Nº 4 2015 > Overview of Council 2015
What did ITU Council 2015 achieve, and what were some of the major outcomes?
The 2015 ITU Council Session set a clear course for the year ahead by approving ITU’s budget, strategic operational and financial plans, and providing guidance on the implementation of the Connect 2020 Agenda. It saw a number of major announcements, including a new ITU Global ICT Entrepreneurship Initiative. Council 2015 also reasserted ITU’s commitment to addressing the growing scourge of cybercrime; the protection of children online; and the standardization of ICT, conformance and interoperability to facilitate connectivity worldwide.
Setting the tone for a highly productive Council Session in his opening State of the Union Address, ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao emphasized that: “ITU continues to work closely with national administrations, influential policy-makers and leading industry executives in outreach and technical capacity-building… in our mission to connect the world, and in particular those not yet connected, and to facilitate the telecommunication/ICT industry and markets with innovations and sustainable new technologies”. He commended the recent approval of radio-interface specifications for IMT-Advanced and satellite IMT-Advanced (paving the way for 4G and 5G) and the new G.fast Recommendation for the delivery of 1 Gbps access speeds over copper fixed lines, as well as technical assistance to developing countries. The World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC‑15) will take place on 2–27 November 2015. Mr Zhao committed that ITU will continue to improve its efficiency without sacrificing quality, while “results-based focus, transparency and accountability will remain our guiding principles”.
Republic of Korea at the helm of Council 2015
Dr Wonki Min, Assistant Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea, was elected as Chairman of Council 2015. In his Opening Address, Dr Min noted that the Council 2015 Session was “extremely meaningful for all of us because we are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of ITU. For a century and a half, the Union has strived to enhance the lives of citizens around the world through the application of ICT — from good old telegraphy to more modern technologies such as satellites, mobile phones and the Internet.” He called on Councillors to show “the same kind of spirit, commitment and hard work” that enabled ITU membership to reach consensus at PP‑14.
With 373 participants representing the 48 Member States of Council, as well as 38 Member State Observers, 7 Sector Member Observers, and 3 Regional Telecommunication Organizations, Council again proved an effective forum for ITU Member States to discuss urgent major ICT-related issues. A number of Ministers were also present, many of whom also joined the ITU 150 celebrations held on Sunday, 17 May 2015 (see separate article).
Main Achievements of Council 2015
Argentina presented a contribution concerning the ITU Global ICT Entrepreneurship Initiative to bring together employers, Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), start-ups, innovation hubs, high-tech parks, venture capitalists, industry and policy-makers in a global networking platform to exchange ideas and access to investment capital and new markets. It was proposed that SMEs could join ITU as Associates, and a platform should be developed to enable SMEs to share best practices and exchange ideas. Argentina offered to create, in collaboration with ITU, a regional ’chapter’ for the Americas to optimize synergies and coordinate efforts by SMEs, centres of research, and academia to develop new products and standards in the region.
ITU hosted an Information Session on ’Fostering SMEs in the ICT Sector: ITU Telecom World 2015 and the ITU Global ICT Entrepreneurship Initiative’, opened by the ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao. SMEs can play a major role as drivers of national and international innovation and economic development. The ITU Global ICT entrepreneurship initiative will kick off at ITU Telecom World 2015 in Budapest, Hungary, from 12–15 October 2015, and offer excellent opportunities for SMEs from ITU Member States to connect with new markets. A number of Councillors supported ITU’s initiative and Argentina’s contribution.
’Telecommunications/ICT entrepreneurship for social impact’ was adopted as the theme for the next World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) to be held on 17 May 2016.
Councillors expressed appreciation of ITU’s activities in building confidence and security in the use of ICTs. The importance of regional and international collaboration was underlined, in addition to the broad basis for cooperation undertaken by ITU. The Secretariat concurred with Council that collaboration at all levels was an essential part of the work in this area, especially in maximizing the efficiency of activities by various organizations.
