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 Monday, November 03, 2008

The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-08) drew to a close yesterday in Johannesburg, South Africa with decisions on a wide range of issues that will impact the future direction of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry.

ITU members, spanning the global ICT industry and administrations from across the world, asked for increased emphasis on key areas such as ICTs and climate change, the deployment of IPv6, accessibility to ICTs for persons with disabilities, conformance and interoperability testing, and encouraging academic participation in ITU’s work.

Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) said in his closing speech, "We have received a strong message from our members that ITU is, and will remain the world’s pre-eminent global telecommunication and ICT standards body. And we also hear very clearly that ITU should continue on its mission to connect the world, and that bridging the standardization gap — by increasing developing country participation in our work — is an essential prerequisite to achieve this goal."

Delegates at the ten-day meeting in Johannesburg agreed on measures including a restructuring of ITU’s standards work and a revised focus that will serve to strengthen ITU’s position as the world’s premier ICT standards body. Eight new chairmen were elected bringing a fresh outlook to many of ITU’s areas of study. 768 delegates, including 13 Ministers or Vice-Ministers from 99 countries participated.

"The reorganization of the Study Groups was not a simple task," Johnson added. "It has been attempted before but this time we have established a streamlined and efficient structure, avoiding duplication and focusing on our key objectives."

A key agreement encapsulated in a Resolution adopted by the Assembly is that ITU members will work towards reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from the use of ICTs, in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Resolution also recognizes that ICTs can be a major mitigating factor in efforts to moderate climate change and to limit and ultimately reduce GHG emissions across all industry sectors. It also acknowledges that ITU has committed to achieving climate neutrality within three years.

Another Resolution tasks the ITU secretariat with carrying out studies in order to introduce the use of an ITU Mark as a voluntary programme permitting suppliers to make a visible declaration that their products conform to ITU-T Recommendations.

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré said, " We have made significant strides in the development of a knowledge-based information society. This World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly, which has brought together close to 800 experts from nearly 100 countries, has laid out a road map for the future development of standards that underpin the world’s communications networks. This is a critical input for all stakeholders who join ITU in our commitment to connect the world."

The closing plenary of the Assembly saw Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, Minister of Communications of South Africa switch on South Africa’s digital broadcasting signal, which will be fully implemented in time for the Football World Cup in 2010.

A full report from the Assembly will be made available via its website.