Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

PTC '13

Honolulu, Hawaii, 21 January 2013

Keynote Speech


Good morning ladies and gentlemen
It is a pleasure to be here at this 35th annual conference of the PTC. I would like to thank the organisers for the invitation to give this keynote address. It is an enormous privilege to be here in the beautiful islands of Hawaii, especially coming from the cold of a Swiss winter.
The distance that many of us have travelled to get here and the remoteness of these islands is a reminder of the unique challenges faced by the Pacific islands.
Unfortunately many people in the Pacific islands are not benefiting from the Information Society and its potential for economic and social development, primarily because of the lack of broadband and the high cost of international Internet access.
This was one of the many concerns from this region that were raised at the ITU events held in Dubai at the end of last year. I would like to spend these few minutes reviewing some of the significant results obtained there.
The extent to which the world is connected today is of course thanks to the evolution of international standards. Twenty years ago the move was from national standards to regional standards, especially in Europe, but now the emphasis is clearly on international standards.
One of ITU’s main objectives is to produce international, non-discriminatory standards providing interoperability. In fact this goes back to the origin of the organization in 1865 which was to facilitate cross-border communications between countries using different telegraph systems.
Today, there are many organizations involved in international standardization of ICTs: ISO; IEC; IEEE; IETF; as well as a host of national and regional standards bodies, besides hundreds of forums and consortia. ITU is one part of a very big jigsaw puzzle with many different players slotting in to provide coherence and continuity to one of the greatest ever engineering achievements.
ITU remains a key player mainly thanks to our unique membership: a strong public/private partnership of 193 governments and more than 450 private sector companies, as well as other governmental and non-governmental organisations, civil society, and more recently academia.
We now see active participation of many developing countries in our standards work, which ensures that we not only address the needs of the developed countries but also the developing countries who are increasingly bring their own requirements for standards, standards very different from the types of standards traditional addressed in ITU.
And international standards not only for telecommunications, but for ICT applications is a wide range of different sectors: health; transportation; energy; buildings etc. etc.
Innovations such as e-Health, e-Learning, Intelligent Transport Systems, Mobile Money, and Smart Grid, demand standards developed by the ICT industry in close collaboration with the relevant vertical sector. For example; for the successful standardization of ITS, we need the car manufacturers; for mobile money, we need the banking sector, for smart grid the utilities.
We are having some success for example: BMW hosted a recent meeting of our Collaboration on Intelligent Transport Systems; Bank of America is actively contributing to our work on identity management; EDF is working with us on Smart Grid technology; and Continua Health Alliance on e-health. But it is clear that stronger collaboration mechanisms are needed to reflect the interdependence of vertical sectors, ICT organizations, and standards bodies.
So it was with this background that the first ITU event in Dubai, the Global Standardisation Symposium (GSS) brought together many key players including the top management of ISO, IEC, IEEE, IETF, and key national and regional standards bodies, as well as government and industry representatives.
GSS recognized that the vertical sectors have their own ecosystem, with distinct characteristics and requirements, differing product life cycles and standards landscapes, policy and regulatory aspects, and issues related to ownership of data, safety, security and privacy requirements, that are quite different to those faced by the ICT sector. It means that standards development organizations will have to provide open and inclusive processes to attract these new sectors.
With regard to collaboration between the different standards bodies, it was recognized that, with convergence, the traditional demarcation of work areas between these organisations is becoming blurred, and there is increasing risk of overlap and duplication.
As a result there is a need to lay down the mechanisms for collaboration through for example the establishment of Memoranda of Understanding, which outline the specific, but complementary roles and responsibilities to achieve mutually defined objectives; and that a mechanism should be developed to identify new work areas at an early stage, and agree on a common approach so as to bring the relative skills of the different organisations together in a cooperative manner to develop common international standards or suites of standards.
These conclusions were then addressed at the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) that followed the next day, as well as similar proposals coming from our Chief Technology Officers Group meeting which preceding the Global Standards Symposium.
To take forward these ideas the WTSA established a Review Committee, which will look at ways that ITU and others, could better address these challenges over the coming years.
WTSA identified some new priorities for ITU standards, in particular to work with WHO on e-health standards, with Basil Convention and others on e-waste, and in the new significant area of software-defined networks (SDN), and emphasized the need to implementation our conformity and interoperability programme.
WTSA appointed the new leadership teams for the 10 Study Groups which have members from 35 different countries. Among these, 24 are developing countries, which confirms the progress being made in ITU to bridge the standardization gap.
WTSA also looked at ways to encourage more academia members to ITU-T. We have over 50 universities members of ITU since this category was first created at the beginning of 2011. Universities in developing countries benefit from a substantially reduced fee of just $2000 a year, which allows them to participate in any of our meetings around the world, make contributions to the development of our standards, publish ITU technical reports, and participate in the network of academia members we are creating. We also offer internships to researchers in our member universities.
Numbering and naming misuse is a particular concern in this region, and this was addressed by the Assembly and will require the reporting of any instances of misuse to the ITU Council to take the necessary action to stop it.
This was an issue which was also addressed at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) which followed the WTSA.
WCIT revised the only truly global treaty on international telecommunications know as the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), to address the many concerns that have arisen since the treaty was last revised in 1988.
The new ITRs include provisions requiring Member States to take action against any misuse of names and numbers in their territory, to improve transparency in mobile roaming charges, and reduce the levels, for improving energy efficiency and cutting e-waste, for bringing access to the 650 million people living with some kind of disability, and for improving broadband connectivity to landlocked developing countries and small island states.
The Preamble of the treaty places special emphasis on freedom of access to the international telecommunication services, and affirmation of Member States commitment to implement the treaty in a manner that respects and upholds their human rights obligations.
WCIT made one thing extremely clear: every one of the 151 countries represented understands the critical importance of ICTs to their future socio-economic development. This was not the case in 1988, and we have witnessed a major paradigm shift in the political and economic agenda.
With over 90% of the world’s people now within reach of mobile phones, the challenge today is to bring Internet access to the two-thirds of the world’s population still offline. This new treaty will help achieve this.
ITU members, through the adoption of this new international treaty have clearly stated their determination to connect the world, and extend the benefits of ICTs and broadband to all the world’s inhabitants.
So I would like to call on PTC to help us implement the results of these important events in this region.
Thank you for your attention.