Nº 3 2014 > WTDC‑14 special report
Dubai Action Plan charts a broadband-powered future for all
The sixth quadrennial World Telecommunication Development Conference reaffirmed ITU’s commitment to the delivery of universal and affordable access to telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICT) as an essential element of socio-economic advancement in an increasingly interconnected world.
Convened under the theme Broadband for Sustainable Development in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 30 March to 10 April 2014, the conference charted a course to accelerate and expand broadband uptake and digital literacy worldwide, particularly in the least developed countries.
In adopting the Dubai Action Plan, a blueprint for telecommunications/ICT development over the next four years, the more than 1300 participants, including over 1100 government delegates from 137 countries and 9 representatives from Palestine; 89 representatives from 42 public and private-sector entities; 32 participants representing 14 telecommunication-related entities; and 73 representatives from 33 regional and international organizations, renewed their pledge to spread connectivity to all corners of the planet.
The message — one that resonated throughout the conference — was clear: in a world in which ICT play an increasingly important role in socio-economic development and in building a knowledge-based information society, no one should be left offline, regardless of their circumstances or the remoteness of their place of origin.
Opening of the conference
Mohamad Ahmad Al-Qamzi, Chairman of the United Arab Emirates Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, bid a warm welcome to all delegates and expressed the hope that WTDC‑14 would achieve its lofty goals and noble aims of promoting sustainable development through the optimum use of information and communication technologies (ICT), notably broadband.
Conference participants were then shown a documentary featuring concrete examples of how ITU is helping countries around the world to ensure that all segments of their societies have access to the benefits of ICT.
Filmed in Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Japan, Jordan, Moldova and Tanzania, the documentary illustrated the role of ICT in saving lives, particularly in the immediate aftermath of disasters. As an example, the documentary showed how ITU assistance in providing mobile satellite communication equipment helped Japanese authorities coordinate the relief operation in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami which struck the country in 2011. ITU assistance is helping remote schools and communities in developing countries to access the Internet, to bridge the gender connectivity gap by enabling increasing numbers of girls and women to acquire ICT skills, and to enable persons with disabilities to better integrate society was also highlighted. In another example, a man in Costa Rica explained how he was able to quit smoking through access to an m-health initiative known as m-cessation, implemented jointly by ITU and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Speaking at the opening ceremony, ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré called on participants to work together with ITU to ensure universal broadband connectivity, stressing the importance of public-private partnerships towards achieving this goal. “ICT — and in particular broadband networks — offer perhaps the greatest opportunity we have ever had to make rapid and profound advances in global social and economic development,” he said.
High-Level Segment Policy Statements
Interest in the High-Level Segment of WTDC‑14 was remarkable, with a total of 72 registered speakers. All in all, 62 high-level speakers addressed the conference (with nine having their statements delivered on their behalf). Speakers for the most part were ministers, deputy ministers or vice-ministers, the remainder being ambassadors, chairmen or directors-general of regulatory bodies, and secretaries-general and chief executive officers from ITU–D Member organizations. The High-Level Segment provided a platform for these high-ranking officials to express their views on emerging trends and on matters of strategic importance to the development of the telecommunication and information and communication technology sector.
Policy statements are available at http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Conferences/WTDC/WTDC14/Pages/PolicySatements.aspx
Progress in implementing Hyderabad Action Plan acclaimed
The conference applauded ITU's achievements over the past four years in implementing the Hyderabad Action Plan adopted at the World Telecommunication Development Conference in Hyderabad, India, in 2010. In his progress report to the conference, ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) Director, Brahima Sanou, singled out many achievements, noting in particular that ITU had:
- continued to convene the world's largest gathering of regulators and to track and influence the ICT regulatory environment;
- continued to provide assistance in disaster-risk reduction, preparedness and response through the design of national emergency telecommunication plans, the setting up of emergency early warning systems and the development of emergency telecommunication equipment;
- trained over one million women in the use of ICT under a women's digital literacy campaign launched in partnership with the Telecentre.org Foundation;
- quantified for the first time the size of the digital gender gap;
- assisted 25 countries in transitioning from analogue to digital broadcasting and 43 countries on spectrum management and monitoring.
The BDT Director also highlighted three initiatives launched since WTDC‑10 which have met with considerable success, namely the m-Powering Development Initiative to extend the benefits of mobile technology to all segments of society; the Smart Sustainable Development Model to establish a link between rural telecommunication/ICT development and disaster-risk reduction and management; and the ITU Academy which integrates all ITU training activities under one umbrella.