The Council Working Group on Child Online Protection (CWG‑COP) presented its report summarizing the main results of its work. A number of Councillors congratulated CWG‑COP on its accomplishments. The Council approved a revised version of Resolution 1306, and resolved to maintain CWG‑COP to guide ITU’s work in child online protection. The Council encouraged CWG‑COP to conduct online consultations with youth prior to its meetings to seek feedback and listen to their views.
Secretary-General Houlin Zhao thanked Councillors for their strong support for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process. He emphasized the importance of continuing to strive to meet the WSIS goals, in connecting the world, and of ensuring that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include proper recognition of the importance of ICTs — as well as the need (subject to approval of the United Nations General Assembly) to continue the WSIS process beyond 2015. Revised Resolutions 1332 and 1334 were adopted by Council.
Councillors expressed support for ITU’s Conformance and Interoperability (C&I) programme, including conformity assessment programmes; interoperability events; capacity-building; and the establishment of test centres in developing countries. One major achievement was the launch of the ’ICT product conformity database’ containing about 100 entries of e‑health devices compliant with ITU–T Recommendation H.810, and mobile phones compatible with hands-free terminals in cars determined by an ITU testing event. Entries in this conformity database are voluntary, and permission is required from the respective vendors. Discussions focused on how to potentially expand its scope, and how it could help develop capacity for C&I programmes, especially in developing countries.
Councillors acknowledged the importance of the Connect 2020 Agenda approved by the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference as setting goals for ITU and its membership in ICT growth, inclusiveness, sustainability, and innovation and partnership. The implementation of the Connect 2020 agenda requires the active participation and involvement of all stakeholders in the ICT ecosystem. The Secretariat highlighted the importance of the Connect 2020 Agenda in supporting the implementation of the UN post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs. The Chair and several Councillors encouraged Member States to do more to engage stakeholders.
The ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R) held an information session on Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) and its Digital Switchover (DSO) database. The digital switchover will deliver more channels, and increased spectrum efficiency, while the release of this spectrum (also known as the digital dividend) will allow for better mobile broadband coverage. A number of countries have completed the switchover, and many more are in the process of doing so. The DSO database shows the status of ongoing, completed, planned and ’unknown’ activities for each country, and provides a useful snapshot of global progress towards the digital switchover.
The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T) described its work to facilitate the Internet of Things and prepare for a globally connected world, including the work of the ITU–T Focus Group on Smart Sustainable Cities. Strong encouragement was given to ITU–T concerning plans to create a new study group, based on the work already achieved. Singapore offered to host the inaugural meeting of this new study group, should it be created; the Secretariat accepted the offer with gratitude.
For the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D), Councillors requested that the role and activities of the ITU regional offices be reinforced, with greater responsibility for regional directors. The Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), Brahima Sanou, informed Council that BDT’s top priority was to support ITU Member States by implementing regional initiatives.
After some discussion, the 2015 Session of Council approved ITU’s strategic, operational and financial plans, including the budget. Several Councillors expressed their appreciation of the contribution from the United States on Document access policy, advocating openness and transparency, reducing misconception, and increasing the value of the work of the Union, noting that exceptions must be clearly identified with regards to the documents which should be protected (such as working/temporary documents in study groups which have not yet been finalized, as well as information relating to intellectual property). A dedicated group was established on Information/Document Access Policy to prepare a draft access policy for submission to the Council Working Group on Financial and Human Resources for approval.
In his closing speech, Mr Zhao observed that “this Council gave ITU a clear direction for the year ahead, with a newly approved budget and rolling operational plans, and guidance on the implementation of the Connect 2020 Agenda”. He stated that he will “continue carrying through… efficiency across all of our work”. Mr Zhao commended Dr Min’s very able chairmanship, acknowledging that: “he broke all records by finishing PP ahead of schedule, and he has now broken a Council record by finishing a full day early during a budget year”. Mr Zhao then presented the Chairman with the ITU 150th Gold Medal and certificate for his “outstanding service to the Union”. Many Councillors took the floor to congratulate the Chair and ITU on the successful 2015 Session of Council. The ITU Council will hold its next Session from 25 May to 2 June 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.