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WTDC-10 special report
A blueprint for ICT development worldwide
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Photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Thiru A. Raja
India’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology
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Photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
Secretary-General of ITU
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Photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid
Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau
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Photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
P.J. Thomas
Secretary, Department of Telecommunications of the Government of India
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Photo credit: ITU/S. Dubouchet
A view of the historic Charminar monument in Hyderabad, India

The Hyderabad Action Plan, adopted by the fifth World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-10), outlines a road map to foster the development of information and communication technology (ICT) networks and services worldwide over the next four years.

It consists of the following programmes, to be implemented by the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT):

  • Programme 1: Information and communication infrastructure and technology develop

  • Programme 2: Cybersecurity, ICT applications and IP-based network-related issues

  • Programme 3: Enabling environment

  • Programme 4: Capacity building and digital inclusion

  • Programme 5: Least developed countries, countries in special need, emergency telecommunications and climate change adaptation.

In addition to these programmes, the conference adopted 18 study group Questions (see Box 1), and 28 regional initiatives (see Box 2), along with guidelines for their implementation. It also adopted the Hyderabad Declaration, which recognizes the roll-out of next-generation networks (NGN) and increased access to broadband services, wireless technologies and the Internet as catalysts to achieve wider development goals.

The Declaration says that broadband access and usage, supported by strong national backbones, can improve e-government services, such as health care and education, and step up the drive to alleviate poverty and create jobs, especially among poor and marginalized populations. It underlines that broad access to ICT is essential for the world’s collective economic, social and cultural development, and the building of a global information society.

Participants pledged to promote affordable access to telecommunications and ICT aimed at fostering sustainable development worldwide, with attention being given to least developed countries and countries in special need.

WTDC-10 met from 24 May to 4 June 2010 in Hyderabad, the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. The event attracted 924 participants: 758 government delegates from 138 countries and 6 representatives from Palestine; 88 representatives from 28 public and private sector companies; 16 representatives of telecommunication-related entities from 7 countries; and 56 representatives from 25 regional and international organizations. In addition, 241 media representatives covered the event.

High-level opening

India’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Thiru A. Raja, opened the conference and emphasized that ICT can facilitate faster development of social and economic sectors in any country. Such development, he said, should lead to equal opportunities for all humankind, and “there should be perceptible improvement for the most vulnerable parts of society in rural and remote areas”. The minister described India’s impressive growth in the field of software development and in the applications of space technology, aimed at national development in areas such as communication, broadcasting, distance education, Earth exploration services, and space sciences. He expressed the hope that “increased general awareness among the masses created by the knowledge society would bring enhanced global peace, justice and respect for each other, which are the cornerstones for the elimination of disparity and poverty from the globe”.

Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of ITU, observed that since the previous WTDC, held in Doha, Qatar, in 2006, the ICT landscape has changed in unexpected ways. The number of fixed-line subscribers has fallen. “Of course, this has been massively more than compensated for by mobile growth over the same period,” Dr Touré noted, adding that almost all of this growth has been in the developing world. The same is true of the growth in Internet users, where 600 million of the 777 million new users over the past four years have come from the developing world. “We have also seen social media skyrocket. When we met in Doha, no one had ever sent a tweet, and Facebook was a small, closed site for students. Today, 50 million tweets are sent every day and Facebook has over 400 million users,” Dr Touré added. These dramatic figures demonstrate the extraordinary opportunities that lie ahead. By extending access to broadband, countries will quickly accelerate their progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, said that much progress has been made in implementing the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society and in bridging the digital divide. “The most striking development has been the growth in mobile” he noted. “Mobile subscriptions stood at nearly 2.2 billion four years ago and will reach 5 billion this year. Mobile broadband has risen from 71 million to over 670 million. Fixed broadband has more than doubled, from 212 to 527 million,” Mr Al Basheer stated. He added that the role of industry in taking risks, especially in emerging markets, must be recognized, as well as the constant efforts to put in place an enabling environment in most countries around the world.

“Looking forward, we need to invent better targeted and more positive regulation, focusing on incentives rather than obligations,” Mr Al Basheer said. He called for increased international cooperation and continuous dialogue and exchange between policy-makers and regulators and industry. “To foster this dialogue, I have placed special emphasis on the Global Symposium for Regulators and I established the Global Industry Leaders Forum in conjunction with it. This has become one of the most valued global platforms for dialogue between policy-makers, regulators and industry.”

According to P.J. Thomas, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications of the Government of India, who was elected to chair the conference, the world has finally acknowledged that technological progress and innovations are long-term drivers of economic growth, especially in developing countries. New services generated by ICT in the forms of e-commerce, e-finance, and e-governance are contributing towards greater economic efficiency while raising the living standard of citizens.

Several government and industry leaders, including chief executive officers, ministers and regulators from around the world, endorsed the push for the accelerated roll-out of broadband. Hessa Al Jaber, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) and Chairman of WTDC-06, said that as Qatar continues to roll out broadband — which currently reaches 63 per cent of households — it is studying the best approach for high-speed NGN coverage. “We recognize a one-size fits all solution might not be practical, so we are developing a pragmatic strategy”, she added. Such a strategy is likely to result in a mix of fixed and wireless technologies, and ensure national coverage.

