|Photo credit: AFP/SHO
An essential foundation for the information society
Two thirds of the world’s population are still without access to
the Internet and so are excluded from the information society.
Infrastructure for information and communication technologies
(ICT) is key to providing that access, and is ever more necessary.
World leaders at the first phase of the World Summit on
the Information Society (WSIS), held in Geneva in 2003, issued
a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action. The
second phase of WSIS, held in Tunis in 2005, added the
Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information
Society to the two Geneva documents. The 11 “action lines” in
the Geneva Plan of Action set forth key elements for building
the information society.
ITU, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) were together tasked to
take a lead role in facilitating the overall implementation of
the Plan of Action, while ITU was named as sole moderator
and facilitator for WSIS Action Line C2 on information and
The Plan of Action highlights infrastructure as being central
to achieving the goal of digital inclusion, by enabling universal,
sustainable, ubiquitous and affordable access to ICT by
all. It defines specific actions to be implemented under Action
Line C2, and urges ITU to undertake technical, regulatory and
operational studies for the development and strengthening
of national, regional and international broadband network
ITU has engaged in its WSIS tasks with dedication and
determination. Since 2005, as sole moderator and facilitator
for WSIS Action Line C2, ITU has carried out successful
activities to promote national ICT strategies, harmonize ICT
policies in different regions, develop regional and large-scale
national initiatives, launch global thematic ICT infrastructure
initiatives, develop a virtual financing platform and launch a
Facilitation meetings and their impact
As a first step, ITU held a consultation meeting on WSIS
Action Line C2 in Doha, Qatar, in March 2006 in conjunction
with the World Telecommunication Development Conference
(WTDC-06), followed by five facilitation meetings in Geneva.
The first of these meetings, held in May 2006, built on
the outcomes of WTDC-06. The second, held in May 2007,
discussed the Geneva Plan of Action, analysing synergies with
other WSIS action lines. It received contributions from several
entities involved in ICT infrastructure development, including
the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD),
Infinity Worldwide Telecom Group of Companies, Infinity West
Africa Fiber Optic Project, and the Association for Progressive
Communication. The third meeting, organized jointly with
UNDP in May 2008, focused on infrastructure projects, while
an Ambassadors Round Table addressed financing mechanisms
for infrastructure development. The fourth meeting was
held in May 2009 as an integral part of WSIS Forum 2009,
profiting from a Ministerial Segment which discussed the
strategic role of ICT infrastructure development at national,
regional and international levels.
The fifth meeting, held in May 2010 as an integral part
of WSIS Forum 2010, provided an update on ITU activities in
the area of ICT infrastructure development. A new web portal
for reporting on the activities of WSIS Action Line C2 was
presented (www.itu.int/ITU-D/wsis/C2/). The portal serves as
the active repository for the road map of ITU’s ongoing and
planned activities, and best practices, as well as a platform
for feedback from its Member States, calls for assistance and
All five facilitation meetings have reinforced ITU’s role in
implementing WSIS Action Line C2 and have paved the way
for future work.
Infrastructure development projects
In line with the decisions of WTDC-06, ITU’s Telecommunication
Development Sector (ITU–D) has initiated 25 regional
initiatives to facilitate ICT infrastructure development in Africa,
the Americas, the Arab States, Asia-Pacific and the Commonwealth
of Independent States (CIS).
ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), in
its role as implementer, has continued its efforts since 2006
to facilitate the development of ICT infrastructure worldwide.
Each year more than 50 activities directly associated with
WSIS Action Line C2 have been reflected in BDT’s Operational
Plan for implementation. These activities have focused on
technical, policy and regulatory aspects of network development,
broadband connectivity, access in rural areas, radiofrequency
spectrum planning, and broadcasting — notably
digital terrestrial broadcasting networks.
Some pioneering examples of BDT’s work include:
The harmonization of policies and guidelines for ICT markets,
and human and institutional capacity building in ICT
in three regions (sub-Saharan Africa, Caribbean countries,
and Pacific Island States).
Rural telecommunications, ICT services and entrepreneurship
Rehabilitation and reconstruction of telecommunication
infrastructure, and contribution to the establishment of
an early warning system in countries affected by earthquakes
Publication of a Telecom Network Planning Manual for
evolving network architectures (versions 4 and 5) to be
used to facilitate the planning of network architectures
and the transition to next-generation networks (NGN).
The WSIS Stocktaking Database maintained by ITU is an
effective tool for the exchange of information on projects being
implemented within the scope of Action Line C2.
Connect the World Summits
Within the framework of the Connect the World initiative,
launched by ITU in 2005, the Union helps mobilize the financial,
human and technical resources needed to implement the
outcomes of WSIS and WTDC.
