Nº 3 2014 > WTDC‑14 special report
What it says
The Dubai Declaration is one of the major outcomes of the sixth ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC‑14), which took place from 30 March to 10 April 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Overall, the declaration reinforces political support for ITU’s development mission and strategic objectives. It recognizes, among other things, the essential role of telecommunications and information and communication technologies in the world's economic, social and cultural development. It also notes that widespread conformance and interoperability of equipment and systems can increase market opportunities and reliability, and encourage global integration and trade.
Participants at WTDC‑14 considered that governments, in collaboration with other stakeholders, should provide applications such as e‑government, e‑health, e‑education and e‑waste management. Applications like these improve transparency and accountability, and optimize access to and use of public services.
While welcoming the innovative and beneficial services for users that telecommunication and information and communication technology applications provide, the declaration draws attention to the ethical dimension of the information society and warns that the increasing spread of such applications also increases the challenge of building confidence and trust in their availability, reliability, security and use.
The declaration acknowledges that with the implementation of the five previous four-year action plans since 1994, the Connect the World initiative, and follow-up to Action Lines C2 (information and communication infrastructure), C5 (building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies) and C6 (enabling environment) subsequent to the World Summit on the Information Society, the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D), together with partners and other stakeholders, has made significant progress towards universal access and to the emergence of a global economy and information society.
Yet despite this progress, the digital divide still remains, with disparities in access, use and skills between and within countries, especially between urban and rural areas. Women, youth, children, indigenous people and persons with disabilities (including age-related disabilities) tend to be particularly disadvantaged in terms of accessible and affordable telecommunications and information and communication technologies.
Looking ahead to the next four years, delegates at WTDC‑14 declared their continued support for ITU’s work on various fronts, in particular the following.
Social and economic progress
Affordable and accessible broadband infrastructure fosters innovation and drives the development of national and global economies and the information society. More generally, access to affordable, reliable and secure telecommunication and information and communication technology networks, services and applications has the power to facilitate economic, social and cultural development, and achieve digital inclusion.
ITU–D must therefore focus its resources on reducing significant disparities in access, particularly to broadband, experienced by developing countries, especially the least developed ones. Delegates at WTDC‑14 committed themselves to accelerating the expansion and use of telecommunication and information and communication technology infrastructure, services and applications, in particular broadband, because these are powerful tools for economic growth and innovation.
Policy and regulation
Policy-makers and regulators should promote access to telecommunication and information and communication technology infrastructure, services and applications, in particular broadband. In the context of convergence, this means implementing fair, transparent, stable, predictable and non-discriminatory policy, and legal and regulatory frameworks that create enabling environments. These should include common approaches to conformance and interoperability that promote competition, increase consumer choices, foster continued technological and service innovation, and provide investment incentives at national, regional and international levels.
To ensure that developing countries experience the economic benefits associated with technological development, and to better reflect their requirements and interests when standards are being set, these countries should increase their participation in ITU activities.
Radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits are limited resources, yet they are subject to increasing demands. Policy-makers, regulators, operators, broadcasters and others must therefore focus on effective and efficient spectrum management, including measures for avoiding harmful interference, and for implementing the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.
Digital literacy and employment
Digital literacy opens the door to the knowledge society and enables people to contribute information and ideas. More training is needed, including in local languages. This can take place not only through international initiatives, but also through the educational capacity of local facilities, such as schools, libraries, content providers, multipurpose community centres and public access points. It should be borne in mind that the telecommunication and information and communication technology ecosystem offers new opportunities to empower youth for employment or self-employment.
To assist in formulating national policies, and to monitor the digital divide as well as progress towards achieving internationally agreed goals in the post-2015 development agenda, indicators and statistics are needed to measure the adoption of telecommunication and information and communication technologies, and to analyse their role in supporting socio-economic growth.
ITU–D study groups should continue to share knowledge and build capacity in the international community. Enhanced cooperation among the three ITU Sectors (Radiocommunication, Standardization and Development) — and with other organizations and expert groups — will support this objective.
Building confidence, trust and security in the use of telecommunications and information and communication technologies is a priority. This calls for all stakeholders — governments, and relevant organizations, private companies and entities — to cooperate in building capacity and exchanging information on best practices for developing public policies and legal, regulatory and technical measures to address personal data protection and child online protection.
Telecommunications and information and communication technologies play a critical role in disaster-risk reduction, prediction, preparedness, mitigation and response. ITU Member States should develop disaster preparedness plans and strategies, taking account of the need for resilient and redundant infrastructure and systems.
ITU should support Member States in building capacity for responding to disasters, including in the area of early warning. ITU should also encourage regional and international cooperation and information sharing.
All countries, particularly small island developing States, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and low-lying coastal countries, which are vulnerable to global climate change and rising sea levels, should have the means to use telecommunications and information and communication technologies to mitigate and address the effects of climate change, and to reduce the negative impact of human activities on the environment.
ITU–D will continue to address special needs of these countries, because they are generally the ones that face the most challenges in the development and use of telecommunications and information and communication technologies.
Regional initiatives and public-private-partnerships
At WTDC‑14, the regions articulated their specific priorities in a set of regional initiatives, reflected in the Dubai Action Plan. ITU–D and other development partners should give high priority to implementing these regional initiatives.
Public-private-partnerships need to be strengthened in order to explore and further develop new and innovative ways of investing and financing development initiatives and projects. International, regional and national financing and investment institutions need to collaborate closely in such partnerships.
A call to join hands in implementing the Dubai Action Plan
The Dubai Action Plan is acclaimed in the Declaration as a “comprehensive package” that will promote equitable, affordable, inclusive and sustainable development of telecommunication and information and communication technology networks, applications and services. It consists of a set of five strategic objectives supported by 15 outputs.
In the Dubai Declaration, WTDC‑14 calls upon ITU Member States, Sector Members, Associates, Academia and all other partners and stakeholders to contribute towards the successful implementation of the Dubai Action Plan.