Committed to connecting the world


CTO Heads of Regional and International Organizations meeting

Remarks by Malcolm Johnson, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

Heads of Regional and International Organizations meeting "Creating a common approach to promote the Digital Economy"

24 July 2019 - CTO Headquarters, London, United Kingdom

Good morning. Thank you for your welcome. I would like to thank CTO Acting Secretary-General Gisa Fuatai Purcell for inviting ITU to today's meeting and for giving us the opportunity to speak about the importance of having a common approach to promote the digital economy.

Greetings from ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who unfortunately was unable to be here, and all my colleagues. ITU and CTO have a long history of collaboration and we very much look forward to continuing it, especially as now CTO is a member of all three ITU sectors.

My last CTO event was the Commonwealth ICT Forum in Trinidad and Tobago last October just, a few weeks before the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai (PP-18). I would like to congratulate all the Commonwealth countries and candidates that were successful in the elections at PP-18, whether for the ITU Council or the Radio Regulations Board, and I thank you for your support for my own re-election!

Today, we meet ahead of another major ITU conference, the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19). A few months from now, delegates from Commonwealth countries will be among the over 3,000 delegates present in Sharm-El-Sheik to update the Radio Regulations treaty, the only international treaty on the use of the radio spectrum and satellite orbits.

The agenda for WRC-19 covers a broad range of issues from wireless broadband communications using new technologies like 5G, to intelligent transport systems and networks for monitoring and predicting climate change, to Low Earth Orbiting satellite networks and High-Altitude Platforms. These latter systems offer great potential for providing low cost connection to rural and remote areas where most of the unconnected live, and so could make a significant contribution to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Last month, the CTO held a Spectrum Management Forum here in London to address the increasing and competing demands for spectrum, and to help in the preparations for WRC-19.

Commonwealth coordination for ITU conferences has proved to be very successful thanks to the fact that if Commonwealth countries reach common objectives on the issues on the agenda, they can influence the proposals coming from their region and thereby help the ITU conference to reach consensus, especially since Commonwealth countries are active in four of the six ITU regions.

This is why I initiated the coordination of Commonwealth preparations for ITU conferences back in 2002, at the Plenipotentiary Conference in Marrakesh.

Much has changed in the world of technology since then. This is reflected in ITU's growing and ever more diverse membership, which includes large and small companies active in different sectors of the economy, as well as over 160 universities. From January next year ITU will open a new category of membership for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and a much reduce fee. We hope this will attract good participation from startups in the developing world of which there are many.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the Internet of Things and 5G are transforming manufacturing, health care, food production, manage cities, move people and goods, and communicate with each other. The challenge is to bring these benefits to the almost half of the world's population that remains unconnected.

ITU and many other national, regional and international organizations are busy looking at ways to use the technology to further sustainable development across the world.

Collaboration, coordination and cooperation between these, and between countries and regions, between the public and private sectors, and especially organizations like ITU and the CTO is now more important than ever. It is also more challenging since there are more and more organizations using the technology for their own purposes. We have to ensure that we bring our own specific competences to the table, avoid duplication of effort and work for the common good.

For our part, ITU will continue to bring its core competencies to the table: the international harmonization of spectrum allocations and the development of common international technical standards to ensure interoperability, security and accessibility and reduce costs and prices through economies of scale, coordination of satellite orbits to avoid harmful interference and collisions, and good policy and best practices to create an enabling environment for investment.

Only through such collaboration will it be possible to deliver on the promise of the digital economy − including for the 3.7 billion people around the world who are still not using the Internet. We are very keen to further strengthen our cooperation with the Commonwealth and CTO so as to nurture a digital future where technology is accessible, affordable, safe and trustworthy.

In the past ITU has collaborated with many Commonwealth initiatives, for example the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative by the Commonwealth Secretariat which led to the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration, the world's largest and most geographically diverse inter-governmental commitment on cybersecurity cooperation.

With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, I believe it is increasingly relevant as a compelling force for good in the world, and an effective network for promoting development.

At last year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Her Majesty the Queen referred to the Commonwealth's generosity of spirit. May this spirit guide our work as we strive to create a common approach to promote the digital economy. And may it continue to bring the Commonwealth, the CTO, ITU and all the other players striving to achieve this closer together.

Thank you.