GSR-21: Tackling global challenges at the regional level

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Although we often talk about issues of a global nature, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the global digital divide, each region faces distinct challenges in tackling these.

Information and communication technology (ICT) regulation is no different.

Ahead of the latest Global Symposium for Regulators, GSR-21, regional experts met to discuss specific regulatory and economic challenges and identify key regulatory priorities at the regional level.

Those discussions contributed to the GSR Best Practice Guidelines 2021 released in late June.

The month also included dedicated Regional Regulatory Roundtable and Regional Economic Dialogue events for three major world regions.

Here are some key outcomes from the regional level:

Arab States

The Regional Regulatory Roundtable for the Arab States highlighted collaborative regulation for inclusive connectivity - “The G5 regulation” - and noted the main outcomes of a new report, ICT Competition Policy, Regulation and Analysis in a Digital Apps Environment in the Arab and Africa Regions.

The report highlights traditional regulatory issues and the impact of digital transformation across the region, providing direction for the regulatory road ahead.

It includes a comprehensive checklist of emerging regulatory priorities and several recommendations for regional action.

The Regional Economic Dialogue shed light on economic and financial aspects, along with models for the emerging digital ecosystem. Participants discussed advances in regulatory costing and pricing strategies in the digital era, shared impact stories from least-developed countries (LDCs), and considered key policies, regulations, and economic approaches for digital transformation in the region.

Asia and the Pacific

Regulatory roundtable and economic dialogue sessions for Asia and the Pacific and focused on the GSR Best Practice Guidelines ; a regulatory uplift for financing digital infrastructure, access and use; fifth-generation collaborative regulation (see table below); incentives to foster affordable ICT services by promoting investment in meaningful connectivity; economic and financial approaches in the digital ecosystem; effective partnerships to advance connectivity and achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030; and policies and regulations for critical technologies of the future.

ITU has identified 5 generations of regulation which reflect the maturity of regulatory frameworks:

ICT regulation generations

At an executive roundtable on 8 June, heads and senior officials of national regulatory agencies and ICT ministries grappled with regional policy and regulatory challenges. At another session, Telecommunication Development Sector members at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) spoke candidly with academics about the challenges facing the ICT sector, particularly in relation to connectivity.

Commonwealth of Independent States

ICT innovation is outpacing regulation, with the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerating this trend. For countries to bridge this gap, their policy makers need to understand the global nature of technological progress, participants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region agreed. This means continually exchanging best regulatory practices.

Still, national policies and regulations remain crucial to establish effective mechanisms.

Regulatory roundtable and economic dialogue sessions for the CIS region centered on successive generations of ICT regulation; gave an overview of digital regulation tools; highlighted applicable economic policies, along with methods to determine the costs of services related to national telecommunication/ICT networks; and outlined key reports and publications on economics and finance in the field of telecommunications and ICTs from the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.

CIS countries exchanged best regulatory practices and learned about further discussions coming up in ITU’s development sector.


Discussions from ITU’s six regions spanning the globe culminated in core GSR-21 sessions held from 21 to 25 June.

Learn more about GSR events here.