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Looking forward: the narrative of shared responsibility

28 November 2011 - Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been described as “the most potent democratizing tool ever devised”, empowering people by giving them both knowledge and a voice in the public arena. ICTs are set to play a key role in bringing individuals, communities and organizations together to devise solutions to the challenges posed by the world’s rapidly growing population, concentrated as it is in countries where the strain on resources is greatest.

Today’s global telecommunications and Internet networks, which permit anyone almost anywhere in the world to communicate with anyone else, are themselves the product of an extraordinary cooperative effort on the part of governments, industry and academia. From the very start of the telegraph age, it was understood that the full potential of communications networks could only be realized by maximizing the number of people able to access those networks. The need to ensure interoperability of networks, nationally and internationally, led to the birth of the ITU.

The principles of cooperation and partnership continue to underpin ITU’s mission to connect all the world’s people, wherever they live and whatever their means, and to protect and support everyone’s fundamental right to communicate. To these ends, ITU allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develops the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, and strives to improve access to ICTs to underserved communities worldwide.

Founded on the principle of international cooperation between governments and the private sector, ITU currently has a membership of more than 700 Sector Members, academia and Associates, in addition to its 193 Member States. Much of its work is done in Study Groups uniting diverse expertise, often representing competing commercial interests. Yet within ITU, members work together to develop systems, share best practice, and formulate principles, guidelines and standards that will serve the interests of the industry as a whole. By providing a neutral platform for global consensus, ITU furthers growth of an industry that is already a main driver for social and economic development.

In addition to involving industry partners in its technical work of radio spectrum allocation and standard setting, ITU works with them and other stakeholders on a series of flagship initiatives linked to its mission to ‘Connect the World – connecting the unconnected by 2015’. The aim is to mobilize human, financial and technical resources for the implementation of the connectivity targets set by the World Summit on the Information Society and other forums such as the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

The flagship initiatives are:

  • Connect a School, Connect a Community. Connected schools have the potential to serve as community ICT centres for people living in rural, marginal urban and isolated areas, and the initiative has a particular focus on disadvantaged and vulnerable groups such as women and girls, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and youth. ITU is working with a range of partners to identify and compile best practices on policies, regulation, applications, services and practical experiences, to be shared with interested countries through the development of an online toolkit and related capacity-building activities.

  • ITU Wireless Broadband Partnership. The objective of this partnership is to provide access to broadband supported services and applications at affordable rates, by mobilizing key stakeholders to finance, plan, build, operate and maintain wireless broadband infrastructure within beneficiary countries. The initiative seeks to balance social and economic development aims with the need for investors and industry participants to earn sufficient returns, as part of a long-term sustainable business model that can be widely replicated. There is a special focus on providing affordable and sustainable networks and services for rural and remote communities.

  • ITU Academy Partnership. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) agreed that everyone should have the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills for, and benefit fully from, the emerging information society. Every year, thousands of people in developing countries receive training under the umbrella of the ITU Academy, which sponsors a range of specialized programmes designed for technicians, regulators, policymakers and administrators, and business executives and managers. ITU’s growing network of partners currently encompasses more than 100 training/education institutions around the world.

  • International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT). Individuals, organizations and governments are increasingly dependent on globally interconnected networks. Protecting the infrastructure of the internet, and the vital services it supports, requires collaboration by all stakeholders. The ITU/IMPACT partnership, the first global public-private initiative against cyber threats, brings together governments, industry leaders and cybersecurity experts in order to strengthen national and international capacity to prevent, mount defences against and respond to cyber attacks.


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