Plenipotentiary Conference 1998 -- Minneapolis USA

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Briefing Notes 2 of 13 October
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24 Ministers make general policy statements to the Plenipotentiary Conference

Over 30 speakers including 24 Ministers addressed the Conference today with general policy statements.

The Honourable John Manley, Canada’s Minister of Industry, spoke of the requirements to build a global framework for e-commerce and how to best harness its global potential. "We do not want to see the erection of new digital barriers" the Minister said. "Through the ITU", he added, "new communication technologies and standards are being developed in close partnership with the private sector that will make the global information infrastructure universally available". Mr Manley also underlined some of Canada’s key achievements in bringing the benefits of "connectedness" to Canadians and cited the examples of the Connecting Canadians initiative, the SchoolNet programme and the Community Access Programme (CAP).

"SchoolNet is working with provincial and private sector partners to connect all of Canada’s schools and public libraries to the Internet by the end of fiscal year 1998" he said. "CAP’s goal is to help to establish up to 10 000 public Internet access sites in Canada’s rural, remote and urban communities by the end of fiscal year 2000 and Connecting Canadians is spearheading the drive to make Canada the world’s most connected nation by the Year 2000", he stated. He said that the benefits of connectedness – development, learning and health – must be delivered to the world’s population and this should be a global priority supported by global action. "In this regard, Canada places great importance on the work of the ITU", Mr Manley said.

The Honourable Ismail Shafeeu, Minister of Transport and Communications of the Maldives told delegates that although most countries were undergoing structural reforms in their telecommunications often based on commercialization of operation, competition and private sector participation. But he stressed that irrespective of the approach taken to the policy and regulatory restructuring, universal service was the fundamental goal of telecommunication development. "This has been part of the overall strategy of economic and social development in my country" he said. The Minister announced that as a result of that strategy, all inhabited islands would have access to telecommunications by the end of 1999.

Uganda’s Minister of Works, Housing and Communications of Uganda recalled that his countries strategies to increase the country’s teledensity above Sub-Saharan average by the Year 2002 included the enactment of a new legislation, the restructuring of the sector, liberalization through the licensing of a second national operator for the provision of basic services, privatization and the setting up of an independent regulator. The Honourable John Nasasira told delegates that one of the issues of concern to him were the special programme for LDCs, the issues related to alternative calling procedures otherwise called call-back, the financial support for national spectrum management and the issue of paper satellites.

The Minister of Communications of Colombia, Her Excellency Claudia de Francisco, said "We are meeting in Minneapolis to discuss a new society which will move at the speed of technological innovations. A society which already transformed the speed of economic development, social organization, labour relations, family and the way to provide education" she said. "We firmly believe that the full development of the people demands a modern telecommunication infrastructure capable to provide access to all citizens, without any discrimination whatsoever" she added. "The right to communicate must be understood as one of the fundamental human rights through which the developing world can close the gap separating it from the industrialized nations", she concluded.

India Minister’s of State for Communications, H.E. Mr Kabindra Purkayastha recalled the main policy initiatives of his country in fostering development and improving access to its large population. "The Government of India has taken various steps towards increase competition and efficiency", he said. "A new National Telecom Policy was adopted in 1994 with the focus that telecommunication shall be for all and within the reach of all. Various value-added services like Cellular mobile telephone, Radio Paging, Radio Trunking and VSAT services have been opened for private sector participation" he added. The Minister recalled that even basic telecommunication services had also been opened up for the private sector and that his country was among the first to announce the introduction of GMPCS to facilitate access to telecommunication.

The Minister of Economic Infrastructure of Côte d’Ivoire said that the major challenge of his country was to raise it to the level of an industrialized nation within the span of a single generation. To this end, he recalled that Côte d’Ivoire had joined the WTO agreement aimed at liberalizing large segments of the national telecommunication market. "Already", he said, very encouraging results have been obtained, in particular in the area of cellular telephony". "In less than two years of operation of the three licensed private operators" he said, Côte d’Ivoire now ranks among the very top GSM cellular network of Africa with more than 60 000 subscribers".

H.E. Giri S. Hadihardjono, Minister of Communications of Indonesia, said that the right to communication and the fact that information and knowledge will become primary factors in economic and social development and in many other issues, are exerting tremendous pressure on all of us and at the same time challenges the International Telecommunication Union in its efforts to actualize their benefits for all mankind. Mr Hadihardjono called for a strong, efficient and innovative ITU to address these issues in a beneficial way to developed and developing countries alike.

Niger’s Minister of Communication and Culture, H.E. Issa Moussa underlined the on-going restructuring efforts in his country’s telecommunication sector which witnessed, at year-end 1997, the creation of SONITEL (Société nigérienne de télécommunications). He told delegates that the next step was to open SONITEL shares to a strategic partner during 1999. "Indeed, the electronic highways are being put into place but it is the will (political, economic and technical) that will decide if our States will or not be the missing link in the world information infrastructure", the Minister concluded.

Others ministerial statements included Korea, Djibouti, China, Mali, Fiji, Syria, Bulgaria, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Qatar, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Jordan. In addition, speakers from Viet Nam, Brazil, Germany, Philippines, the United States and Japan took the floor.

A number of the full statements are available on request from the press office (fax: +1 612 596 5606).

Election deadlines set

The Conference also discussed the election procedures but could not agree on the way to proceed. Several delegations preferred not to hold simultaneously the elections of the Secretary-General and Deputy-Secretary given that, if held separately, the choice of the Deputy Secretary-General could be influenced by the decision of the Conference on the Secretary-General. However, several others were of the opinion that both elections should be held together. Discussions on this subject will continue tomorrow.

Consensus was however reached on the deadline for the submission of candidatures which has been set for Monday, 19 October, 18:00 (Minneapolis local time). Agreement was also reached on leaving the election for the members of the Radio Regulations Board until after the election of the members of the Council. The decision was made because of the proposals to be considered by the Conference including the possible increase in the number of members and the change in the regional balance. The Conference agreed that these issues had first to be settled before it could proceed to election for these posts.n

For the list of candidates, their profile and programme, see

At midday Tuesday, 969 delegates from 161 countries of which 176 representatives from 70 companies and organizations had arrived at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Briefing notes: Previous <=> Next

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