Connect Africa, the first Connect the World Summit, held
in 2007 in Kigali, Rwanda, resulted in commitments of USD
55 billion from various stakeholders. Building on that success,
ITU and partners organized the second Summit, Connect
CIS, in 2009 in Minsk, Belarus, where Heads of State from
Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and
Tajikistan expressed their personal support for the initiative.
In early 2009, BDT launched six global Connect the
World flagship initiatives: Wireless Broadband Partnership;
Connecting Villages; Connect a School, Connect a Community;
ITU Academy Partnership; ITU Mobile Health Initiative; and
ITU–IMPACT Collaboration on Cybersecurity. The aim of these
initiatives is to build upon and strengthen promising projects
that start in one region or with one industry partner, by providing
an attractive, open platform and brand that can be
promoted to additional partners globally or in various regions.
Connect a School, Connect a Community
Through the Connect a School, Connect a Community initiative,
ITU aims to improve access to broadband in schools,
and to enable schools to serve as community ICT centres. ITU
has developed an online toolkit to share best practices and
advice on developing national school connectivity plans. The
online platform includes a repository of training materials and
applications that can be used by community ICT centres.
A project in the Americas region is under way to develop
a model national school connectivity plan and a model connected
school. The initiative has attracted a number of partners,
and working with them will enable ITU to assist selected
countries in the preparation of their national school connectivity
plans and the development of connected schools.
|Photo credit: AFP/EyePress News
Emergency telecommunication infrastructure
As part of infrastructure development in disaster management,
ITU has carried out various activities since 2006 to
assist emergency telecommunication. For example, ITU has
deployed hybrid communication systems for disaster relief
in several countries. Also, ITU–D has assisted countries in
all regions to design national emergency telecommunication
plans and to draft standard operating procedures. This assistance
has included work on preparedness, early warning, response,
reconstruction, climate change adaptation, and designating
an international numbering resource (888) for use by
the United Nations in disaster relief.
In collaboration with various partners, ITU–D has organized
a number of regional and global forums on emergency
telecommunications. In December 2007, the “Global Forum
on Effective Use of Telecommunications/ICT for Disaster
Management: Saving Lives” brought together the main stakeholders
active in developing, deploying and using ICT for disaster
mitigation. During this event, a compendium of ITU’s
work on emergency telecommunications was launched. This
includes new recommendations on telecommunication facilities
and spectrum that will allow relief workers to smoothly
deploy telecommunication equipment and services. ITU also
hosted a high-level session at the Third Asian Ministerial
Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held in 2008.
ITU–D organized a Central American Workshop on
Disaster Management in El Salvador; and in Jamaica, in partnership
with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management
Agency, it organized a training workshop on disaster management
to integrate emergency telecommunication plans into
national disaster management plans.
Having a high level of infrastructure is all well and good,
but without standardization, the possibility of communication
is severely limited.
Emergency contact information and numbers
In mid-2008, ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization
Sector (ITU–T) adopted an amendment to the existing recommendation
on notation for national and international telephone
numbers, e-mail addresses and web addresses, to enable
contact information to be stored on mobile telephones for
use in case of emergency. The amendment specifies an international,
language-independent method that allows mobile
phone users to designate their emergency contact persons,
in their mobile phones, along with the telephone numbers of
those persons (the next-of-kin or doctor to be contacted in
case of an emergency).
ITU–T has also approved the Common Alerting Protocol,
which allows alerts and emergency messages to be exchanged
in a standardized way by a wide number of systems.
At the end of 2008, ITU–T adopted a new Recommendation
on guidelines to select emergency numbers for public telecommunication
networks. The purpose of this Recommendation
is to facilitate the international harmonization of emergency
numbers. In particular, it suggests that all countries implement
codes 911 and 112, in addition to existing national
ITU–T has continued to be at the forefront of providing
global standards for telecommunications as a whole. The
most important standardization activities concern NGN, with
the approval of specific standards on signalling protocols for
quality of service resource control, security, multimedia services
over NGN, fixed-mobile convergence, service level requirements
and an architectural framework to provide new services
based on Internet Protocol television (IPTV). Charging and accounting
principles for NGN (including related telecommunication
economic and policy issues) continue to be studied at
international and regional levels.
The Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB),
alongside BDT and the Radiocommunication Bureau (BR),
developed training materials to bridge the standardization
gap and foster the implementation of NGN and broadband
networks for developing countries. ITU also organized five
Regional Development Forums with a focus on bridging the
ITU–T study groups also deal with subjects directly relevant
to ICT infrastructure development, including: infrastructure
and access networks; international Internet connectivity;
security; internationalized domain names; multimedia services;
quality of service; and accessibility.
|Photo credit: AFP/EUTELSAT
|A computer-generated image of the European satellite
KA-SAt of Eutelsat Communications successfully lifted
into orbit by a Proton rocket on 26 December 2010
As part of its work on developing standards for telecommunications
equipment, software and associated telecommunication
services, ITU set up the Joint Coordination Activity on
Accessibility and Human Factors, and published telecommunication
accessibility guidelines and an accessibility checklist
for the standards community to ensure that they take into account,
at an early stage, the needs of those for whom access
to ICT may be restricted.
Conformance and interoperability testing
To respond to concerns expressed by developing countries
about interoperability, the World Telecommunication
Standardization Assembly, held in Johannesburg, South
Africa, in 2008 adopted Resolution 76 on Conformance and
Interoperability Testing to help increase probability of interoperability.
A Joint Coordination Activity on Conformance
and Interoperability Testing has been established, and a
pilot conformity database (which lists and gives visibility to
products that have been tested for conformity against ITU–T
Recommendations) is under development. ITU organized five
forums and various workshops in the regions on this topic.
The first interoperability event on IPTV was organized by
ITU–T in July 2010 to address issues of conformance to ITU
IPTV standards and interoperability of products. A second IPTV
interoperability event was held in September in Singapore,
and a third event is planned for December 2010 in India.
Meanwhile, ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R)
has studied a range of topics related to ICT infrastructure,
including: wireless Internet access, both via terrestrial and
satellite broadband; emergency radiocommunications to
support disaster prediction, detection, mitigation, and relief
work; remote sensing systems for environmental control and
for monitoring climate change; and digital broadcasting to
help bridge the digital divide. In this regard, the Regional
Radiocommunication Conference organized by ITU in 2006
(RRC-06) resulted in an international treaty for structured migration
from analogue to digital broadcasting.
ITU–R has developed several Recommendations on
Internet access, both terrestrial and satellite, that are especially
relevant to building ICT infrastructure in developing
countries. A package of international recommendations and
standards for terrestrial and satellite digital broadcasting
systems, and terrestrial and satellite interactive systems, has
been developed relevant to emergency radiocommunications.
The World Radiocommunication Conference in 2007
(WRC-07) identified additional spectrum to meet the requirements
for active and passive services for environment and
climate control, and disaster prediction, detection and mitigation.
WRC-07 also advocated the development of spectrum
management guidelines for radiocommunications in emergency
and disaster relief, as well as the identification and
maintenance of available frequencies for use in the very early
stages of humanitarian assistance.
ITU is developing a database for frequency management
in disaster situations to assist its Member States
in their emergency communication preparedness. The
Radiocommunication Assembly, meeting just before WRC-07,
recognized the importance of telecommunications and information
techniques for disaster management, particularly in
relation to disaster prediction, detection, mitigation and relief,
and approved two new resolutions in this area.
To facilitate work, the WSIS outcomes described in the
Geneva Plan of Action regarding Action Line C2 have been regrouped
into the following eight thematic areas: national ICT
policies; universal access policies; public service connectivity;
broadband network infrastructure; special group inclusion;
affordable ICT equipment; optimized connectivity; and traditional
media inclusion. This regrouping is intended to improve
communication and relevance to stakeholders, increase clarity
in regard to ITU’s work, and act as a vehicle for resource
Recommendations made in 2009 by the ITU Council
Working Group on WSIS have led to the development of a
comprehensive road map for Action Line C2, which will guide
implementation until 2015. The road map offers detailed
plans for achieving WSIS goals.
The road map is being integrated into the web portal, so
that stakeholders will be able to provide feedback and updates.
Meanwhile, feedback from a questionnaire sent to ITU
Member States in early 2010 showed that progress in many
of the thematic areas is on track. But the implementation of
broadband infrastructure is trailing behind. This is why the
ITU Secretary-General has made a great push in the area of
broadband, notably with the establishment of the Broadband
Commission for Digital Development.
ITU, as the sole moderator and facilitator for WSIS Action
Line C2, supports and guides its Member States in confronting
the challenges of building reliable information and communication
infrastructure. Regional, sub-regional and international
organizations are expected to assist developing countries in
building their telecommunication and ICT infrastructure. The
private sector and development banks are expected to play an
active role in funding infrastructure projects through suitable
financing mechanisms and public-private partnerships.
ITU encourages all stakeholders to make concerted efforts
at national, regional and international levels in order to implement
activities in support of WSIS Action Line C2 and to build
the needed infrastructure. This is the only way that efforts can
be collectively maximized to reach the broader WSIS goals.