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ITU Strategy and Policy Unit News Update 
Monthly Flash - July 2004

Issue 12
: July 2004

Previous editions

In this edition

1. Observations and future perspectives on spam
2. Developing countries and spam
3. Digital Bridges Initiative
4. Related links

As reported in the May issue of the ITU Strategy and Policy Unit Monthly News Flash, ITU organized a WSIS Thematic Meeting on Countering Spam* from 7 to 9 July 2004, in Geneva, Switzerland. The following articles present some of the output from the meeting, with overall observations and future perspectives, as well as a specific look at the particular problems facing developing countries. Background information and documents pertaining to the workshop are published on the ITU website at: published output from the meeting can be ordered at: Finally, we present the new Digital Bridges initiative, with dates for the first part of the initiative now finalized, as well as a list of useful links - including information on the new ITU publication on Countering Spam.

1. Observations and future perspectives on spam 

This article summarizes some of the conclusions of the WSIS Thematic Meeting on Spam, and looks at possible future activities to further efforts to tackle spam.

Spam has become a major annoyance and cost to Internet users and ICT industry alike, eroding trust in the information economy and - with  more recent developments such as “phishing” and an increased fraudulent activity - public confidence in the information platform may be seriously threatened if remedial action is not taken.

It is widely acknowledged that there is no "silver bullet", or consensus on the right way forward, as no single solution will curb spam. A multi-pronged approach to solving the problem, involving all stakeholders, is clearly necessary. The combined application of technical solutions, user awareness, appropriate and balanced legislation followed up with measured enforcement, industry initiatives — including those by the marketing community — and international cooperation, are seen as key elements. But users, industry and governments all need to engage in a concerted effort, linking the mandates and expertise of various international organizations such as ITU, the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Internet Society, to support and gradually develop an international framework to combat this inherently global problem.

There have already been some path-finding efforts in multilateral and bilateral cooperation through MoUs (such as those between Australia/Republic of Korea, and the United States/United Kingdom/Australia), which should provide a valuable reference for what can be achieved. Such agreements could  potentially be expanded in the future as other countries and their regulators develop their capabilities.

Figure one shows levels of anti-spam legislation across the world regions, clearly illustrating the need for greater international cooperation to draw levels up in African and the Arab States in particular, as part of a concerted global effort.

Figure 1: Initial 2004 ITU Telecommunication regulation survey results

The chart below shows levels of existence of anti-spam regulation across the world regions


Source: ITU World Telecommunication Regulatory Database.

 Further discussions between governments and industry, and practical measures, such as the proposed OECD anti-spam toolkit, the MoU on mutual enforcement and the discussion among regulators at the ITU Global Symposium for Regulators, should therefore all be encouraged. With regard to ITU in particular, given the diverse membership and valuable reach of ITU, together with its neutral position, there have been several calls for future ITU activity in this field. Developing cooperative legal solutions, and establishing national laws and regulatory responsibilities, could be seen as a first step in all countries. But these solutions need to be encouraged alongside appropriate technical measures. Some commentators have advanced the idea of establishing a "global regulatory foundation" on spam, with a view to eventually developing a global MoU. An optimistic target of two years might be envisaged to reach that point, and by that time the back may then be broken with spam issues as we know them.

In addition to external activities that are directly spam-related, the output from the WSIS Thematic Meeting and other events should be used to usefully inform related activities within ITU. For instance, work on the topic of spam should be used to inform the WSIS preparatory process. As part of that process, the output from the Thematic Meeting will be communicated to the ITU Council Working Group on WSIS (  Secondly, through its Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) and Global Regulators' Exchange (G-REX), ITU's Development Sector (ITU-D) could play a role in assisting with the immediate challenge of developing legislation, and identifying models, experience and reference materials which might be taken from other international efforts. A survey of needs and capabilities that currently exist could also prove highly valuable. Finally, the Standardization (ITU-T) Sector, in liaison with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), might also be called upon to help in providing definitions and proposing technical solutions.

Finally, the ITU Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU) is developing a contact list of the bodies which deal wiith spam issues within each national administration. This information will be provided alongside details of current spam-related laws for each country, with a view to facilitating further dialogue and exchange. See:

2. Developing countries and spam 

The following article is based on the contribution to the WSIS Thematic Meeting on Countering Spam from Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

Developing nations are clearly recognizing that spam is a global problem that should be resolved with a maximum amount of international  collaboration. As in developed countries, in the developing world the misuse of spam for criminal offences poses a moral issue, and the cost of combating the problem presents yet another hurdle to overcoming the digital divide. Spam can cause denial of service on developing country  networks, and poses a threat to development of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.

