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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Africa Region Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12)

Durban, South Africa, 23 May 2012




Bonjour et bienvenue à cette réunion préparatoire à la Conférence mondiale des télécommunications internationales (CMTI-12) pour la région Afrique.

Good morning and welcome to this African Regional Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12).

On behalf of the ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré, I would like to thank the Department of Communications, South Africa for hosting this event, and Abdoulkarim Soumaila, Secretary General, ATU for his collaboration and the support of ATU.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Vice Chairman of the Council working group for this region Sherif Guinena for his excellent contribution.

This event is intended to facilitate the region’s contribution and participation in the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) which will be held in Dubai, 3-14 December this year.

Although WCIT is not an ITU-T Sector conference the Secretary-General has decided that I should coordinate the ITU Secretariat’s preparations for WCIT, since it is likely to impact ITU-T more than the other two sectors.

I am pleased to be joined by our ITR experts Richard Hill, Secretary of the Council Working Group to prepare for WCIT, Alex Ntoko and Preetam Maloor. I am pleased that we also have Andrew Rugege, ITU Regional Director, Jean-Jacques Massima, Head of Area Office, Yaoundé, Viyay Mauree and Judith Quist to assist with logistics.

Disparities between regions in terms of available Internet bandwidth per Internet user remain, with on average almost 90kbit/s of bandwidth per user in Europe, compared with 2kbit/s per user in Africa.

A number of developing countries have been able to leverage mobile-broadband technologies to overcome infrastructure barriers and provide high-speed Internet services to previously unconnected areas. In Africa, mobile-broadband penetration has reached 4%, compared with less than 1% for fixed-broadband penetration.

The ITRs are the only truly global treaty on international telecommunications – a treaty that 178 countries are bound to but which is now well out of date having not been revised for 24 years.

The current ITRs are widely credited for creating the basis of today's connected world. They were a major driver of liberalization, privatisation and competition and enabled the development of the Internet.

This conference comes at a time when the ICT sector is having a major impact on economic and social development. It is an opportunity to amend the treaty in a way that will further extend the benefits of ICTs.

The preparatory process for WCIT includes regional preparatory meetings such as this and a Council Working Group that meets in Geneva. All of ITU’s membership can participate in these meetings.

We are also organising a number of information and consultation events, some in partnership with other organizations. Just last week we organized an information session on WCIT at the WSIS Forum 2012. This three hour session was open to all stakeholder groups – governments, private sector, academia, international organizations and civil society. The interactive information session was very well attended with representatives from all the stakeholder groups present.

The final meeting of the Council Working Group will take place 20-22 June 2012. The publication of its report will be on 29 June 2012 (five months prior to the conference) and will include a consolidation of all the proposals it has received.

Member States are asked to submit their proposals for the work of the conference four months before the conference and at the very latest 14 days before the start of the conference.

The Council Working Group is achieving some degree of convergence at least on some of the high-level principles.

However, it is these regional meetings that are particularly important since in ITU conferences it is difficult to make a proposal if it does not have regional support, and it will be the regional proposals that will be the basis for negotiation at the conference.

A final information session will be held in Geneva after all the regional organisations have completed their preparations, sometime in October. This will help ensure everyone understands the regional proposals and hopefully identify some common ground.

I would also hope there could be some informal exchange between the regions starting at the ITU Council in July.

Some of the issues on the table will no doubt include the right to communicate; security in the use of ICTs and the protection of national resources; taxation; international roaming; misuse and hijacking of international numbers; and interoperability.

Other suggestions made relating to the new treaty include that it should address the current disconnect between sources of revenue and source of cost.

It should facilitate the benefits of Internet being brought to all the peoples of the world, in particular by encouraging broadband rollout and investment.

The ITRs should focus on telecom issues that can be agreed, without involving the geopolitical agenda, and it should explicitly emphasise the importance of liberalization and privatisation, and should recognize the role of the private sector and market based solutions

It should encompass high-level principles, providing light touch regulation that encourages investment, innovation, and competition.

Any economic aspects should be subject to a stringent impact analysis taking into account the different levels of development in countries around the world.

Importantly it should be “future-proofed” and flexible, recognising that tomorrow’s world will be very different to today’s.

It should foster the right conditions to allow markets to flourish within a long-term vision backed by sustainable business models.

Clearly the current international regulatory framework is simply not equipped to deal with these challenges which are important for the creation of a fully inclusive information society, one that ensures the world's citizens can gain equitable and affordable access to voice, video and data.

The issues that are on the table for discussion at the conference are therefore vital to the creation of a fully inclusive information society.

The Dubai Treaty is a unique opportunity to lay down the principles for action on these topics at an intergovernmental level.

I wish you a productive meeting and my colleagues and I will do all we can to assist you reach a successful conclusion.