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Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

ITU Council 2010

2 October 2010, Guadalajara, Mexico


State of the Union Address


ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré speaks at ITU's Council 2010 Plenary in Guadalajara, MexicoExcellencies,
Distinguished Councillors
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Guadalajara, and may I thank you all for being here today for this special session of Council, and for giving up your weekend.

It is only six months since I addressed you last, in Geneva, back in April. So please treat this as a rather brief, intermediate, State of the Union address, just ahead of the Plenipotentiary Conference starting on Monday morning.

Distinguished Councillors,

ITU has continued to be both busy and productive since the full session of Council closed on 22 April. Each of the three Sectors has been doing exemplary work since we last met – though I must single out the Telecommunication Development Bureau here, as it held its quadrennial World Telecommunication Development Conference at the end of June; I will say more about this in a moment.

I will not go into great detail now, but I would like to highlight just a few examples of the Sectors’ work, among their many other activities, which show their dedication and commitment to the Union’s greater goals and wider achievements. I will also give you a brief update on cross-sectoral activities over the past six months.

Turning to ITU-R, I can report that:

Work has progressed on IMT-Advanced in accordance with the foreseen timescales. Candidate radio interface technologies were submitted to WP5D and were studied within established evaluation groups. Further evaluation processes, assessment of compliance with minimum requirements and subsequent consensus building will lead to decisions on the radio interface technologies to be included in the standardization phase of IMT-Advanced, which is scheduled for this month, thereby establishing the global framework for the deployment of mobile broadband services.

Several Recommendations and Reports were revised. Study Group 6 approved among others, a key Recommendation (ITU-R BS.1864) on operational practices for the loudness of digital television programmes, and released Report ITU-R BT.2160 on 3D television broadcasting.

Activities to support emergency communications and disaster relief were carried out and supported by all study groups. In particular Study Groups 4 and 7 have approved Recommendations and Reports on the use of satellite services (both fixed and mobile) and remote sensing in the event of natural disasters for warning and relief operations.

Various groups within ITU-R are finalizing the technical and regulatory preparatory studies on WRC-12 agenda items. They will be included in a Report to WRC-12 during the upcoming second session of the CPM-11, which will take place in February. This will be made available to Member States for the preparation of their proposals to WRC-12.

BR also continued its ongoing efforts to clean the Master Register from unused satellite frequency assignments. The goal is that administrations will be in a position to discuss further, and may be able to agree on enforcing the existing rules, in particular against harmful interference, at WRC-12.

BR continued to improve the efficiency of its processing of terrestrial service notices. A new software module for compatibility analysis between maritime mobile stations in the HF bands was implemented. BR developed a user-friendly format of the Maritime Manual, which is an ITU service publication.

BR implemented a web portal called ‘myAdministration’ that enables Administrations and frequency manager organizations to access frequency publications and database of frequency assignments of terrestrial broadcasting stations including short-wave transmissions around the world. The portal also allows Administrations to carry out compatibility studies of their proposed assignments in relation to assignments of neighbouring countries.

BR continued to organize and participated actively in seminars and workshops on the subject of digital migration of radio and television services. BR also conducted training courses on radiocommunication regulations and frequency planning techniques tailored for administrations from the developing countries.

Turning now to ITU-T, I can update you on the following activities:

In May, a new ITU-T Focus Group on Cloud Computing was formed to enable a global cloud computing ecosystem where interoperability facilitates secure information exchange across platforms.

Cloud computing both speeds up and streamlines application deployment without upfront capital costs for servers and storage. For this reason, many enterprises, governments and network and / or service providers are now considering adopting cloud computing to provide more efficient and cost effective network services.

ITU Secretary-General speaks during Council 2010 Plenary in Guadalajara, MexicoThis is an exciting area for ITU, as there are a lot of protocols to be designed and standards to be adopted that will allow people to best manage their digital assets.

Also in May, a new ITU-T Focus Group was established to create standards for smart grid electricity distribution networks.

Smart grids are a dynamic addition to today’s energy networks, which will be capable of delivering customizable services on a massive scale – but to ensure an efficient global rollout, global standards are a must.

The ITU-T Focus Group allows access to all stakeholders and in particular the electricity companies themselves, who are a key part of the smart grid equation.

In July, ITU-T, together with World Standards Cooperation partners ISO and IEC, held its first-ever Academic Week. The event raised awareness of the importance of including standardization in programmes of higher education, because of their role in facilitating access to world markets, transferring technology and promoting good business practice and sustainable development.

Also in July, industry sent out a strong message of support for ITU standards for Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), at an event held at ITU headquarters.

IPTV manufacturers gathered in Geneva for the first of a new series of ‘ITU Interop’ events, taking part in a set of tests to demonstrate seamless global interoperability between their various IPTV devices, which have been manufactured to comply with ITU-developed Recommendations.

