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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

ICT Eurasia Summit

Istanbul, Turkey, 12 September 2012

Keynote Address

Günaydın, good morning

It is a pleasure to be speaking to you this morning at ICT Eurasia Summit and to be back in the beautiful city of Istanbul. I would like to thank Interpromedya for their invitation to ITU to participate.

When I say ITU, I mean the UN Agency for Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) based in Geneva – and not the Istanbul Technical University!

Interestingly, I Googled ITU last night and discovered that Istanbul Technical University comes first and the International Telecommunication Union comes second! I also discovered that the University is 239 years old – 92 years older that the Union.

So let me start by saying a few words about ITU (Geneva). It is the oldest intergovernmental organisation having been founded in 1865 to address the problem of lack of international interoperability of the new telegraph service. So it was originally called the International Telegraph Union and took its current name in 1934. Today many people call for another change of name as the organisation is dealing with a wide range of ICT issues rather than simply “telecommunications” as most people think of telecommunications. However the ITU definition of telecommunications is all encompassing so it is not really necessary to change the name.

ITU is a multistakeholder organization: its membership includes governments, regulators, industry, academia, international organizations (intergovernmental and non-governmental), financial institutions, and civil society — all participating in different capacities and in a wide range of ITU’s activities.

These activities are split between three sectors:

Radiocommunication: ITU-R plays a vital role in the global management of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits - limited natural resources which are increasingly in demand for services such as fixed, broadcasting, emergency telecommunications, meteorology, global positioning systems, and especially mobile.

Development: ITU-D concentrates on issues related to bridging the digital divide including the provision of assistance to developing countries in putting into practice competitive ICT markets and measuring the advance of the information society.

And standardization… dealt with in ITU-T.

International standardization is very important. ITU standards continue to strive to achieve the objectives of the founders of ITU – international interoperability. It is the reason there are 6 billion mobile phones and 2.4 billion Internet users in the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that the world of ICTs would not function without ITU standards.

ICTs affect everything that we do in life in the 21st century.

But even with these 6 billion mobile cellular subscriptions and 2.4 billion Internet users today, two thirds of the world’s people have no access to the Internet – let alone broadband.

The theme of this session is “Next Step in Telecom”.

So the next step must be to replicate the mobile miracle by bringing broadband to all the citizens of the world.

Broadband is essential to deliver services such as e-health, e-education, and e-government. It is also helping to address some of the biggest issues of our time – including the digital economy, climate change, and environmental sustainability.

Broadband will enable every country to compete in the new online world of commerce and virtual goods.

Given what we know about the real and tangible benefits of broadband to empower people, how can we make sure that everyone gets access?

One answer is policy leadership. Yesterday we heard of the tremendous growth here in Turkey. This would not have been possible without the clear, transparent, and stable enabling regulatory framework provided by the ICT Authority.

However, ICTs is a global industry. What can be achieved in one country is largely determined by conditions in other countries around the world. Just as we need international technical standards for products and services to operate globally, so we need an international regulatory framework to enable sustained and equitable growth.

Delivering the foundations for this next step is the target for a very key conference to be held in Dubai in December this year.

This conference will amend 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.

Thus, the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) will be a landmark event, revising a treaty – called the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) - that laid the foundation for the phenomenal growth of telecommunications – in particular mobile and the Internet - in the past two decades.

Indeed, the question before the conference is how to amend the treaty to bring the benefits of today’s information society to all citizens of the world.

To this end there is considerable support for including some essential high-level, technology-neutral, principles in the treaty.

And of course these principles should have a positive impact on the further growth of the Internet.

The Internet has become a critical national resource, a vital part of national infrastructure, and a key driver of socio-economic growth and development.

The 1988 ITRs were instrumental in enabling the global deployment of the Internet, and many other ITU activities have been, and will continue to be, essential components of Internet growth.

Let me mention just a few:

ITU standards for end-user access equipment such as modems, including xDSL and cable modems;

Compression standards;

Security standards, including standards to combat spam

Standards for backbone networks, including fibre optics;

And, of course, the radio frequencies used to implement mobile broadband and WiFi.

With so many pieces that make up the Internet ecosystem, it is vital that they all work together seamlessly so that the user can enjoy its benefits. For this to happen, the right public policies and regulatory framework are critical in ensuring a synergy amongst all stakeholders in the ecosystem.

As Dr. Acarer pointed out yesterday, data volumes are increasing much faster than the infrastructure needed to carry it.

At the same time as data volumes are increasing, unit prices are declining, so total revenues for telecommunications operators are potentially at risk. As a result, there is a risk of an infrastructure investment shortfall.

Some have proposed therefore that the conference needs to address this disconnect between sources of revenue and sources of costs, and to agree a global regulatory framework which will provide stability and incentive for the private sector to invest in and promote sustainable further development of the network that delivers the Internet and other over the top services.

We all know that the cost of Internet connectivity is too high in most developing countries.

So there are also proposals to bring down the cost of Internet connectivity in developing countries, while ensuring sufficient revenues for operators to deploy broadband infrastructure.

And we all know that international mobile roaming prices are too high.

ITU has in the last few weeks agreed on measures to reduce ‘bill-shock’, whereby consumers are faced with unexpected and excessive charges for mobile roaming. ITU has approved measures that will empower consumers and encourage operators to lower tariffs: this is the first truly international agreement taking steps towards lowering roaming costs. So this will also be an issue that will be proposed for inclusion in the new treaty.

Some of the other issues on the table for the conference include the right to communicate; security in the use of ICTs and the protection of national resources; taxation; misuse and hijacking of international numbers; accessibility, ICTs and climate change, and interoperability.

All ITU’s members have been able to participate in the preparatory process for this conference and all the current proposals have been made public on the ITU website for anyone to comment on.

Many have recognised that the revised ITRs must encourage broadband rollout and investment. They should emphasize the importance of liberalization and privatization, and should recognize the role of the private sector and market-based solutions.

The current international regulatory framework is simply not equipped to deal with the challenges we face today, which did not exist in 1988 – challenges which will affect the development of a fully-inclusive information society over the next decade.

The treaty should lay down the principles for the next step in bringing the benefits of the information society to all the world citizens.

WCIT is an opportunity therefore to create a stable international regulatory framework providing the right conditions to allow markets to flourish globally, and bringing equitable, affordable and secure ICT services to everyone.

So let us make sure that we do not miss this opportunity to take this important next step.

Thank you for your attention.