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ITU Strategy and Policy Unit News Update 
Monthly Flash - April 2005

Issue 15

Previous editions

In this edition: 

ITU New Initiatives Workshop on Ubiquitous Network Societies 
1. ITU New Initiatives Workshop on Ubiquitous Network Societies, Geneva, 6-8 April 2005
The ubiquitous network society: an Italian perspective
3. Eighth meeting of the Council WG-WSIS in Geneva, 3-4 May 2005
4. WHO and ITU host joint session on ICTs for disaster relief
5. PrepCom2 meets in Geneva
6. Related Links

1. ITU New Initiatives Workshop on Ubiquitous Network Societies, Geneva, 6-8 April 2005

From 6 to 8 April 2005, at the Varembé Conference Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, the International Telecommunication Union held a Workshop on "Ubiquitous Network Societies" the latest in its informative series of New Initiatives Workshops. This workshop, the 15th in the series, was managed by Ms Lara Srivastava (of the ITU's Strategy and Policy Unit) and chaired by Professor Robin Mansell (London School of Economics). It brought together experts from the business, academic and regulatory worlds to discuss the important issues, including technological developments, the key sectors, public policy mechanisms and corporate strategies. The delegates examined the impact of new technologies on the telecommunication industry and society and also addressed themes such as social inclusion, diversity, user protection and security. The Italian case study (and survey) summarized below (chapter 2), is one of four presented at the Workshop on Ubiquitous Network Societies, the other three being Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore. Three background papers were also presented: "Radio Frequency Identities," "Privacy & Ubiquitous Network Societies" and "The Impact of Ubiquitous Network Societies on the Telecommunication Industry". The Chair's report is now available and a comprehensive report on the workshop will be published later in the spring.

On 16 and 17 May 2005, the WSIS Thematic meeting on Ubiquitous Network Societies will take place in Tokyo, Japan. This conference is being organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) of Japan, the International Telecommunication Union and the United Nations University. It will build upon the research carried out during the New Initiatives Workshop.                   


  2. The Ubiquitous Network Society: An Italian Perspective

The "Survey on Ubiquitous Network Societies: The Case of Italy" is the latest in a series of Telecommunication Case Studies produced under the New Initiatives programme of the Office of the Secretary-General of the ITU. In the run-up to the New Initiatives Workshop on Ubiquitous Network Societies, the SPU conducted a series of interviews with a around dozen of the most important players in the Italian telecommunication market, including leading figures from both the public and private sectors. One reason why Italy was chosen as the subject of this survey and the case study is because ever since the liberalization of the Italian telecommunication market in 1994, this sector has grown at an unprecedented rate. Italian academic, public and private sectors have been cooperating closely in this area and, most importantly, they share a common goal. Moreover, the Italian public has embraced the new mobile technologies with great enthusiasm, owning more mobile phones and sending more text messages per head of population than the citizens of almost every other country.





Source: ITU World Telecom Indicators Database

This survey forms an important background element to the paper "Ubiquitous Network Societies: The Case of Italy". The interviews provided some very interesting and illuminating insights into the prevailing moods and expectations within the Italian telecommunication sector regarding the advance towards the ubiquitous network society. The respondents replied to the questions with great enthusiasm and were prepared to deal with the key issues in some detail, with the result that the information they provided represents an extremely useful background to the Workshop.

The Italian Ministry of Communications is aware of the importance of research and has introduced various initiatives, including fast regulation and experimental trials more appropriate to the Italian and EU markets; two examples of this would be the introduction into Italy of Wi-Fi and WiMax. Innovation is also crucial and, once again, the Italians (Telecom Italia, TIM, Fastweb, etc.) have proved themselves leaders in this field, being the first to introduce large-scale tariff schemes and other products and services designed to meet specific customer needs and solve specific customer problems. The Italian mobile market has been particularly innovative in the convergence of voice, data and video, as well as IP and other fibre networks. Italy is also leading the way in digital terrestrial television, with the final switch-over scheduled for 31 December 2006.