Conference results in a nutshell
Dubai Action Plan
While recognizing the progress made in helping developing countries to harness the benefits of ICT since WTDC‑10, however, the conference emphasized the need to close the remaining connectivity gaps between and within countries that condemn millions of people, particularly women youth, children, indigenous people and persons with disabilities to digital exclusion.
The Dubai Action Plan adopted by the conference is the culmination of regional preparatory meetings that took place in Chisinau, Moldova, for the Commonwealth of Independent States; Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for Asia-Pacific; Montevideo, Uruguay, for the Americas; Accra, Ghana, for Africa; Manama, Bahrain, for the Arab States; and Belgrade, Serbia, for Europe.
The plan consists of a package of activities designed to help countries promote sustainable development of their ICT networks and services. Five fundamental objectives were set for ITU’s Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D) as the main focus of its work for the next four years.
- Objective 1: Foster international cooperation on telecommunication and ICT issues.
- Objective 2: Foster an enabling environment conducive to ICT development and the development of ICT networks as well as relevant applications and services, including bridging the standardization gap.
- Objective 3: Enhance confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies and the roll-out of relevant applications and services.
- Objective 4: Build human and institutional capacity, promote digital inclusion and provide concentrated assistance to countries in special need.
- Objective 5: Enhance climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster management efforts through telecommunications and information and communication technologies.
These objectives together with their 15 corresponding “outputs” are featured in both the Dubai Action Plan and the ITU–D draft strategic plan for 2016–2019. Outputs were defined by the conference as “all the products and services ITU–D will develop and deliver to members through the implementation framework agreed in the Dubai Action Plan”. This framework encompasses regional initiatives, programmes, study group questions, WTDC resolutions and recommendations and facilitation of World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action lines.
The Dubai Action Plan is premised on a results-based structure, with outcomes defined for each objective, and key performance indicators defined for each output. The results-based management methodology is being implemented throughout the United Nations system and aims to improve effectiveness, efficiency, transparency and accountability. A special session was held on 29 March 2014 on the eve of WTDC‑14 to inform conference participants on how the shift in focus from activities to results will help to better articulate strategic goals, objectives, outcomes and outputs, and to better evaluate their achievement using indicators and targets.
Results-based management is defined as “a management approach that directs organizational processes, resources, products and services towards the achievement of measurable results. It provides the management frameworks and tools for strategic planning, risk management, performance monitoring and evaluation and financing activities based on targeted results”.
Outcomes provide an indication as to whether the objective is being achieved. Outcomes are usually partly, but not entirely, within the control of the organization.
Performance indicators are the criteria used to measure the achievement of outputs or outcomes. These indicators may be qualitative or quantitative.
Dubai Declaration reinforces support for ITU–D mission
Another major outcome is the Dubai Declaration reinforcing political support for ITU’s development mission and strategic objectives. The Dubai Declaration states, inter alia, that “promoting and making available, affordable and accessible broadband infrastructure, with appropriate policy and strategy, is a fundamental enabling platform that fosters innovation and drives the development of national and global economies and the information society”.
Strategic plan outlined for development
WTDC‑14 developed and adopted a draft strategic plan for ITU–D, which will feed into the overall ITU draft strategic plan for 2016–2019, to be adopted at the forthcoming Plenipotentiary Conference to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 20 October to 7 November 2014.
Closing ceremony and the challenge to connect everyone to broadband by 2020
WTDC‑14 ended on an upbeat note with the showing of a video clip featuring conference delegates going about their business and joining in a “Broadband makes me happy” refrain reflecting the Broadband for Sustainable Development theme of the conference.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Dr Touré noted that the conference had forged a common vision and plan of action, a strategic plan and a financial plan for the coming years. In emphasizing the critical role of broadband for national development, he said: “My view is that it is about time we challenged ourselves to connect everyone to broadband by 2020.”
Mr Sanou noted that WTDC‑14 had broken several records, including a record participation of 1311 delegates representing 137 Member States and 82 Sector Members, along with 52 VIPs. Captioning was provided for plenary and committee meetings. ITU offered members a mobile application for accessing WTDC‑14 documents and consulting them offline, as well as an application for accessing the conference webcast on tablets and smartphones. Finally, the conference finished its work half a day early.
All speakers warmly praised the United Arab Emirates and ITU for the smooth running of the conference.
Dr Touré honours WTDC‑14 Chairman
The Secretary-General awarded the ITU Gold Medal to Mohamed Nasser Al-Ghanim, Chairman of WTDC‑14 and Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates, praising him for his wisdom, punctuality, wit and humility. Mr Al-Ghanim thanked participants for their efforts, in particular the ITU Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General, the three Directors of the Bureaux, and the chairmen of the conference’s five committees and the working group (see table).