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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Arab States Preparatory Meeting for the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12)

Cairo, Egypt, 30 April 2012

Keynote Address

Salam alekum, marhaba, good morning and welcome to this Arab region preparatory meeting for the World Telecommunication Standardisation Assembly 2012. Thanks again to our hosts the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) of Egypt and especially Dr. Amr Badawi, Executive President of NTRA and all his staff. They have given us a very warm welcome and provided us with excellent facilities for our meeting; and also Mobinil for sponsoring this meeting and offering us such an enjoyable dinner on the Nile. I would also like to thank Sherif Guinena for again taking on the chairmanship of so many sessions.

In fact I would like to thank all the members of this region for their increasing level of participation in the work of ITU-T and for their support to me personally.

WTSAs enable ITU, as the only truly global ICT standards body, to review the global situation and adapt our priorities and work accordingly.

Standardization is a complex business, and it is getting more complex by the day.

Globalisation requires global standards, and a global standards body like ITU clearly has an increasing role to play. International standards are essential for international communications and global trade. International standards avoid costly market battles over preferred technologies. For companies from emerging markets, they create a level playing field which provides access to world markets. They are an essential aid to developing countries in building their infrastructure and encouraging economic development. Through economies of scale they can reduce costs for all: manufacturers, operators and consumers.

WTSA 2012 falls in a very busy and significant year for ITU.

We had a Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) meeting early in January. This was a very significant meeting establishing three new Focus Groups: From Innovations to Standards; Machine-to-machine (M2M) Service Layer; and network resilience. TSAG also decided on how to take forward the work of the Focus Groups on Smart Grids and Cloud Computing. Study Group 13 has set up a new Working Party on Cloud Computing; and Study Group 17 revised a Question to work on Cloud Security.

The World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 was led to a successful conclusion by Tariq Al Awadhi in February, reaching major decisions especially ensuring the further development of mobile communications.

Over 3000 participants, representing 165 of ITU’s 193 Member States attended the four-week Conference, braving the extremely cold weather in Geneva. I am sure, despite climate change, we will not have to suffer such weather for the WTSA !

I am very confident that we will have excellent facilities in Dubai thanks to UAE’s commitment: a fantastic conference centre, excellent weather, a wide choice of superb hotels in the close vicinity at a very reasonable rate, a clean and safe environment, everything we need to ensure an excellent result.

Of course we also have the second Global Standards Symposium (GSS) the day before WTSA on 19 November, and the World Conference on International Telecommunications will follow, beginning on 3 December.

The GSS is a one-day event where ministers, regulators, heads of other international, regional and major national standards bodies, and industry from the different regions of the world will discuss global ICT standards challenges with a focus on the intersection of the ICT sector with other vertical sectors such as health care, utilities, and transport.

The Chairman of the GSS will present the conclusions of the GSS to the first Plenary meeting of the WTSA and I am sure that as in Johannesburg the WTSA will act on these conclusions.

Last week ITU and WHO had a joint workshop on e-Health standards and interoperability. It was clear from the outcome that we need to do more in this field. There is a real problem of lack of interoperability of proprietary e-health standards. We will start with an e-health standards roadmap. The workshop marks the start of much closer collaboration with WHO on e-health standards.

E-health will be the subject of one of the three side events that will be held during WTSA. The others will be on ICT innovation in developing countries, and resilience of networks to natural disasters.

We are also organising a showcasing of some of the new exciting products that are being produced to ITU-T standards.

Circular letter No. 251 of 24 January 2012 has invited Member States and ITU-T Sector Members to propose candidates for Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of ITU-T study groups, Study Group 3 Regional Groups, the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) for 2013. The WTSA will also need to appoint a chairman for the Standardization Committee for Vocabulary. A list of candidates is available online [].

I am very pleased that our session chairman Sherif Guinena is a candidate to take over the chairmanship of ITU-T Study Group 2. I wish him every success.

Circular letter No. 252 of 15 February 2012 provided, among other items, information on

  • Conditions for invitation and admission
  • Draft structure of the Assembly
  • Items for consideration by the Plenary meeting
  • Submission of contributions
  • Document distribution
  • Registration
  • Fellowships
  • Tribute to former collaborators in ITU-T activities

Of course our dear departed Brother Nabil Kisrawi (Rahimahu Allah, God rest his soul) will be foremost amongst those mentioned.

Now we have a series of regional preparatory meetings that started five weeks ago with the APT meeting in Cairns, Australia, followed by the CIS meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. This Arab meeting will be followed by the Americas meeting, and finally the African meeting. ITU Secretariat is also participating in the frequent European CEPT meetings.

In July there will be a special session of TSAG on 2-4 July to prepare for the WTSA.

ITU-T study groups will meet up until September 2012 and will propose a set of new and revised Questions for WTSA-12 to consider.

The last WTSA in Johannesburg was very significant in many ways: it was the first WTSA where the time limits on chairmanships came into effect so we had many new chairmen and vice-chairmen.

The conference identified many new areas of work, such as climate change, cybersecurity, bridging the standardization gap, accessibility to ICTs for persons with disabilities, and conformance and interoperability testing. It also decided on a major restructuring of the Sector, something that had been attempted but never accomplished in previous WTSAs. It also initiated the new academia membership, the reduced sector membership fee for companies from certain developing countries, and what is now the Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues. ITU-T’s working processes are now the most efficient of any standards body and we have a structure that allows the Sector to make a significant contribution to the Union’s mission – to connect the world.

So this WTSA could be more of a consolidating conference. For example APT has decided that we should not reduce the number of Study Groups, and similarly RCC has decided we should keep the current 10 Study Groups.

Decisions taken in Johannesburg have given the Sector a significantly increased role in many new areas, and this has attracted many more participants. In fact over 40 countries have participated in ITU-T since 2007 that had never done so before. Last year alone we welcomed 16 countries new to ITU-T.

Following WTSA-08 we prepared an Action Plan on the implementation of the decisions made and have regularly updated it. It is available on our website. I am pleased to report that we are well on the way to fulfilling the mandate given by WTSA-08 with many significant developments since then.

That said, it is vital given the vast breadth of membership of ITU to regularly examine the ICT environment and understand how best the Sector can meet the challenges of the coming years and take into account the needs of all our membership whether Member State, Sector Member, associate, academic member, developed or developing country.

Much of the success for the last WTSA was due to the significant contribution and proposals from this region. I am sure that your deliberations this week will again ensure another very successful WTSA in Dubai this November.

I thank you all for participating and again my colleagues and I will do all we can to facilitate a successful meeting.

Finally let me thank NTRA once again for hosting this meeting and I am pleased to announce that we will be returning to Egypt in a few months for another very interesting event: a workshop on smart water management in late September or early October in Luxor. I hope we will see you there for this first event on another important new area of work for ITU-T.