these and other services through online training and other activities. Particular care is being taken to assist the CIS region in developing specialized training programmes to ensure the accessibility and user-friendliness of ICT for persons with disabilities, as well as access points equipped with specialized IT equipment and software.
Developing national programmes and training courses on harnessing telecommunication and ICT for educational and human resource development purposes is also an area where ITU is providing assistance. This will entail the development of distance-learning technologies, including methods enabling ethnic minorities to benefit from digital-based education sources in their own languages.
Ensuring a smooth transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is another priority area. The transition process has been facilitated by the opening of a consultative and methodological regional centre in Minsk (Belarus), set up with ITU support that is developing interactive multimedia applications for digital broadcasting and providing the relevant skills training.
Reinforcing cybersecurity has also been singled out as an urgent task. Of the ten CIS countries that have signed agreements requesting ITU help to establish computer incident response teams, four have already done so and the six others are in the process of doing likewise, with ITU support.
Promoting cross-regional cooperation on child online protection in line with ITU’s global cybersecurity agenda is an ongoing project entailing centralized advisory and technical assistance on various aspects of this pressing issue.
The regional preparatory meeting for the Europe region was held in Belgrade, Serbia, from 26 to 28 November 2013, at the invitation of the Government of Serbia.
European telecommunication and ICT administrations recognize the need to coordinate the analogue to digital switchover and the management of the digital dividend, taking into account the most effective use of radio spectrum at regional level.
Other major needs relate to increasing broadband diffusion, creating an enabling environment for ICT development and uptake, making ICT applications more accessible, and building spectrum management capacities, including in digital dividend bands. Countries in the region have also proposed the elaboration of studies, benchmarks and guidelines on the economic and policy aspects of the assignment and use of the radio-frequency spectrum.
Given the significant broadband access differences in Europe, there is an urgent need to assist certain national telecommunication and ICT administrations in every aspect of practical implementation and development of high-speed networks. Communication planners believe this may entail the establishment of local and regional broadband roll-out plans.
Several national administrations consider that broadband diffusion could benefit from the experience of infrastructure sharing within the energy sector (smart grids) and should aim to achieve synergies in cross-sectoral fields. Given the varying degrees of progress in this area across Europe, communication professionals see the sharing of best practices and the development of convergent regulatory policies as the best ways to use available resources effectively to achieve greater broadband diffusion at affordable cost.
Other objectives aim to promote e‑accessibility, including for persons with disabilities, and to build confidence in ICT applications. Child online protection is a prominent focus area and efforts are to be concentrated on raising awareness on this issue and developing national or regional road maps to protect children from unsuitable online content.
Finally, countries in the region are endeavouring to promote the competitiveness and sustainability of small and medium-sized enterprises, and to promote the entrepreneurship of young unemployed people, through the acquisition and use of ICT skills in the employment market.