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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

ITU-T Review Committee

Geneva, Switzerland, 3 June 2013

Opening address


Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this first meeting of the ITU-T Review Committee.

The Global Standards Symposium (GSS) in Dubai last November highlighted that with convergence, the demarcation between different standards bodies is becoming blurred, leading to a risk of overlap and duplication. As such, the GSS called for the development of cooperation agreements, which will identify the specific but complementary roles of different standards bodies in achieving mutually defined objectives, and in developing common international standards or suites of standards.

In addition, GSS acknowledged that ICT standardization no longer applies to only the ICT industry and that more must be done to integrate the unique needs of vertical sectors – a move which would enable the widespread deployment of innovations such as e-Health, e-Learning, Intelligent Transport Systems, Mobile Money, and Smart Grid.

WTSA recognised these as major challenges that need serious reflection, and established this Review Committee as a forum specifically to consider how ITU should best address these challenges.

This role is clearly set out in the Terms of Reference of the group in Annex A of Resolution 82 from WTSA-12.

As you know, there was a lot of discussion at the Assembly about the relationship between TSAG and the Review Committee. I believe the overriding reason for the Assembly establishing the Review Committee was that these are complex issues that need a lot of thought and discussion, involving not only the ITU membership but also the other organisations that need to work with ITU, and ITU with them, in a collaborative rather than a competitive manner. Clearly TSAG, with its heavy agenda focusing on operational aspects of the management of the work of the Sector, does not have the time to give this serious consideration.

The Review Committee is an opportunity for free thinking, brainstorming, and a chance to come up with ideas for new strategies to address these major challenges.

The Review Committee has no operational role. It can only make proposals. It is for TSAG or WTSA-16 to decided whether to implement its proposals.

Hopefully TSAG will be able to act on some of these ideas and implement them before WTSA-16.

I hope you will be able to make a start on the terms of reference today and I hope you can avoid opening up the lengthy discussion that was concluded at the Assembly, on the relationship between RevCom and TSAG.

I have submitted to you the exchange I had with ISO and IEC. I do not expect RevCom to look at the specific issues raised, this is for the study groups to consider, but it gives you an idea of the extent of the challenge we now face, and rather than looking at ways of solving these existing problems, it would be useful if RevCom could look at ways of avoiding these sort of problems in the future.

You will see a suggestion from ISO that ITU should not deal with ICTs. I pointed out that ITU’s remit clearly extends beyond telecommunications to ICTs. ICTs are referred to in many Plenipotentiary Conference Resolutions, and a definition f ICTs will be considered at next year’s Plenipotentiary Conference.

So the challenge, from a standardization perspective, is to provide global coordination of this vast array of interconnected businesses, technologies and the standards bodies that use and support ICTs.

We need to ensure that the structure of ITU-T is such that it can efficiently collaborate with the various vertical sectors that are increasingly reliant on ICTs. Of major importance will be considering ITU’s role in the wireless standards aspects and cooperation between ITU-T and ITU-R.

However, I would like to caution against making unnecessary changes to the structure: as our US friends often say – if it ain’t broke, don't fix it!

I hope each study group, and in particular the regional study groups, will be active in contributing ideas to RevCom.

To realize high-quality interoperable international telecommunication services it’s clear that ITU has a leading role. Whether this is defined as a preeminent role or not is irrespective of the fact that ITU is the only UN body producing international ICT standards. We have a unique status amongst standards bodies – no other standards body has a membership of 193 governments, and over 700 other bodies including regulators, manufacturers, operators, academia and civil society – a truly international public-private partnership. It is the only standards body that enables all developing countries to participate on an equal basis with developed countries, and ITU-T now has a large participation of developing countries in its work. This should be a major consideration in RevCom.

There is a great deal of work ahead, but I truly believe that this forum represents the best opportunity we have to take ITU’s standards work forward into this new era of convergence.

TSB will do all it can to facilitate your meetings, including providing fellowships as required by Resolution 82. I have to say however that the ITU-T budget is extremely small. It has not increased during my time, even though our activities have trebled. We have taken many measures to increase efficiency over the past few years, but there is only so much juice you can squeeze from an orange! We now have many requests for fellowships that we are unable to satisfy due to the budget. WTSA Resolution 34 encourages voluntary contributions to the ITU-T Sector, which I followed up with a letter to membership last April, but so far there has been little response. So unfortunately it is unlikely we will be able to satisfy all the requests for fellowships to RevCom.

I appreciate very much your participation in this very important high-level strategic activity, and I wish you all very productive work.