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The innovation quotient: advancing solutions through science and creativity

10 November 2011 - There are few areas of scientific and technical endeavour that can match the speed and spread of innovation in information and communication technologies (ICTs). Smartphones, social networking, cloud computing, tablet computing, 3D televisions – these are just some of the most recent innovations that are already part of everyday life for millions.

But the significance of ICT innovation does not end with more, better and faster ways for people to communicate with each other. ICT innovation is galvanizing innovations in every sphere of society, with the potential to make real and lasting improvements to the lives of all in a world of seven billion people.

The advent of ubiquitous connectivity will shape and define the future. We are already in the process of moving from the “Internet of Things” to the “Internet of Everything”. Information is being collected, stored, transmitted and shared in quantities that human minds can barely comprehend. And the Internet will spread everywhere – not just connecting people but connecting objects, machines, cars, households, factories and governments, in hitherto unimagined ways. This will be very largely brought about by the rapid proliferation of advanced mobile technologies and remote sensor technologies.

The “Internet of Everything” can benefit everyone, including people with limited access to sophisticated technology. Automatic weather stations can send information to poor farmers via mobile phones. Body sensors can relay health information to far-off doctors and hospitals. Essential services such as healthcare and education can be delivered to remote populations who could never be properly served by traditional centralized models. Governments and businesses can run their operations more efficiently, to the benefit of users and consumers whether online or off.

And the world as a whole will benefit from ICT innovations to monitor climate change, warn of impending disasters, improve the environment, reduce energy and resource use in buildings, transport and industrial systems, and enable more sustainable production and consumption.

ITU works to encourage ICT innovation in a number of ways, including expert conferences, competitions and its standardization activities.

  • Kaleidoscope conferences: these peer-reviewed academic conferences organized by ITU bring together a wide range of views from universities, industry and research institutions in different fields. The aim of Kaleidoscope conferences is to identify emerging developments in ICTs at an early stage to generate successful products and services through the development of international and open standards. The fourth conference, The fully networked human?, follows conferences on innovations in next generation networks, innovations for digital inclusion, and Beyond the Internet – Innovations for future networks and services.

  • Competitions: these are used by ITU for, among other things, encouraging new ideas on how ICTs can be harnessed for the greater good. For ITU Telecom World 2011, it held an Open Innovation Competition for two groups. Young innovators under 25 were invited to submit ideas for using ICT technology to meet real-world challenges related to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals on fighting poverty. Others were asked to submit ideas on how ICTs could help non-profit groups further their causes in areas such as environmental sustainability, improved access to health and education, digital accessibility or the alleviation of poverty. The three winners in each category have received seed money and mentoring from top industry executives. Another competition organized by ITU for the first time in 2011 sought to identify innovative applications to help improve energy efficiency and combat climate change. This was won by Smart Recycling, an application that helps mobile users locate recycling and garbage bins in their area. Meanwhile, ITU’s latest global Application Challenge aimed to spur developers around the world to create innovative IPTV (internet protocol television) apps running over ITU standards. ITU has pioneered a raft of standards for internet-enabled TV, which is set to transform global viewing habits.

  • Standardization: ITU helps ensure that innovations are widely accessible and affordable by setting open global standards that permit interoperability between devices and networks around the world and allow economies of scale. However, the rapidly changing ICT environment requires foresight and quick action in order to propose possible standardization activities as early as possible. ITU maintains a Technology Watch function that tracks emerging ICT technologies, trends and ideas. It organizes events that bring together experts, industry, regulators and policy-makers to discuss the promise of new/emerging technologies, in areas such as networked RFID (radio-frequency identification), ICTs and climate change, and, in 2011, ICTs and road safety. Other issues surveyed by Technology Watch include biometrics, “telepresence” systems, ICTs and food security, mobile apps, cloud computing, intelligent transportation systems, e-health, video games, and batteries for portable ICT devices.

  • Spectrum management: Responsible for the global management of the scarce resources of the radiofrequency spectrum and satellite orbit, ITU has already realized that the “Internet of Everything” will be mostly connecting wireless devices. The constantly increasing use of wireless devices for short-range, personal and professional applications, including the utilization of space-based systems, is creating an explosive demand for regulating the coordinated access to the spectrum and orbit resources. ITU organizes, on a regular basis, world radiocommunication conferences to revise the current international regulatory framework and adopt the necessary measures to accommodate these new demands for radio and broadcasting systems and applications.


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