For better or worse, 2001 will be remembered as a milestone in the
reinvention of the telecommunication industry.However, it did not deter ITU from adapting to the needs of the
industry. Neither did we lose sight of our most fundamental mission to connect
all of humanity through communications.
The Union’s ability to transform itself was seen in the first approvals of
ITU standards using a new fast-track procedure called the ‘Alternative
Approval Process’ (AAP). The AAP was adopted to reduce time-to-market delivery
of standards to a level that more closely matches industry timeframes and
operational practice. Of 244 recommendations received in 2001, 69 per cent were
approved in less than six weeks and all were adopted by consensus.
2001 marked the endorsement of the World Summit on the Information Society
(WSIS) by the United Nations General Assembly. The Summit, to be held in two
phases, will address a broad range of themes concerning the Information Society
and will adopt a Declaration of Principles and an Action Plan in order to
transform the ‘digital divide’ into ‘digital opportunities’. Hosted by
the Government of Switzerland, the first phase will take place in Geneva from 10
to 12 December 2003. The second phase, which will be hosted in 2005 by the
Government of Tunisia, will focus on development themes and will provide us the
opportunity to assess, augment or amend the action plan established in Geneva.
The launch of the Internet Training Centres Initiative for Developing
Countries, a multi-million dollar project, is aimed at closing the gap in
Internet and ‘new economy’ skills in the developing world. It provides a
tangible contribution to sustainable development through the use of Information
and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Already, 20 of the 50 planned centres are
providing the necessary skills in Internet Protocol (IP) networking and services
to hundreds of engineers from developing countries.
Another significant event of 2001 was the progress made in Africa to ‘connect’
to the Information Society. It was often said that ‘Tokyo has more telephones
than the whole of Africa’. Fortunately, that is no longer true. There are now
twice as many telephone lines in Africa as in Tokyo. The rapid penetration of
mobile cellular technology worldwide holds out hope that the majority of
humanity will soon have access to telecommunications. Africa was also the focus
of the efforts of ITU’s TELECOM exhibitions and forums in 2001. ITU
TELECOM AFRICA 2001 was successfully held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in November.
The Exhibition attracted more than 15 000 telecommunication professionals,
including 40 government ministers and more than 200 exhibitors.
On the service development front, the allocation by ITU of the first code for
Universal Personal Telephone Numbers (UPTN) means that local and global
telecommunication connectivity is becoming much more efficient. UPTN will allow
global number portability regardless of geography or telecommunication carrier,
including new IP-based technologies. ITU standards for UPTN will greatly enhance
a company’s ability to operate across international markets and will benefit
consumers by allowing them to contact anyone or any place on any communication
New telecommunication services were also enhanced with the adoption of global
standards for Automatically Switched Optical Networks (ASON). The ASON family of
standards builds on the Optical Transport Network (OTN) standards also completed
in 2001. These developments bring the world one step closer to an all-optical
communication network. It also creates tremendous business opportunities for
network operators and service providers by giving them the means to deliver
end-to-end, managed bandwidth services efficiently, expediently and at reduced
This is but a sampling of how ITU continued to meet the needs of both the
telecommunication industry and the consumer in 2001. And given the complexity of
those needs in an increasingly global information society, it is my belief that
a multilateral and universal organization such as ITU will be increasingly
important to meet the communication needs of all of humanity.