Some developing nations have had Internet infrastructure in place for a number of years, while others are still trying to justify the use of the Internet in their countries. In most cases, regardless of how long the service has been running in a country, cost issues have become a prime concern. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, pay for satellite connectivity, which tends to be very expensive. A provider can be required to pay as much USD 18 000 for bandwidth of 2 Mbit/s each month. Spam, which usually originates from outside these countries and takes up valuable bandwidth, adds yet another problem for providers and threatens to further increase the cost of providing connectivity. The result is that services to users are affected, and, as has been seen in some countries, this has led to users reducing Internet use or even shunning it entirely.

The difficulties raised by spam are particularly great for the developing nations that are struggling to expand the ICT sector, particularly with respect to Internet access. Although Internet service is now growing in some developing nations, and is spreading to rural areas, connectivity is still concentrated in a few urban areas. In these areas, a low percentage of the population owns a computer, and only a small portion of them have Internet access. Spam uses up precious bandwidth, and with such small customer volume, Internet service providers are faced with considerable additional difficulties. The cost of tracking  spammers is also very high, a fact which, in itself, also raises points of concern.

Many commentators have acknowledged that the situation in the developing nations warrants consideration. From a developing country perspective, the following points should be taken into consideration in order to tackle spam:

  1. Awareness of the prevailing situation and of the experiences of developing countries should be raised. To that end, sharing of experiences within the context of meetings like the WSIS Thematic Meeting held by ITU in Geneva, should be encouraged.
  2. Recognizing that enacting anti-spam laws is not a solution in itself, this is nevertheless a necessary measure. As developing countries begin to work towards identifying current legislation and regulations that can be used to fight or prosecute spammers, developed economies and the international community can assist by sharing useful material and information.
  3. Developing economies should be able to seek the assistance of international and regional bodies in order to urgently address the problem.
  4. It is encouraging that some organizations are already working towards developing security and spam filtering tools that would be affordable even for nations that have limited means of obtaining such technology. Many developing countries welcome the active participation of ITU - in coordination and collaboration with other agencies - to develop tools to assist developing countries in the fight against spam.
  5. Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) represent a highly positive step towards effective international collaboration, but care should be taken to include developing nations in initial discussions and the formulation of agreements. This should help ensure that all signatories have the wherewithal to implement the agreed measures, particularly because developing nations may not have the necessary resources or infrastructure.

In conclusion, the particular problems faced by developing economies in tackling spam need to be acknowledged, and assistance provided where needed. International cooperation and the sharing of experiences are a positive step towards tackling the spam problem, as is the development of low-cost solutions that are realistically applicable and affordable in developing country contexts.

3. The Digital Bridges Initiative

ITU and the Korean MIC sign a Memorandum of Understanding

Broadband is flourishing in many economies, especially in East Asia. The Republic of Korea's high-speed broadband penetration is nearing 80 per cent of households and connection speeds have reached 40 Mbit/s (roughly 700 times faster than a dial-up connection).  However, most people in the developing world still have no access to even simple dial-up Internet access. This vast inequality in access to information is creating an information digital divide that threatens to slow the formation of a truly global, inclusive information society.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Ministry of Information and Communication of the Republic of Korea (MIC) have come together to form a new partnership aimed at helping achieve the internationally agreed goals of WSIS on bridging the digital divide. The first part of this initiative will take place in Seoul, Korea, on 10 and 11 September 2004. This new and ongoing project will be called the Digital Bridges Initiative and will provide new tools necessary to measure the digital divide as well as policy and technical expertise to help close the measured gaps. In addition it will provide a financial contribution to promoting the success of WSIS. 

The main outputs of this venture will be as follows:

·         Creation of a worldwide, authoritative, digital opportunity index;

·         A new series of workshops, case studies, and official publications focusing on technologies, policies, and best practices for bridging the digital divide;

·         Analysis of appropriate technologies aimed at narrowing the digital gap between developed and developing countries;

·         A financial contribution to WSIS.

By working together and combining expertise and resources, ITU and MIC are endeavoring to pursue a world where all can participate in, and benefit from, the information society.

Further information on the initiative will shortly become available at:

4. Related links

For a list of the authorities which deal with spam in different countries, together with relevant legislation, please visit the new ITU website on "World authorities and laws regarding spam" (updated regularly).
To order the new ITU publication based on the meeting on Countering Spam, in electronic or paper format, please visit the ITU website at: 
ITU Activities on Countering Spam
ITU WSIS Thematic Meeting on Countering Spam
ITU Newslog on Spam  

For further information on Strategy and Policy Unit Monthly News Flash, please contact: ITU Strategy and Policy Unit, International Telecommunication Union, Place des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 20 (Switzerland). Fax: +41 22 730 6453. E-mail: . Website:



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