Nº 2 2014 > ITU’s Connect the World initiative
Connect Asia-Pacific Summit
The Connect Asia-Pacific Summit held in Bangkok, Thailand, on 18 November 2013, was the last in a series of ITU-led regional Connect Summits. Organized jointly with the Government of Thailand, in partnership with regional organizations and various other United Nations agencies, the summit was held in conjunction with ITU Telecom World (19–22 November 2013), which also took place in Bangkok.
The more than 600 participants from 37 ITU Asia-Pacific Member States, including seven Heads of State and Government and numerous ministers, as well as leading ICT company executives, and regional and international financial and development institutions, affirmed their common vision of a “Smartly DIGITAL” (Digital Inclusive Green Innovative Transformative Affordable Living) Asia Pacific by 2020.
The summit also adopted a communiqué outlining an action plan to achieve that goal. The communiqué envisioned a future for the Asia-Pacific region where everyone can access, use, create, and share information and knowledge to empower individuals, communities, industries and countries to achieve inclusive sustainable development goals and improve their quality of life, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration of World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
In a video message to the summit, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that while many nations in the Asia-Pacific region had experienced rapid economic growth, a stark contrast in prosperity and development existed between high-income and the least developed countries in the region. Mr Ban underlined that ICT have considerable potential to support sustainable and equitable economic and social development. “They can accelerate our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Let us make the best use of technology to empower people with the information, knowledge and means to improve their lives,” he asserted.
In determining priority action for Asia-Pacific, summit participants renewed their commitment to promoting specific measures of solidarity and assistance for the least developed countries in the region, with emphasis on landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and other countries facing the greatest challenges in meeting the Smartly DIGITAL 2020 goals.
The following priority areas for action were identified to be carried out in partnership with all relevant stakeholders:
- Investment in ICT Infrastructure;
- stimulating innovation and the creative use of ICT;
- encouraging innovative public-private partnerships;
- promoting sustainable development through ICT;
- fostering digital inclusion; and
- achieving digital literacy and building human and institutional capacity.
Participants viewed these priorities as challenges that offered opportunities to harness the potential for developing innovative ICT infrastructure and creative ICT applications in order to positively transform the lives of people in the Asia-Pacific region as it endeavours to realize the Smartly DIGITAL vision by 2020.
The summit communiqué advocated continued focus on the sustainable and inclusive expansion and diffusion of ICT/broadband technology as a national priority for overall socio-economic development as well as a powerful tool or enabler for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the post-2015 Development Agenda, and the WSIS Declaration and Actions.
The summit had a practical, results-oriented format, including interactive, multistakeholder panel discussions, partnership announcements, as well as opportunities for participants to showcase their ICT development projects to potential partners and donors. It also provided an effective networking platform for leaders from the public, private and financial sectors to meet and forge new partnerships for the future.
During multistakeholder partnership meetings at the summit, projects and partnerships valued at USD 53 billion were identified as market opportunities by ITU, relevant partners and stakeholders. Following are examples of some of the partnerships developed during or after the Bangkok summit:
- ITU and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission developed and launched a project to promote the transformational power of broadband and demonstrate how it can be harnessed to transform lives and society.
- ITU and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand developed and signed a project aimed at ensuring the smooth transition from analogue to digital television broadcasting in Thailand.
- ITU and the Department of Communications of Australia developed and signed a project to implement the priorities identified from the Asia-Pacific Summit and the Asia-Pacific Regional Initiatives.
- ITU and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea developed and signed a project to develop “Master Plans for Spectrum Management”, including a human capacity building component.
- Following the successful outcome of the Connect Asia-Pacific Summit and the launch of an ITU-Asian Development Bank (ADB) joint initiative on ICT development in the Asia-Pacific region, ITU and ADB plan to convene a follow-up meeting at the end of April 2014 in Manila (Philippines).
Ground-breaking new maps of the global information superhighway, which will help bridge the digital divide in Asia-Pacific, were jointly released by ITU and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) during the summit. For the first time ever, the ITU Interactive Terrestrial Transmission/ESCAP Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Maps will show policy-makers and investors where the missing links in terrestrial transmission are across the region; assisting ESCAP in its efforts to bring affordable ICT and broadband connectivity for all.
As was the case during previous Connect Summits, participants in Bangkok confirmed the importance of the transition to digital infrastructure and services, widely recognized as the engine of future employment, economic growth and social and economic development.