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Global Symposium for Regulators
Can competition repeat the "mobile miracle" for broadband?
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
ITU Secretary-General
image
Photo credit: AFP/Image Source
 

The theme of the ITU events in Dakar was “Enabling Tomorrow’s Digital World”. GSR-10 examined how regulators can stimulate nationwide broadband deployment through adaptive and targeted regulations and out-of-the-box thinking. It stressed that for markets to thrive, regulators must keep up with the pace of convergence and integration of ubiquitous networks through adapting institutional structures and mandates, adopting cuttingedge best practices and embracing new tools such as innovative dispute resolution techniques.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré urged the world’s ICT regulators to do for the Internet and broadband what they have so successfully achieved with mobile. Dr Touré stressed that two things need to change if the online world is to become a ubiquitous resource for all Africans. “First, governments need to raise broadband to the top of the development agenda. Secondly, we need to ensure that Internet access — and especially broadband access — becomes very much more affordable. This is where the GSR can play an important role. Affordability is dramatically improved when competitive forces are brought to bear, and when there are clear incentives to increase capacity.”

Paying tribute to President Abdoulaye Wade and all the Senegalese authorities for hosting the event, Dr Touré recalled the great actions implemented by the President in both Senegal and Africa to bridge the digital divide and to bring the benefits of ICT to all. He reminded the audience that President Wade was a visionary who had contributed greatly to the success of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) with his brilliant initiative to create the Digital Solidarity Fund. ITU was very proud to honour President Wade with its firstever World Information Society Award in Geneva, on 17 May 2006.

        
Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid
Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, underlined that since the first GSR in 2000, the popularity of the event had grown steadily. “I am glad to have been involved in its success, first as a national regulator and over the last four years as Director of BDT. I am very pleased to have been able, in this position, to organize the GSR in sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in the history of the event,” he stated.

Recalling that there are 156 ICT regulators in the world today, Mr Al Basheer said that thanks to their efforts, access to Internet services is open to competition in 93 per cent of markets and competition in the provision of basic services is the norm in more than 66 per cent of markets. The ICT sector has experienced tremendous growth in recent years to reach an estimated 5.3 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, including 940 million subscriptions to 3G services at year-end 2010. Outlining this progress, Mr Al Basheer commented that regulators have played a leading role in creating an enabling environment and fostering innovation and investment. However, their focus must now shift. “Not only do we need to create and sustain an enabling environment for investment, and foster market growth, but we must also ensure effective digital inclusion for all. Despite the progress in mobile telephony and the Internet, particular efforts need to be made to support the availability of infrastructure and services in underserved and rural areas,” Mr Al Basheer added.

Industry views taken on board

Two sets of recommendations from the Global Industry Leaders’ Forum, the first on the topic of “securing a wireless future”, and the second on “creating a light touch policy and regulatory environment” also helped shape the GSR-10 debate. Mahfoudh Ould Brahim, Deputy Director-General of mobile operator Expresso, Senegal, who chaired the Forum presented these recommendations, along with a report (see story).

Regional Regulatory Associations

GSR-10 also heard a report from the meeting of regional regulatory associations, held in Dakar on 9 November, and where experiences were shared and discussion focused on ways to further intraregional cooperation, as well as on the status and challenges of regulatory harmonization, regional experiences with regard to international mobile roaming, and the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. This report was presented by Alagi B. Gaye, Director General of Gambia’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, and Vice Chairman of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA), who chaired the meeting of regional regulatory associations.

Interactive sessions and workshops

In eight interactive sessions, GSR-10 covered such topics as building tomorrow’s digital world today: the impact of broadband on the economy; 21st century regulation; spectrum in transition: the digital dividend; dispute resolution in the ICT sector; ICT and climate change: what role for regulators?; addressing cyberthreats; living the information society; and measuring regulatory efficiency. Discussion Papers on these topics were issued for the global gathering enriching the debate.

In addition to these sessions, two workshops were held on “Connect a School, Connect a Community” and on “National School Connectivity Plans ” featuring ITU’s flagship initiative “Connect a School, Connect a Community”, along with country projects. A final session of the GSR discussed “the way forward”.

10th Anniversary Edition of the Telecommunications Regulation Handbook launched

GSR-10 also saw the launch of a special 10th Anniversary Edition of the Telecommunications Regulation Handbook, which has been jointly developed by ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau and infoDev (World Bank). Complementing the ICT Regulation Toolkit, the handbook provides regulators with a solid basis on which to develop national strategies to foster the growth of digital economies.

 


* The GSR-10 Chairman’s Report provides a comprehensive summary of all the sessions and workshops (and is available at:
www.itu.int/ITUD/treg/Events/Seminars/GSR/GSR10/documents/GSRChairman_report.pdf).

 

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