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WTDC-14 Highlights: Dubai Action Plan


GSR13 Chairman's Report

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WTDC-14 forges an inclusive development vision for the future

Issue N°10, Dubai, 10 April 2014  


Dubai Action Plan — A blueprint to promote universal and affordable connectivity  

The Dubai Action Plan adopted at the sixth quadrennial World Telecommunications Development Conference reaffirms ITU's commitment to the delivery of universal and affordable access to telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICT).

In adopting this blueprint for telecommunications/ICT development over the next four years, the more than 1300 participating senior government officials, policy-makers, regulators, industry and civil society leaders from 137 countries renewed their pledge to eradicate digital exclusion.

Convened under the theme Broadband for Sustainable Development in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 30 March to 10 April 2014, the conference charted a course to accelerate and expand broadband uptake and digital literacy worldwide, particularly in the least developed countries, to enable their populations to access the benefits of digital inclusion.

The message — one that resonated throughout the conference — was clear: in a world in which ICTs play an increasingly important role in socio-economic development and in building a knowledge-based information society, no one should be left offline, regardless of their circumstances or the remoteness of their place of origin.

While recognizing the progress made in helping developing countries to harness the benefits ICTs since WTDC-10, the conference emphasized the need to close the remaining connectivity gaps between and within countries that condemn millions of people, particularly women youth, children, indigenous people and persons with disabilities, to digital exclusion.

The Dubai Action Plan is the culmination of the six regional preparatory meetings that took place in Chisinau, Moldova, for the Commonwealth of Independent States; Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for Asia-Pacific; Montevideo, Uruguay, for the Americas; Accra, Ghana, for Africa; Manama, Bahrain, for the Arab States; and Belgrade, Serbia, for Europe. The plan comprises a comprehensive package of activities in the area of telecommunications and information and communication technologies, including networks, applications and services. It is built around five core objectives that aim to:
  1. foster international cooperation on telecommunication and ICT issues;
  2. foster an enabling environment conducive to ICT development and the development of ICT networks as well as relevant applications and services, including bridging the standardization gap;
  3. enhance confidence and security in the use of ICTs and the roll out of relevant applications and services;
  4. build human and institutional capacity, promote digital inclusion and provide concentrated assistance to countries in special need;
  5. enhance climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster management efforts through telecommunications and ICTs.

The Dubai Action Plan encompasses programmes, regional initiatives, study group Questions, resolutions and recommendations to be implemented over the next four years, including facilitation of the relevant action lines of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Dubai Declaration reinforces support for ITU-D mission

Another major outcome of the conference is the Dubai Declaration. The declaration highlights the main conclusions and priorities established at WTDC-14 and reinforces political support for ITU's development mission and strategic objectives. The Dubai Declaration states inter alia that "promoting and making available, affordable and accessible broadband infrastructure, with appropriate policy and strategy, is a fundamental enabling platform that fosters innovation and drives the development of national and global economies and the information society".

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré said: "With the adoption of the Dubai Declaration, we declare our commitment to accelerate the expansion and use of ICTs, and in particular broadband, to achieve economic growth." He asserted that "Access to affordable and reliable ICTs, including broadband, can facilitate economic, social and cultural development and achieve digital inclusion for all. ICTs – and in particular broadband networks – offer perhaps the greatest opportunity we have ever had to make rapid and profound advances in global social and economic development."

ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Director Brahima Sanou said: "The decisions we have taken here in Dubai, reflected in the Dubai Action Plan, will pave the way forward for our work. They will give us direction, a shared vision and a clear plan of action."

Strategic plan outlined for development

WTDC-14 also reached agreement on its contribution to the draft ITU strategic plan for 2016-2019. The conference developed and adopted the Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) component of the overall ITU strategic plan, to be adopted at the forthcoming Plenipotentiary Conference to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 20 October to 7 November 2014. The ITU–D strategic plan makes linkages to the Dubai Action Plan and Declaration, and reiterates the challenges and opportunities over the coming period.

Conference agrees to maintain two ITU-D Study groups

The conference furthermore agreed to maintain the two ITU-D study groups and decided on their terms of reference and the list of questions to be studied over the next four years.

Enabling environment

Policy-makers and regulators were urged to continue to promote widespread and affordable access to telecommunications and information and communication technologies through appropriate enabling policy, legal and regulatory environments. This included the forging of common approaches to conformance and interoperability in order to promote competition, increase consumer choices, foster continued technological and service innovation and provide investment incentives at national, regional and international levels.

Assistance to developing countries

Under the Dubai Action Plan, assistance to developing countries in the areas of spectrum management and the analogue to digital switchover will continue as will efforts to enhance digital literacy and capacity building in the development and use of telecommunication/ICT networks, applications and services. The development of multilingual digital content for software-based applications and the creation of local content as well as content in local languages by stakeholders are other priority areas to help foster an inclusive information society.