Amongst the security solutions proposed or cited by the Italian respondents were encryption technology, high-reliability user information management and security guarantees, including authorization, streaming and other platform services. The Italian regulatory body has updated the existing legislation and issued multi-level protection provided for in Framework Act No. 36 (2001). Although in 2003, the Italian Data Protection Authority recognized that national legislation does not apply to e-mails originating outside Italy, it did caution that this does not imply the absence of appropriate remedies and safeguards. Having been at the forefront of the drive towards the ubiquitous network society for over a decade, it appears that the Italians have no intention of relinquishing their leadership role.


3. Eighth meeting of the Council WG-WSIS, Geneva, 3-4 May 2005

On 3 and 4 May 2005, the Council Working Group on the World Summit on the Information Society will hold its eighth meeting at the Geneva International Conference Centre in Switzerland.  Amongst the topics on the agenda will be a report on the ITU Thematic meetings, a discussion on how the WSIS will shape ITU's future strategic plan and a discussion of ITU's role in Internet Governance. Participants will, of course, also receive comprehensive reports on both the Council's seventh meeting and the WSIS Prepcom 2 (17-25 February 2005).


4WHO and ITU host joint session on ICTs for disaster relief

On 22 February 2005, ITU and WHO hosted two themed sessions on ICTs for Disaster Relief, during which a panel of distinguished speakers shared their knowledge and experiences with an interested audience, including many delegates to PrepCom2. The lunchtime session, entitled "ICT for Health Action in the Tsunami Crisis," was chaired by Dr Jean-Claude Healy, Director of WHO's Office of External Relations and Governing Bodies and the opening speech was made by Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary General of both ITU and WSIS, who talked about "The Scale of the Tsunumi Disaster". Mr Utsumi was followed by Dr Lee Jong-Wook, the Director General of WHO, who delivered a comprehensive report on "The Health Response in the Aftermath of the Crisis". Three speakers dealt with "The Flow of Information for Health Action": Dr David Nabarro, WHO Health in Action Crisis; Ms Janet Bumpas, WHO Director General's office: and Mr Martin Catterall, WHO Information Technology and Telecommunications.

The evening session was entitled "Telecoms for Disaster Relief: Tampere Convention" and was chaired by Mr Houlin Zhao, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), who had participated in the recent Ministerial Meeting on Regional Cooperation on Tsunami Early Warning in Phuket, Thailand. The opening speech, "Securing Access to ICTs in Natural Disasters - Lessons from Japan," was delivered by Mr Manabu Kanaya, Director of Telecommunication Systems Division, Telecommunications Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), Japan. Mr Kanaya was followed by Dr Marco Ferrari, Deputy Head of the Department for Humanitarian Aid and SHA, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, who briefed those in attendance on "Easing the Way to Disaster Mitigation". Three speakers tackled the subject of "ITU Work on Telecommunications for Disaster Relief: first up was Dr Cosmas Zavazava, Head of the Special Unit for Least Developed Countries of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT). He was followed by Mr Colin Langtry, Counsellor, Study Group 8, of ITU's Radiocommunication Bureau (BR) and Mr Les Homan, Manager and Routing, INMARSAT.


Even as the speakers and delegates were discussing the future, ITU was continuing to render assistance very much in the present, providing USD 250'000 from its TELECOM Surplus Fund for a project to provide expert services to three of the countries most affected by the earthquake and tsunamis, namely Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. ITU is assessing the existing telecommunication infrastructure and helping to develop a national plan for emergency communications as part of the Tsunami Early Warning System for the Indian Ocean. ITU continues to assist governments to prepare technical specifications and investment projects needed for infrastructure procurement and helping to prepare the documentation required to source funding for the investment projects. Throughout ITU's 140-year history, disasters have served to remind us that the most effective approach to telecommunication deployment is one that is highly focused and takes into account four distinct communication channels, which are explained in Box 1:

Box 1: Emergency communication channels

Citizen to authority: As it has in the past, ITU will continue to focus on providing ‘last mile’ telecommunications solutions for disaster prevention, mitigation and relief. These solutions, which facilitate communications between citizens and authorities in times of emergency, include special numbers such as 911 in North America or 112 in Europe. These telephone numbers provide instant connections to emergency response teams. While initiatives such as these may pose some regulatory challenges, they can be overcome with conditions on telecommunication licensing.

