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Joint ITU-GISFI Workshop on Bridging the Standardization Gap: Workshop on Sustainable Rural Communications

Bangalore, India, 17 December 2012

Welcome Speech

Shri I.S.N. Prasad, Principal Secretary to Government, Department of Information Technology, Biotechnology and Science & Technology, Government of Karnataka
Ramjee Prasad, Founding Chairman, GISFI
Shri R. K. Arnold, Member, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
Akio Motai, President of YRP R&D PC, Japan
A Sethuraman, Executive Director, Huawei Telecommunications India
T.R. Dua, Vice Chairman, GISFI

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be back in India.

I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to GISFI and especially my good friend Professor Ramjee Prasad for his collaboration in putting together this joint ITU-GISFI workshop. This is the second December running we have organized a joint workshop, the first one last year was in New Delhi on patent policy, and I am sure this one in Bangalore will be an equal success. I would also like to thank Mr Yao, Vice-President, Huawei India for providing us with these excellent facilities, and for the government of India and the government of Karnataka for their support.

We are here to discuss the very complex, and very challenging task of extending life-changing broadband services to sparsely populated rural areas.
India is renowned as a flourishing ICT market, but with up to 70 per cent of the population in rural areas – the challenges are evident to meet the ambitious plans of the government.
Many of the solutions to providing rural communications are being developed here in Bangalore – the ‘silicon valley’ of India. With its mild climate and green vegetation it is clearly conducive to innovative thinking.
I arrived in Bangalore direct from Dubai where over the last four weeks the U.A.E. hosted a series of ITU conferences. These began with the third annual meeting of our Chief Technology Officers’ (CTO) Group on 18 November, followed by the second Global Standards Symposium (GSS) on the 19 November, the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) from the 20-29 November, and finally the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) from 3-14 December.
This was a very intense four weeks, but also a very significant four weeks for the future of the ITU, and the industry generally.
The CTO Group has a membership of 22 CTOs from leading operators and vendors, and was established in 2008 to give some strategic high-level industry input to guide the work of ITU’s standardization sector (ITU-T).
The CTO Group has instigated many new initiatives in ITU-T over the past few years, including smart grids and cloud computing. On this occasion it proposed that ITU-T start work on smart phone security, and software defined networks. 
The WTSA was the best-attended WTSA ever, attracting over 1000 delegates from over 100 countries. This 4-yearly event reviews the structure of the sector, appoints the leadership teams for our 10 study groups, and sets the priorities for the coming years. On this occasion it identified the need for increased activity in the area of e-health, software-defined networks, e-waste, conformity and interoperability, and engagement of academia in our work.
I am grateful to Huawei for initiating the proposal for ITU-T to start work on software defined networking. This was taken up by China and eventually became a proposal from a number of Asia Pacific countries. I am looking forward very much to taking this significant area of work forward in collaboration with Huawei.
The WTSA also strongly supported our programme called Bridging the Standardization Gap, by which we endeavor to increase the participation of developing countries in our work. This has proved to be very successful with over 40 new countries having participated in our work since 2007, 16 last year alone. We have done this through the creation of regional study groups, reduced membership fees, and fellowships, all thanks to a voluntary fund that was established a few years ago and is supported by Korean Communications Commission, NSN, Microsoft and Cisco. We rely heavily on these voluntary contributions to our work and I encourage anyone interested in supporting our activities to contribute to this fund. We only use sponsors money for specific activities if they are in agreement, and we make sure that their sponsorship is given plenty of recognition. My colleague Toby Johnson will speak more about this tomorrow.
Our new developing-country participants are particularly interested in the work of our ITU-T Study Group 5 on ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change. This is the study group that produced the famous universal mobile phone charger. I am very pleased that the Chairman of the study group Mr Ahmed Zeddam is here with us and we will hear more about this important area of work later this afternoon.
WTSA also looked at ways to encourage more academia members to ITU-T. Currently we have 36 universities members of ITU-T since this category was first created last year. 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 participate in the network of academia members we are creating. We also offer internships to researchers in our member universities. I am pleased to say the Alborg University, through Professor Prasad, was one of our founding academia members. Our membership now varies from Tokyo University to Khartoum University.
I recently visited Khartoum University where they went to great lengths to complain about the one of the sanctions imposed on the country, that is the denial of Internet services. This severely hampers their research activities. The issue was addressed by WTSA in its Resolution 69 on “non-discriminatory access to modern telecommunication/ information and communication technology facilities, services and applications.”
It was then brought to the WCIT, and following a formal vote resulted in the inclusion of words in the Preamble of the treaty recognizing the right of access of all Member States to international telecommunication services.
The new treaty, known as the International Telecommunication Regulations, is a considerable boost to the work of the ITU-T Sector, as it requires Member States to encourage the application of relevant ITU-T standards (which we call Recommendations) by service providers and authorized operating agencies in many areas, including the following:
  • a wide range of international telecommunication services
  • Quality of service
  • International telecommunication numbering 
  • International calling line identification 
  • provision of information on operations
  • provision of free-of-charge, transparent, up-to-date and accurate information to end users on international roaming prices
  • safety-of-life telecommunications
  • priority of telecommunication services
  • making known the number to be used for emergency services, and the introduction of a globally harmonized national number (112 or 911) in addition to any existing national emergency numbers
  • countering spam
  • energy-efficiency
  • e-waste
  • and accessibility.
WCIT called for ITU-T to study the regulatory, technical and economic issues, which need to be taken into consideration due to the transition from dedicated phone and data networks to converged IP-based networks.
It also called for Member States to work together to ensure the security and robustness of international telecommunication networks.
The 1600 delegates from 151 Member States at WCIT made one thing extremely clear: the critical importance of ICTs to their future socio-economic development. The active participation of so many countries was very different to when the treaty was first adopted in 1988, and represents a major paradigm shift in the political and economic agenda. As a result the conference recognized the need to review this treaty more regularly in future, suggesting every eight years.
The treaty also encourages broadband investments, through competition and competitive wholesale pricing, and the implementation of IXPs to reduce costs, as well as improving the resilience of networks.
As we know, broadband connection is essential to access educational materials, health services and mobile bank accounts, not to mention opportunities for farmers to learn of more productive farming methods, receive real-time weather forecasts, and check prices at local markets before embarking on long journeys to sell their produce. Wireless broadband access networks will be a critical component of the infrastructure needed to enable sustainable rural broadband. We will hear more of ITU’s work in this area from my colleague Colin Langtry from the Radio Bureau later today.
The ITU’s membership, through the expertise of its thousands of experts working in ITU, and their dedication and hard work, share a common objective to connect the world and extend the benefits of ICTs and broadband to all the peoples of the world, including those in rural areas. If you are not already a member, I encourage you to join us, to work with us on these very important topics.
I would like to thank our moderators and speakers that have given their time to this workshop. I am sure you will find it very informative and rewarding and I hope you can help us identify further actions we can take together towards the goal of bringing the benefits of the information society to all the people in the rural areas of the world.
Thank you.