Collecting and disseminating quality indicators and statistics

ITU will continue to collect and disseminate quality indicators and statistics that measure and provide comparative analysis of advancements in the use and adoption of ICTs as a major factor in supporting socio-economic growth. They also serve to monitor the digital divide as well as progress towards achievement of internationally agreed goals in the post-2015 development agenda.

Strengthening cybersecurity seen as a global challenge

Building confidence, trust and security in the use of telecommunications/ICTs remains a priority goal requiring international cooperation and coordination between governments, relevant organizations, private companies and entities. Steps were agreed to build capacity and exchange best practices for the development of related public policies and legal, regulatory and technical measures that address, inter alia, personal data protection and child online protection.

Bridging the standardization gap

Agreement was also reached on the need for developing countries to increase their participation in ITU activities to bridge the standardization gap, to ensure that they experience the economic benefits associated with technological development, and to better reflect their requirements and interests.


Critical role of telecommunications/ICTs in disaster scenarios recognized

The conference recognized the critical role of telecommunications/ICTs in disaster risk reduction, prediction, preparedness, mitigation and response. Member States at risk, particularly small island developing States, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and low-lying coastal countries exposed to global climate change and rising sea levels, were encouraged to develop telecommunication/ICT disaster preparedness plans and strategies, with ITU assistance if required. Regional and international cooperation, collaboration and information sharing was viewed as crucial.

Strengthening public-private partnerships

Efforts will be stepped up under the Dubai Action Plan to strengthen public-private partnerships in order to explore and further develop new and innovative ways of investing and financing development initiatives and projects, in close collaboration with national, regional and international financing and investment institutions.

Closing ceremony  and the challenge to connect everyone to broadband  by 2020

WTDC-14 ended on an upbeat note with the showing of a video clip featuring conference delegates going about their business and joining in a "Broadband makes me happy" refrain reflecting the Broadband for Sustainable Development theme of the conference.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Dr Touré noted that the conference had forged a common vision and plan of action, a strategic plan and a financial plan for the coming years. "I stand before you today, proud of our Union, which I believe is stronger than ever before. Despite the many differences that could potentially divide us, we have come together to share resources, experiences and energies and to work towards common goals," he said, thanking all delegates for their flexibility, patience and spirit of collaboration.

Noting that the conference — like the Broadband Commission for Digital Development — had emphasized the critical role of broadband for the development of countries, the Secretary-General added: "My view is that it is about time that we challenge ourselves to connect everyone to broadband by 2020. In so doing, we should ensure that all men and women of this planet enjoy equal benefit of the use of ICTs, that minorities, rural populations, the elderly and all other social groupings are catered for in order for them to also enjoy the digital fruits brought by broadband. For this to happen, we need good policies, the right legal framework, and viable business cases that could be financed by private capital fully supported by universal service funds."

Mr Sanou, BDT Director, noted that WTDC-14 had broken several records, including a record participation of 1311 delegates representing 137 Member States and 82 Sector Members, along with 52 VIPs. There were no sessions in parallel. Captioning was provided for plenary and committee meetings. ITU offered members a mobile application for accessing WTDC-14 documents and consulting them offline, as well as an application for accessing the conference webcast on tablets and smartphones. Finally, the conference finished its work half a day early.

Mr Sanou attributed these achievements to the exemplary hospitality and excellent working conditions provided by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates, to whom he extended his deepest gratitude. He thanked all delegates for their positive, constructive and consensual spirit. He praised the Chairman for exhibiting unshakable calm and a sense of humour, while striking the right balance between consensus, rigour and flexibility. He also thanked the Vice-Chairmen for their support.

"Here in Dubai, we have noted once more that broadband is key to sustainable socio-economic development", said Mr Sanou, recalling that the conference had reaffirmed that the establishment of transparent legal and regulatory frameworks is indispensable in order to stimulate investment. The conference had stressed the importance of building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, and had reiterated the commitment to making ICTs available and affordable to the least developed countries and small island developing States. "Here in Dubai, we have also agreed that digital inclusion and the use of telecommunications and ICTs in the prevention and management of natural disasters should be our leading priority", he said, welcoming the interest shown by numerous delegates in partnership with other organizations and the private sector. "I believe very strongly and very deeply in partnership, because for me, any duplication means a missed opportunity for development," Mr Sanou concluded.

Dr Touré honours WTDC-14 Chairman Mohamed Nasser Al-Ghanim

The Secretary-General awarded the ITU Gold Medal to Mohamed Nasser Al-Ghanim, Chairman of WTDC-14 and Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates, praising him for his wisdom, punctuality, wit and humility.
                 

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