Shape the future of our digital world: Why attend WTPF-21

City of Geneva, Switzerland. City of Geneva, Switzerland.

We spoke with Fabio Bigi, Informal Expert Group Chair for the upcoming World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WPTF-21), set to be hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) from 16 to 18 December 2021.

Tell us a little bit about the WTPF preparatory process. How does it work? What are the key issues on the agenda?

WTPF-21 was agreed by the [ITU] Plenipotentiary Conference in 2018 with Resolution 2. The theme for the Policy Forum highlighting the role of emerging technologies in driving sustainable development was agreed by the ITU Council with Decision 611 in 2019.

Since then, the world is calling for experts. We got quite a good team of experts together to draft the ITU Secretary General’s report and the text of the Opinions to be presented at the Policy Forum.

We [the Informal Experts Group] just finished our last meeting and have finalized the Report of the Secretary General and its five draft Opinions, to be discussed at the Forum.

How can new and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, 5G and the Internet of Things facilitate sustainable development? And what actions can governments take to drive this?
All five draft Opinions deal with this aspect, particularly the role of establishing the rules and main modes of utilization of different technologies, to avoid discrepancies or possible problems.

All that is coming together to formalize the role of new technologies, essentially, in this changing world [and] improve the facilities necessary for [a return to] normal life.

This is particularly [relevant] for developing countries, who must come to the same level of connectivity and the same level of mutual understanding.
This year, Italy holds the presidency of the G20. In your role as Informal Expert Group chair, what are some of the commonalities in the priorities and the discussions?
The press release [on the recent G20 Declaration on digital economy] from the Italian Ministry of Economic Development puts the accent on the digital economy and on new technologies, and [their] impacts on human beings.

These questions are very close to those that the Policy Forum will treat, and I hope [this] will assist [WTPF] in making final conclusions. I found the press release very useful.
What is your one key message to those taking part in WTPF 21? What makes this WTPF special and why should people attend?

People should attend WTPF-21 because they [will have an opportunity to] shape the future of telecommunication and ICTs (information and communication technologies), and the scenario for our future world. The recent experience with the [COVID-19] pandemic indicates the importance of telecommunications and ICTs. This world continues to work thanks to [these technologies]!

Continued improvement in these [digital services and] facilities is essential.

What are my messages to [the] Policy Forum participants? First, you should attend to make decisions that are globally valid.

Secondly, to normalize the ITU practice of reaching consensus, agreements, and solutions – because the world wants to have solutions, not problems.

Learn more about WTPF-21 and register here. Registration is free and open to all.


NOTE: This article was updated in December 2021 to reflect the fully virtual meeting format for WTPF-21.