ITU

Committed to connecting the world

ITU Workshop on ICT Innovations in Emerging Economies

New Delhi, India, 14 March 2013

Opening Address 
 
Ladies and gentlemen
 
Welcome to this ITU workshop which will address ways to promote innovation in developing countries that can lead to international standards.
 
I would like to thank our partners in hosting this event: Professor Rekha Jain, Executive Chair, IIM Ahmedabad; TCOE and Commander Jena, supported by COAI; and as always Mr R N Jha and the Department of Telecommunications.
 
Some of you in the room may be new to ITU so I will take this opportunity to say a few words by way of introduction.
 
ITU is the UN specialized agency for information and communications technologies (ICTs). As such our membership is made up of 193 Member States, and unusually for a UN agency, some 700 private sector entities.
 
Add to this other governmental and non-governmental organisations, civil society, and more recently academia (we now have over 50 universities as members), and you can see that ITU is a truly multi-stakeholder organization.
 
In fact this public-private partnership is a defining characteristic and key to ITU’s continued success and relevance in an increasingly complicated ICT environment.
 
Our members from India include prominent companies like BSNL, Bharti Airtel, MTNL, and VNL. Additionally, our new academic category has attracted three new members from India: HMR Institute of Technology Management, Delhi; Sinhgad Technical Education Society, Pune; and the College of Engineering Bangalore.
 
ITU has three sectors:  the development sector broadly focused on bridging the digital divide; the radiocommunication sector responsible for the allocation of global radio spectrum and satellite orbits; and the standardization sector which produces the standards that underpin today’s connected world. One of ITU-T’s main objectives is to produce international, non-discriminatory standards, which provide the interoperability of ICT networks and devices.
 
It’s not an exaggeration to say that without ITU you would not be able to surf the Internet or make a telephone call from one side of the world to another.A global forum to bring coherence and stability to global ICT networks is increasingly important as the true value of our Information Society becomes ever more apparent.
 
ITU’s members have elaborated standards that define the physical characteristics of the networks that carry all of the world’s data. But more than that, ITU protocols deliver and encode multimedia content; and they are helping to drive the adoption of greener technologies and services such as smart grid, cloud, IPTV, intelligent transport systems and software-defined networks.
 
From ITU’s founding in 1865, this – connecting the world – has remained ITU’s key objective.And establishing ways to channel innovation into globally implemented technologies has always been at the heart of that.
 
ICT innovation is a key element to spur growth in the economic crisis. ICT innovation will be a game-changer in emerging economies by enabling them to sustain their economic growth over the long term.
 
In this context this workshop, the term innovation is seen as referring specifically to developing countries. Indeed the recently held World Assembly for ITU’s standardization sector in Dubai and the end of last year proposed the establishment of a specialized panel for stimulating ICT innovations, with the objective of enhancing global collaborative innovation in order to bridge the standardization gap between developed and developing countries and to identify and support innovations from developing countries.
 
Also WTSA launched the ICT Innovation Application Challenge. A cash prize of USD 5,000 is offered to the best app extending the reach of mobile health, mobile money, e-learning, e-government or intelligent transport systems.
 
In 2012 ITU-T established the ITU-T Focus Group, “Bridging the Gap: From Innovation to Standards”. This group met yesterday here in New Delhi, and it is showing magnificent potential in bringing developing-world innovations to the attention of international standards developers. It is open to all interested parties and participation is free of charge. I would like to thank the Chairman of the group Mr. Ajay Ranjan Mishra, for the tremendous effort he has put in to initializing and driving this group.
 
Today, there are many organizations involved in the international standardization of ICTs: ISO; IEC; IEEE; IETF; as well as a host of national and regional standards bodies, besides hundreds of forums and consortia. ITU is one part of a very big jigsaw and the challenge is to provide coherence and continuity to one of the greatest ever engineering achievements.
 
It’s clear that ICTs now play a crucial part in business carried out by vertical sectors. And so ITU’s work increasingly focuses on international standards not only for telecommunications, but for ICT applications in a wide range of different sectors: health; transportation; energy; buildings etc. etc.
 
Innovations such as e-Health, e-Learning, Intelligent Transport Systems, Mobile Money, and Smart Grid, demand standards developed by the ICT industry in close collaboration with the relevant vertical sector. For example, for the successful standardization of ITS, we need the car manufacturers; for mobile money, we need the banking sector; for smart grid, the utilities.
 
It is clear that stronger collaboration mechanisms are needed to reflect the interdependence of vertical sectors, ICT organizations, and standards bodies.
 
These vertical sectors have their own ecosystem, with distinct characteristics and requirements, differing product life cycles and standards landscapes, policy and regulatory aspects. There are also issues related to ownership of data, safety, security and privacy requirements, that are quite different to those faced by the ICT sector. Taking all of this into account is a challenge for standards development organizations (SDOs) which will have to provide open and inclusive processes to attract these new sectors.
 
A further challenge is that, with convergence, the traditional demarcation of work between these organisations is becoming blurred, and there is increasing risk of overlap and duplication.
 
As a result there is a need to lay down mechanisms for collaboration through, for example, the establishment of Memoranda of Understanding, which outline specific, but complementary roles and responsibilities in order to achieve mutually defined objectives. In addition a mechanism should be developed to identify new work areas at an early stage, and agree on a common approach so as to bring the relative skills of the different organisations together in a cooperative manner, and to develop common international standards or suites of standards.
 
ITU-T has wide participation from many countries around the world. Our leadership teams have members from 35 different countries, and among these are 24 developing countries, which shows the progress being made to bridge the standardization gap.
 
We are seeing increased participation of universities in our work – a key to encouraging innovation. Universities in developing countries benefit from a substantially reduced fee of just $2000 a year, which allows them to participate in any of our meetings around the world, make contributions to the development of our standards, publish ITU technical reports, and of course benefit from the global network of academia members we are creating. We also offer internships to researchers from our member universities, an unmatched opportunity for researchers to meet and work alongside experts from leading ICT companies.
 
India is renown as a hot bed for ICT development. India now has more than 900 million mobile subscribers and is the fastest growing telecom markets in the world. With the visionary National Telecom Policy (NTP 2012) supporting ‘One Nation-One License across services and service areas’, the National Broadband Plan, and Converged Licensing Regime that ground is set for translating the mobile growth into broadband revolution.
 
I am looking forward therefore to seeing some excellent examples of innovation from this region and invite you to become better engaged in the work of ITU-T. I wish you an enjoyable and productive workshop.