Authority to authority: ITU is committed to help countries establish sound communication systems between national agencies involved in disaster management — monitoring centres, police, fire brigades and field rescue teams.

Authority to citizen: This may be the most critical communication step of all, if citizens are to be warned of an impending disaster and to get instructions on how they should respond. The events in the Indian Ocean have shown that any gap in the communication chain from the time of the warning to the time of the rescue can cause terrible loss of life. Until recently, radio and television broadcasts have been the essential communication tools for authority-to-citizen warnings. Internet web sites, and SMS ‘cell broadcast’ messages to mobile phones, are now playing an increasingly important role.

Citizen to citizen: The social concerns of those in the affected regions must be addressed, as well as the anxiety of their relatives who want information as to their health and safety. Again, radio and television, the Internet and mobile telephony are critical methods to address this need.

Two years ago, ITU Member States took a decision that allows for prioritization of calls in an emergency. This means that when disaster strikes, telecom networks can be effectively cleared of non-urgent telephone calls. International agreements such as these will be essential to make any early-warning disaster system developed by the international community both practical and effective. But there are still many areas that would benefit from “best practices” on what to do from the time a warning of an impending natural disaster is is issued to relief operations, including the information flow between seismic data centres to authorities, authorities-to-authorities and authorities-to citizens. Potentially, one of the most effective technological tools available to warn citizens might be the mobile phone, which is becoming increasingly available and affordable in both the developed and developing world. Among its many technological strengths is the fact that a warning message — either voice or text — can be broadcast to a specific geographic mobile ‘cell’ to warn of a pending disaster. However, to utilize information and communication technologies for disaster prevention two things are necessary: political will and international cooperation. For now there appears to be an abundance of both. The first step is to identify what went wrong in the communication chain and put in place the standards and procedures needed to avoid another tragedy on this scale.


5. PrepCom 2 meets in Geneva

PrepCom 2, the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, took place from 17 to 25 February 2005 at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland; the Committee held five Plenary Meetings and 14 Subcommittee meetings. An impressive total of 149 UN member States (plus Palestine) sent representatives, along with nine UN specialized agencies, 17 other UN bodies, 28 inter-governmental organizations, the European Union and many NGOs and business sector entities (including ITU Sector Members). For a full list of the main participants, please see the Final Report.


Amongst the papers presented to the Committee were the report of the ITU Secretary General, Mr Yoshio Utsumi, on the activities leading to PrepCom 2; an interim report on the stocktaking of WSIS-related activities and the report of the Group of Friends of the President of the Preparatory Committee, which was agreed as the basis for further negotiations. There were also three reports on regional conferences; Western Asia (23-23 November 2004), Africa (2-4 February 2005) and the Bishkek-Moscow Conference on the Information Society (16-18 November 2004). The reports from 12 thematic meetings were also presented to the participants.


The texts of the Final Documents were drafted by the Sub-Committee, under the chairmanship of Ambassador Ileana di Giovan (Argentina); these draft texts were based on the report presented by the Group of Friends of the Chair, as well as the Executive Summary and Conclusions of the Report of the Task Force on Financial Mechanisms (TFFM), which can be found here. The PrepCom  Decision and Final Report are also available. For a comprehensive list of meeting documents, please click here. The third session, PrepCom 3, will take place in Geneva from 19 to 30 September 2005.



6.Related links

Tampere Convention Comes into Force (ITU Press Release)
Working Group on Emergency Telecommunications
World Dialogue on Regulation for Network Economies (Emergency Communication)
WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action
ITU Internet Report 2004 "The Portable Internet" (September 2004) 
Strategy and Policy Unit: Publications
Strategy and Policy Unit: Newslog 


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