GSR13 Chairman's Report
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Global Regulators-Industry Dialogue Day 1, Warsaw, 3 July 2013

Opening Debate

Building the future digital society

The opening debate took the form of an interactive session and was moderated by Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of BDT, with as panellists: Mr Michal Boni, Poland’s Minister of Administration and Digitization; Ms Mignon Clyburn, Acting Chairwoman of the United States Federal Communications Commission; Mr Mohammed Al Amer, Chairman of Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (and GSR-14 Chairman); Ms Anne Bouverot, Director General & Member of the Board of the GSM Association, United Kingdom; Mr John Davies, Member of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development; and Mr Richard Allan, Facebook’s Director of Policy for EMEA.

Mr Sanou noted how the remarkable changes taking place in the sector and in our societies, led by broadband and Internet access, have altered individual and professional behaviour profoundly. In five years, the number of active mobile broadband subscriptions has tripled, cellular mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants have grown by one-third, and the number of Internet users has increased by a billion. A multitude of new ICT services and applications can now be effectively and efficiently delivered over the same platforms, allowing users to experience an ever-expanding variety of services and applications to serve their information, communication and entertainment needs. Policy-makers and regulators are making continuous efforts to keep abreast of the latest market trends with the aim of bringing ICT and the experience of the digital lifestyle to all, and 4th generation regulation is required to drive digital communications forward.

Mr Boni said that the global digital revolution requires open and comprehensive regulations to foster investment in new technologies and protect consumer rights. Managing the Internet does not mean limiting freedom of expression, although security should be considered. Digital dilemmas that need to be discussed in ITU forums include building a regulatory equilibrium to ensure privacy protection and a legal framework for processing data.

Open and smart models are needed for participatory democracy in the future society. Digital inclusion is one of the most important objectives, and senior citizens should not be forgotten. Poland has launched the Poland of Equal Digital Opportunities project. It includes the Lighthouse Keepers of Digital Poland initiative, which encourages adults over fifty-years old to join the digital age, with the help of local digital champions.

Responsibility, access, freedom, security, privacy protection, shared economy, open data and open government are among the keys to shaping the modern digital world. The ICT revolution and broadband have created millions of jobs around the world. Broadband has the power to transform almost every sector of our economy. Part of the regulator’s mission is to ensure that citizens can seize the opportunity of broadband, at affordable access wherever they live or work, and that consumers are empowered. Humility, research, collaboration, transparency and review are the five key characteristics of smart regulation, which must be facts-based and data-driven. A collaborative multi-stakeholder process is needed, along with partnerships and self-regulation, for example through codes of conduct. The prime aim of regulation is to ensure that consumers have access to communications.

Consumer protection and privacy are becoming even more important as we gain access to the Internet and share a lot of personal information. We must use the fully standardized and secured SIM card for secure services. Consumer control is important, and privacy guidelines have been developed, but privacy may mean different things to different people. Individuals should decide what information they want to share publicly. The right to private correspondence is recognized, but how can correspondence stay private when governments have the power to violate privacy for reasons of security? Data protection is linked to the way organizations, whether public or private, regulate their use of personal data. Regulation in these cases should be neutral, transparent and accountable to the individuals concerned.

According to the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, in 2009 one-third of countries worldwide had a broadband plan; this proportion has now reached two-thirds. It is crucial to have a plan, because a plan increases broadband penetration by 9 per cent, which may increase GDP by 2 percentage points. Affordability of devices and Internet access are important. Broadband should cost less than 5 per cent of average monthly income by 2015. New business models based on pre-paid broadband are emerging in countries in Africa and Asia. Universal service is being used to close the digital divide, and countries are now looking at ways to boost the use of applications. Broadband affordability is important — not only in developing countries.

It was noted that Bahrain has among the lowest prices for mobile broadband in the Arab States as prices declined by up to 63 per cent between 2011 and 2012. This result was achieved through a competitive economy that respects the principles of sustainability, competitiveness and fairness. Investment in broadband is needed to drive productivity. The following steps were taken in Bahrain to extend broadband that include moving to a supportive regulatory framework and from ex ante to ex post regulation, fostering enhanced and inter-platform competition, ensuring quality of service through regulation, and making market information available so that consumers can make informed decisions. It was further noted that the mobile phone gender gap needs to be addressed.

In her closing keynote address, Ms Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, stressed that taking our responsibilities makes sense if we share them. In the 28 Member States of the European Union, the reality is that not everybody enjoys access to the Internet. We have to act strategically, and strong support from regulators is needed. A digital society needs the right balance between stability and flexibility, investment and innovation, competition and choice. The right regulation can deliver the right balance and shake up markets. More coherent protection and quality-of-service legislation, together with a clear guarantee of net neutrality, will allow innovative new services to grow. ICT infrastructure is essential to the economy, so telecommunication regulations affect every sector that relies on connectivity.

 



Photos and videos

 


Brahima Sanou, Director, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

 


Interview with Ms Mignon Clyburn

 


Interview with Mr Mohammed Al Amer

 


Interview with Ms Anne Bouverot

 


Interview with Mr John Davies

 


Interview with Mr Richard Allan