ITU has been busy pioneering a raft of new standards for the technology, which is set to transform global viewing habits in coming years. Experts agreed that stable global standards will be key to take-up of IPTV, avoiding costly and confusing ‘format wars’ and reduced choice for consumers.

Also in ITU-T, Study Group 16 has started work on standards providing interoperability for telepresence systems. These are the standards for next-generation videoconferencing that will take into account users' position, actions and voice, so that as close a representation of a real-life meeting as possible can be created.

Although many different products exist today which are based on established protocols – including ITU-T H.323 – they lack interoperability due to proprietary extensions. Standards-fuelled interoperability between systems is seen as a key way to drive the market.

So in just the same way that we don't expect each end of a phone call to be dependent on the manufacturer of the phone being the same, the same should be true for telepresence. What we are hoping is that ITU-T's new standards initiative in this area will allow us all to profit from this remarkable technology.

For ITU-D, of course, the main focus over the past months has been the World Telecommunication Development Conference, and the follow-up from that event.

The WTDC was held in Hyderabad, India, from 24 May to 4 June, and was a tremendous success, reporting on progress made in the past four years and setting the agenda for the next four years.

The WTDC adopted: the Hyderabad Declaration; the ITU-D contribution to the ITU Strategic Plan; the Hyderabad Action Plan; and new and revised Resolutions.

The six BDT Regions identified regional initiatives best suited to meet their priorities, and the BDT regular budget will provide seed money to trigger partnerships and investments for large-scale projects.
Five programmes were established by WTDC-10:

  • Programme 1 - ICT infrastructure and technology development;
  • Programme 2 – Cybersecurity, ICT Applications and IP-based network-related issues;
  • Programme 3 – Enabling Environment;
  • Programme 4 – Capacity Building and Digital Inclusion; and
  • Programme 5 – LDCs, countries in special need, emergency telecommunications and climate change adaptation.

In the Resolutions, I would like to highlight four particular fields:

  • Assistance to countries in special need and emergency communications;
  • Partnership development and resource mobilization;
  • Accessibility and digital inclusion; and
  • International cooperation.

Excellent results were achieved through the Doha Action Plan, especially in mobile telephony, which has made a huge contribution to bridging the digital divide.

The same now needs to be done for broadband communications, and much more in particular needs to be done for rural and remote areas, and for the UN-designated Least Developed Countries.

Distinguished Councillors,

Before closing, I would like to say a few words about some of the cross-sectoral activities we have undertaken over the past six months.

Not long after Council, from 10 to 14 May, we hosted the WSIS Forum in Geneva. The WSIS Forum was absolutely key this year, as 2010 marks the halfway mark from WSIS in 2005 to the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. This gave us a unique opportunity for a mid-term review.

I am pleased to report that almost 50 countries participated in the open consultation process for this event, and submitted more than 110 contributions.

The Forum itself offered participants a series of diverse meetings, including high-level debates addressing critical issues to the WSIS implementation and follow-up in multi-stakeholder set-ups; WSIS action line facilitation meetings; thematic workshops; kick-off meetings for new initiatives and projects; and speed-exchanges facilitating networking among the participants; among others.

On the occasion of the WSIS Forum this year we also published the World Telecommunication Development Report, which detailed the latest data, trends and analysis from around the world.

Hot on the heels of the WSIS Forum, came World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, WTISD, which this year was celebrated in Shanghai to coincide with the World Expo 2010. It was also, of course, our opportunity to celebrate 145 years of ITU’s existence.

The theme for WTISD this year was ‘Better city, better life with ICTs’, and we used the occasion to demonstrate how ICTs play a catalysing role in achieving better living standards in future urban environments and in building greener cities which help to combat climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The other big initiative which we have undertaken since Council is the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

This was launched by ITU, in partnership with UNESCO, in May this year, in response to the UN Secretary-General’s call for renewed efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

The Broadband Commission is an informal group of high-level participants from government, industry, and international organizations which has been brought together to promote the benefits of wide-scale broadband rollout.

The Commission is chaired by President Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso. The Vice-Chairs are myself, and Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, and we have a total of almost 60 Commissioners.

The Broadband Commission held two very successful meetings since Council – one in July in Geneva, and the second in New York just last month, ahead of the 2010 MDG Summit. At this second meeting we presented the Commission’s report to Mr Ban Ki-moon, and he was very positive indeed about ITU’s work.

The commission complements ITU’s own ‘Build on Broadband’ campaign, which is designed to increase awareness on the vital role broadband will play in the 21st century in every country in the world.

Distinguished Councillors,

I would like to bring this intervention to a close at this point, as we have much to discuss and only one day for this special session of Council.

I thank you for your attention.