Global thrust to achieve universal broadband connectivity
ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference opens in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai, 30 March 2014 – The sixth ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-14) opened today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with a call to achieve universal broadband connectivity. Under the theme ‘Broadband for Sustainable Development’, the conference will focus on development priorities in telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICT) and agree on the programmes, projects and initiatives to implement them.
Mr Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, Director General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates and Head of the UAE delegation was elected Chairman of the Conference. He noted that the focus on the theme ‘Broadband for Sustainable Development’ brings attention to the critical aspect of leading edge ICT in enhancing a nation’s development. “Since the beginning of this Millennium, mobile cellular subscriptions have continued to rise, social media usage has rocketed, and an ever increasing number of people across the globe have been able to access the Internet, making use of the immeasurable quantity of information that greater connectivity provides,” said Mr Al Ghanim. “Yet one of the most persisting concerns that face us all is the ‘digital divide’. Serious practical solutions are required to close the gap and stem this endemic inequality of access.”
“ICTs, 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,” Said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré at the opening ceremony of WTDC-14. “By delivering efficiencies across so many areas, from education and healthcare to transportation, water and energy, broadband networks can quickly pay for themselves, creating a virtuous circle of investment, productivity and human development.”
The Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, Mr Brahima Sanou said that in the recent past, the growth of ICTs and their relevance in advancing the economic and social well-being of people have been extraordinary. “Yet, despite progress, significant challenges remain,” Mr Sanou said. “And that is the reason we are here. We need to create conditions for entrepreneurships and innovation; we need to create conducive and enabling regulatory environments to reach digital inclusion for all.” Mr Sanou stressed that “we should work together to put ICTs in the hands of ordinary people”.
One of the expected outcomes of WTDC-14 is the Dubai Action Plan – which will set the agenda for telecommunication and information and communication technologies development over the next four years. The dialogue, which will shape the future of the telecommunication and ICT sector and its contribution to social and economic development, will focus on:
- Sound policies and regulatory frameworks that will foster investment and further develop telecom/ICT networks
- Improved access to ICT applications to provide people with services such as education, health, and empower them with the means to achieve sustainable development
- Increased safety and security in the use of telecoms/ICTs
- Capacity building in the area of ICTs
- Emergency telecommunications
WTDC-14 opened with the screening of a film on telecommunication and ICT development. Some 1650 participants from around 150 countries attended the Conference opening, including over 60 ministers and high-level delegates.
BROADBAND FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
An Executive Strategic Dialogue on Broadband for Sustainable Development was held on Saturday, 29 March.
The event provided a platform for an interactive debate on the trends, challenges and opportunities of the telecom/ICT sector. In particular, it focused on strategies and policies directed towards broadband development worldwide.
Noting that there are almost 1.5 billion smart phones in use, and that number is likely to double in the next few years, ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré said, “The broadband universe is evolving incredibly quickly, especially with the advent of mobile broadband, which is the fastest growing technology in human history. Most of this growth will come in developing countries, if the pattern of recent years continues to be repeated – with 90 per cent of the mobile growth and over 80 per cent of the growth in Internet users coming from the developing world over the past four years.” Dr Touré stressed that we need to continue measuring progress in order to see what still needs to be done and added: “What we decide and define here in Dubai over the next two weeks will shape not just the future of ICT development over the next four years – but the future shape of the very world we live in.”
In his opening remarks, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau said, “We still have the huge challenge of bridging the ‘broadband divide’ by exploring, debating and innovating the best ways to reinforce impact related to deploying broadband infrastructure and making broadband-based services and applications affordable.”
Mr Sanou added: “I do not doubt that the impact of broadband is significantly reinforced by the power of the mobile revolution. With more than 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, we need, now more than ever, to join forces to empower people – no matter where they live – and contribute to socio-economic development.”
The keynote speaker was Mr Gerd Leonard, Futurist and CEO of The Futures Agency (Switzerland). Panellists included Mr John Nasasira, Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, Uganda; Mr Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, Director General, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, UAE; Mr. Yoon Jong-Rok, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, Republic of Korea; Ms Kathryn C. Brown, Chief Executive Officer, Internet Society; Mr Samer Halawi, Chief Executive Officer, Thuraya; Mr Luigi Gambardella, Chairman of Executive Board, European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association; and Ms Lobna Smida, Policy Expert in Accessibility, Tunisia.
A series of events during WTDC-14 will address a number of ICT development issues:
ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology. For nearly 150 years, ITU has coordinated the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoted international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, worked to improve communication infrastructure in the developing world, and established the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to new-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology and converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world.