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ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009: Special report: Reflecting new needs and realities
Council of Ministers discuss the future of the Internet
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Council of Ministers in session
 

At one session that brought together more than 50 ministers, the discussion was on the future of the Internet, with a focus on broadband and convergence, Internet public policy, and new and emerging cyberthreats.

The Council of Ministers was addressed by the following countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, the Philippines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.

Over the last two decades, the Internet has grown dramatically. According to ITU statistics, there are some 1.8 billion Internet users worldwide, or around a quarter of the world’s population, with the largest share in the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, broadband and convergence are blurring the boundaries between infrastructure, applications and content. This, several countries said, is posing new policy and regulatory challenges. The broadband plans and projects highlighted during the meeting highlight the importance of this technology for socio-economic development.

On Internet governance, Saudi Arabia stressed the need to get to “the heart of the matter”. ITU has made many services available around the world through the management of the radio-frequency spectrum, and so “ITU should be more than capable of carrying out Internet governance,” Saudi Arabia stated. Egypt invited countries to take part in the fourth Internet Governance Forum in Sharm El Sheikh in November 2009.

The crux of today’s Internet governance debate is resource management, the management of top-level domains and allocation of addresses. Developing countries feel they are under represented in current governance mechanisms, and that international governance frameworks should reflect new market realities.

Meanwhile, cybercriminals are exploiting online vulnerabilities and threatening the reliability, stability and security of the Internet. In some countries, new legislation on personal data protection is ready to be presented to national parliaments. The aim is to provide further assurance in the collection, processing and storage of personal data transmitted over electronic networks. In others, laws on cybersecurity are being finalized in line with national ICT policies.

Countries at the meeting were unanimous in saying that cybercrime is “a global threat that requires global attention and a global solution”. Indonesia emphasized that cybersecurity has become a prime issue for almost every ITU Member State, so this must be made a first priority in future ITU programmes.

Cybercrime is often borderless and creates problems of jurisdiction. Underlining this point, Lesotho called for an international instrument and for “the leadership of ITU to take on board this issue on our behalf and come up with such an instrument, which will really help us in all our countries”. Cameroon, followed by several other countries, noted the importance of the European Convention on Cybercrime, adopted in Budapest, Hungary in 2001. They also called for new global measures. As Swaziland put it, “we would like ITU to champion the enactment of a Convention for International Cooperation in prosecuting cybercriminals — there should be no place for them to hide”.

Addressing the Council of Ministers, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe described the status of ICT in his country — revealing that 600 secondary schools had benefited from a national computerization programme. He also called for investment in the country’s ICT sector. “With a teledensity of less than 15 per cent, and Internet penetration rates of less than 10 per cent, Zimbabwe is certainly an emerging market and therefore ripe for investment,” Mr Mugabe said. “In this regard, my government welcomes private-sector investment in Zimbabwe’s ICT sector, taking advantage of our central location in the sub-region and our high literacy rate of over 97 per cent, which aids receptivity to these technologies.”

Zimbabwe’s mobile phone sector has grown from one million subscribers at the beginning of 2009 to 2.5 million at present, he said, and the figure is expected to reach four million subscribers by January 2010. “We are also developing a national communications backbone with cross-border connections into neighbouring countries, namely Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Botswana. Based on these developments, it is expected that telecommunication penetration will increase and high-speed broadband connectivity will be realized before the 2010 Football World Cup in South Africa,” President Mugabe said.

Council of Ministers at a glance

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Bhutan’s Minister for Information and Communications
Lyonpo Nandalal Rai
Burkina Faso’s Minister of Posts and Information and Communication Technology
Noël Kaboré
Burundi’s Minister of Transport, Posts and Telecommunications
Philippe Njonis
     
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Cameroon’s Minister of Posts and Telecommunications
Jean-Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Minister of Posts and Telecommunications
Louise Munga Mesozi
Fiji’s Minister of Public Enterprises, Tourism and Communications
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Jordan’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology
Basem Rousan
       
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Lebanon’s then Minister of Telecommunications
Gebran Bassil
Malaysia’s Deputy Minister for Information, Communications and Culture
Dato’ Joseph Salang
Philippines’s Secretary of the Commission on Information and Communication Technology
Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua III
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology
Mohamed Jamil A. Mulla
       
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Serbia’s Minister of Telecommunications and Information Society
Jasna Matiæ
Suriname’s Minister of Transport, Communication and Tourism
Richel Apinsa
Swaziland’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology
Nelisiwe J. Shongwe
Tunisia’s Minister of Communication Technologies
Haj Klai
       

 

*All photos are by P. Christin/ITU, D. Keller/ITU, V. Martin/ITU, and F. Rouzioux/ITU unless indicated otherwise

 

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