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Photo credit: ITU/S. Dubouchet
From left to right at the WTDC-10 opening ceremony: Valery Timofeev, Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau; Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General; Thiru A. Raja, India’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology; Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General; P.J. Thomas, Secretary of the Department of Telecommunications of the Government of India and Chairman of WTDC-10; Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau; and Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau

Hyderabad Declaration

The Hyderabad Declaration highlights the main conclusions and priorities approved by the conference, and reinforces the political support towards ITU’s development mission and strategic objectives.

Transition to digital broadcasting

Many countries are preparing the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting with different timescales according to their national priorities as well as, where applicable, the deadlines set by the ITU Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC-06) and its Plan and Agreement. In view of the increasing demand for limited radio-frequency resources, this transition and efficient spectrum management are critical issues for policy-makers, regulators, broadcasters and other stakeholders. The Hyderabad Declaration underlines that high priority should be given to assisting these entities in introducing digital broadcasting and providing assistance to developing countries on spectrum management.

Strengthening cybersecurity

With the growing volume of e-commerce and online financial transactions, e-government services, the popularity of social networks and the emergence of the “Internet of things”, building confidence and maintaining trust in the use of ICT will continue to be a major policy concern for governments and other stakeholders. These challenges, the Hyderabad Declaration says, should be addressed by promoting international coordination and cooperation in cybesecurity through ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda. It also encourages the development of related public policies and legal and regulatory measures, including building capacity to strengthen the cybersecurity of developing countries, particularly for the protection of children and youth in cyberspace.

Internet resources

Open and equitable access to critical Internet resources and matters pertaining to Internet-related public policy, including Internet governance, are key issues for ITU’s 191 Member States as the migration to IP-based networks increases. Along with facilitating a dialogue on international public policy related to the Internet, ITU will assist developing countries migrate from IPv4 to IPv6 next-generation networks so that all countries can benefit from the broadband infrastructure needed to support advanced e-applications for health, education, government and commerce.

Green ICT and climate change

While contributing to monitoring climate change and mitigating and adapting to its adverse effects, environment-friendly ICT and renewable energy sources help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Developing and implementing policies for proper disposal of e-waste are also of great importance. The consequences of climate change and rising sea-levels are of particular concern to least developed countries and small island developing States. There will continue to be a need to help countries, in particular developing ones, respond to climate change challenges.

Emergency telecommunications

Emergency telecommunications play a critical role in warning of disasters, and in their immediate aftermath by ensuring the timely flow of information needed by government agencies and other humanitarian actors involved in rescue operations and providing medical assistance to the injured. ITU has played a critical role in restoring telecommunications in disaster-hit areas around the world and was one of the early responders in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti earlier this year. The Hyderabad Declaration stresses the need for ITU Member States to support policies and strategies that facilitate the use of telecommunications/ICT, and in particular radiocommunications, for disaster management.

Enabling environment

The Hyderabad Declaration also stated the need for policy-makers and regulators to continue to promote widespread affordable access to telecommunications/ ICT through fair, transparent, stable, predictable and non-discriminatory enabling legal and regulatory environments that promote competition, foster continued technological and service innovation and encourage investment incentives.

ICT indicators and statistics

The conference endorsed the continuation of the work of ITU–D in the collection and dissemination of telecommunication/ICT indicators and statistics that measure and provide comparative analysis of the use and adoption of telecommunications/ICT.

Strategic Plan outlined for development

WTDC-10 agreed on its input to the ITU–D Strategic Plan for the 2012–2015 period, which will feed into the overall ITU Strategic Plan to be adopted by the forthcoming Plenipotentiary Conference to be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, from 4 to 22 October 2010. The ITU–D strategic plan makes linkages to the Hyderabad Action Plan and Declaration, and reiterates the challenges and opportunities over the coming period — whether in bridging the digital divide, assisting countries to effectively manage the radio spectrum, promoting access to broadband, convergence and the enabling environment, collecting and disseminating quality indicators and statistics that measure and provide comparative analysis of the use and adoption of ICT to support developing economies, continued innovation in mobile technologies or in capacity building.

As Mr Al Basheer said, “the decisions we have reached in Hyderabad have provided a compelling vision and plan of action for the next four years, in addition to laying the groundwork for ICT development across the world for many years to come.” The conference called upon ITU Member States, Sector Members and other stakeholders to contribute towards the successful implementation of the Hyderabad Action Plan, describing it as an “important and relevant tool for helping to bridge the digital divide”.

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Photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Dr Touré met India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on 29 May 2010 in his office in New Delhi. Both men talked about the fruitful collaboration which has existed between ITU and India since it joined the Union in January 1869. They also discussed key issues on the agenda of the World Telecommunication Development Conference, which was successfully hosted by the Government of India in Hyderabad from 24 May to 4 June 2010

 

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