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ITU Plenipotentiary Conference opens doors to leaders from ‘world’s most dynamic industry’

by david.nunes

ITU Plenipotentiary Conference opens doors to leaders from
‘world’s most dynamic industry’

Korean President Geun-hye Park joins ITU Secretary-General
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré in welcoming 3,000 international delegates for
three weeks of intensive talks on future of global ICT sector

Busan, 20 October 2014 – ITU’s 19th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference opened its doors to over 3,000 delegates and almost 600 local and international media today in one of the world’s most wired cities, with Host Country the Republic of Korea promising the most high-tech conference facilities ever offered at a UN treaty-making event.

Hosted by Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), the event takes place at Busan’s BEXCO exhibition and conference centre from 20 October – 7 November.

The Republic of Korea is widely recognized as the world’s most connected country, topping ITU’s ICT Development Index for the past four consecutive years.

ITU’s Plenipotentiary – so-called because of the full international treaty-making power accorded the heads of participating government delegations – is the world’s largest meeting of international policy makers from the information and communication (ICT) sector.

Known informally as PP-14, this year’s conference welcomes participants from some 175 ITU Member States, Sector Members and observer organizations, including over 104 Ministers, 35 Deputy Ministers, and 67 ambassadors.

It is held every four years to set the strategic direction of ITU and to develop policies and recommendations that address the evolving needs of the Union’s members.

Issues on this year’s agenda include digital inclusion and broadband rollout, broader international cooperation on ICT development, and new strategies to encourage membership and strengthen multi-stakeholder participation. For the first time, the conference will also try to reach international agreement on establishment of new global ICT development goals and targets under a new framework called ‘Connect 2020’.

Chairman-designate of the conference is MSIP Assistant Minister Wonki Min, a distinguished ICT policy maker with more than 25 years’ experience crafting Korea’s highly successful ICT development strategy. He will be formally confirmed in his role at the opening plenary session this afternoon.

Speaking to delegates at this morning’s opening ceremony, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré noted that since he took office in January 2007 the number of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide has more than doubled, from 2.7 billion to 6.9 billion. During the same period, the number of Internet users has grown from 1.2 billion to an estimated 2.9 billion.

“This is not just a story of connectivity for connectivity’s sake – it is a story of real human progress,” said Dr Touré, reminding delegates of the need to take bold decisions that will help connect the billions who still remain offline. “In ultra-connected environments like Busan it’s too easy to forget that, for most of the world’s people, phones, smartphones and connected computers are a lifeline, not a luxury. Connectivity brings healthcare, education, employment, banking and improved governance, so over the course of the next three weeks I hope you will take the time to dream, to imagine, to innovate, and to create a bright, long-term future for the ICT sector.”

In her commemorative speech to delegates, President Park said: “Telecommunications and ICT has been catalytic in the rapid development of the Internet and mobile communications… We have reached an inflection point in the hyper-connected digital revolution – a revolution defined by increased connection, smarter connection, and faster connection.” President Park said she welcomed the hosting of PP-14 because ITU is the “premier global policy-making body for telecommunications and ICT”, a “pivot of international cooperation which has made significant contributions to advance the economies and living standards of its 193 Member States by developing technological standards in telecommunications, and managing international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits”.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, himself a Korean national, joined the event via video message, telling assembled delegates that “mobile phones have connected people as never before. Broadband networks have made information accessible, helping to bridge the digital divide, especially for women, youth and people living with disabilities. ICTs are in short, among the keys to achieving sustainable development. As we shape a new development agenda and strive for a new agreement on climate change, let us continue to work together to harness the power of technology to create and accessible and sustainable future for all.”

Other high-ranking delegates present at this morning’s opening included Korea’s Minister for Science, ICT and Future Planning, Yanghee Choi, and Mayor of Busan Byung-soo Suh.

“We are about to enter an age of hyperconnectivity where cross-border activities and connections become stronger than ever. In such a world, ICT development is no longer an individual nation’s issue. And the fact remains that there are still many who have little or no access to broadband or ICT… we look forward to PP-14 not only discussing technological and industrial development, but also collectively addressing the issue of expanding the infrastructure in developing countries and creating the environment conducive to secure and sound utilization of ICT,” said Mr Choi.

Mayor Suh reminded delegates that ITU “has a special bond with Busan”, having chosen the city to host its ITU Telecom 2004 conference almost exactly a decade ago. Yesterday, on the day before the opening of the conference, he presided over a symbolic tree-planting in Busan’s Bexco Park to commemorate the historic event and symbolize the continued growth of Korea’s ICT industry, and Busan’s position as an international hub. “Today, ICT has become an intricate part of our lives…Everything, from industry to education, to homes and much more, is converging with information and communications technology to create new value. The world is changing into a society where people, things and data can connect with one another anytime and anywhere. And yet we should remind ourselves that there are still people not benefiting from such advanced technologies. I believe that the ITU Plenipotentiary should provide a policy vision to narrow the digital divide and help the underprivileged,” he said.

The high-level segment of the PP-14 opening ceremony concluded with a special performance of traditional Korean dance by the National Dance Company of Korea.

Agenda & Elections

One of the principal tasks of PP-14 will be to determine ITU’s Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 and the Financial Plan for the same period, which will provide the resources needed to meet the goals and deliverables mandated by members.

Later in its first week, the conference will elect the Union’s five top executives – the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General, and the Directors of the Radiocommunication, Telecommunication Standardization and Telecommunication Development Bureau – as well as other governing bodies of the Union, the ITU Council and Radio Regulations Board.

Current Deputy-Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, a Chinese national and respected telecoms engineer with over 30 years’ experience in the international environment, will be confirmed as ITU’s next Secretary-General.

Five candidates are contesting the post of Deputy Secretary-General, and three candidates are contesting the post of Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. The current incumbent Directors of both the Radiocommunication Bureau and the Telecommunication Development Bureau are running unopposed for a second term of office.

There are 20 candidates for the 12 seats on the Radio Regulations Board, and 60 candidate countries for the 48 seats on ITU Council, the governing body which oversees the running of the Union in between quadrennial Plenipotentiary Conferences.

The elections begin on the morning of 23 October.

For a full list of candidates and profiles, see https://itunews.itu.int/en/5237-Electing-ITU-top-executives.note.aspx

Special Events

To complement the PP-14 discussions, host country the Republic of Korea is also planning an extensive programme of tech-focused side events for delegates and media, including a 5G forum, an exhibition of accessibility technology to aid persons with disabilities, an e-health exhibition, an expo on cloud computing and another on Big Data, and Korea’s annual Science & Creativity Festival.

In addition, this year’s conference will also include a number of ITU-organized side events and programmes, including the gender-focused GEM-TECH Awards recognizing outstanding work in promoting gender equality using ICTs, five topical Connect 2020 side event sessions featuring debates between experts from government and industry, the launch of ITU’s 150th anniversary celebrations, and a Young ICT Policy Leaders programme.

The ITU side event schedule kicks off with the GEM-TECH Awards on 28 October at 9:30am KST, which will recognize seven winning projects and role models from around the world, as well as conferring five special Global Achiever Awards. A full list of finalists can be found here. The award ceremony will be followed by a lunchtime High-Level Dialogue from 13:00-14:00 KST around the topic of “Gender and ICTs: Why gender equality matters and where do we stand today?”. Confirmed panellists include H.E. Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communications, Nigeria; Engida Getachew, Deputy Director-General, UNESCO; Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, US Permanent Representative to UN in Geneva; and leading international gender advocates from private industry and civil society. The day-long gender theme will culminate in an invitation-only GEM-TECH Gala Dinner at Busan’s prestigious APEC Nurimaru House.

Beginning the following day, ITU’s Connect 2020 Roundtable programme comprises a series of topical discussions with high-level panellists around the key themes of the ITU Strategic Plan – growth, inclusion, sustainability, innovation and monitoring:

–      29 October, 13:00-14:00 – Which technologies will connect the next 1.5 billion users?

–      30 October, 13:00-14:00 – Achieving full digital inclusion: feasible by 2020?

–      31 October, 13:00-14:00 – Ensuring the long-term benefits of development: Managing growth in a sustainable way

–      3 November, 13:00–14:00 – Addressing the emerging innovation challenges in ICT-enabled markets

–      4 November, 13:00–14:00 – Building a robust monitoring framework for the global ICT agenda

To celebrate 150 years since its founding in Paris in 1865, ITU will also use PP-14 to officially launch its ‘ITU150’ campaign, with presentations on ITU’s plans to celebrate its anniversary from January, along with a preview of the programme of national celebrations planned by ITU’s global membership.

Finally, ITU’s Young ICT Policy Leaders (YIPL) programme – another innovation for an ITU Plenipotentiary Conference – aims to develop the policy making skills of tomorrow’s ICT professionals through a series of informal ‘Meet the Leader’ sessions with experienced PP delegates and private sector experts. Each national delegation at PP-14 has been invited to nominate two young members of their delegation (aged under 35) to participate in the programme, and the City of Busan is also funding participation of 35 delegates from Least Developed Countries, to ensure maximum global inclusion.

All side-event debates will be webcast – follow the discussions remotely here.

Follow @ITU and the hashtag #Plenipot14 for the latest updates. Go to http://www.itu.int/pp14/social social media channels.

Download images from the conference at www.itu.int/pp14/photos.

View video material from the conference at www.itu.int/pp14/videos.

Broadcast media can download HD video from the PP-14 virtual video newsroom at: http://www.itu.int/en/videos/Pages/default.aspx.

Follow the conference by webcast at www.itu.int/pp14/webcast.

A wide range of background materials are available from the PP-14 Newsroom.

Access the PP-14 Special Edition of ITU’s bimonthly magazine, ITU News, here.

Information about ITU’s previous Plenipotentiary Conference, PP-10, can be found on the PP-10 Newsroom.

About ITU

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.

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