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ICT industry backs green standards

The first ITU Green Standards Week closed in Rome on 9 September 2011 with a call on international bodies, nongovernmental organizations, standards bodies, governments, regulators, industry and academia to collaborate more closely on the application and development of information and communication technology (ICT) standards to help combat climate change. Particular emphasis was placed on a globalized method to assess the environmental impact of ICT, reducing e-waste, and the use of submarine cables for climate monitoring and disaster warning.

ITU has been working with industry and government to achieve an internationally agreed set of methods, to be approved by year-end 2011. Included is a method enabling ICT companies to measure their own carbon footprint, and one to estimate the considerable savings in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy that can be achieved in other sectors through the use of ICT. A single globally recognized method will give credibility to the various claims now being made about the benefits of ICT in addressing climate change and energy issues.

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré says “By adopting globally agreed standards — green standards — we will help to create a smarter, greener, planet; a planet which will be full of opportunity and potential and which will help the next generation reap tremendous rewards.”

The increase in e-waste — generated by the expanding use of ICT and the decreasing lifespan of equipment — was highlighted by participants as an area of great concern, as was the export of e-waste to developing countries. As Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), says “Production of ICT equipment must minimize the use of toxic material, and be designed to have a longer lifespan. Standardization is important in achieving this. ITU’s universal charger is an excellent example of what can be achieved with international cooperation. E-waste that cannot be avoided must be recycled in an environmentally sound manner to extract valuable secondary raw materials.” ITU is working on this issue with its membership and others including United Nations University; the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the Basel Convention; the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE); and StEP — an initiative of various United Nations organizations with the overall aim to solve the e-waste problem.

Photo credit: AFP/China Xtra

Two high-level segments gave prominent public and private sector voices the opportunity to discuss how the ICT industry’s climate change agenda may be promoted in the run-up to the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be held in Durban, South Africa, at the end of the year. The sessions advised on how ICT may aid in the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto protocol, how governments may set relevant and transparent policy objectives regarding ICT standards and the environment, as well as how governments and the ICT sector may effectively communicate and cooperate to achieve these goals.

Green Standards Week, jointly organized by ITU and the Italian Ministry for Economic Development, and hosted by Telecom Italia, took place in Rome from 5 to 9 September 2011. The event was also supported by Huawei, Research In Motion, Alcatel Lucent, Cisco, VRM Italy and Microsoft. The goal was to raise awareness on the role of ICT to promote environmental sustainability and in particular how standards can help to achieve this.

The body of the talks comprised three workshops: “Methodologies for environmental impact assessment of ICT”, jointly organized with the European Commission; “Moving to a green economy through ICT standards”, jointly organized with Telecom Italia; and “Submarine cables for ocean/climate monitoring and disaster warning: science, engineering, business and law”, jointly organized with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The third workshop proposed the use of submarine communication cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning (see article in the January–February 2011 issue of ITU News). Workshop participants called on ITU, UNESCO and WMO to establish and coordinate a joint task force of experts from science, engineering, business and law to intensify study on the use of submarine networks and to explore engineering and business potential in this realm.

Green Standards Week also awarded the winner of the first ITU Green ICT Application Challenge, a global competition organized by ITU and supported by Telefónica and Research In Motion to identify innovative apps that can help improve energy efficiency and combat climate change. Designed by Lis Lugo Colls, from Spain, the application “Smart Recycling” helps mobile users locate recycling schemes and refuse bins within their area, and provides advice to consumers and local authorities on the effectiveness of the schemes.

Kigali broadband meeting highlights role of youth and debates strategies for getting Africa online

Broadband commissioners and interested representatives of governments, private sector and civil society met in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on 8–9 September 2011 to focus on challenges, priorities and strategies that can help wire the African continent to high-speed networks.

The meeting was held at the invitation of the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who co-chairs the Broadband Commission for Digital Development with Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Chairman of Grupo Carso. President Kagame is a staunch champion of the transformational power of technology, and has prioritized the construction of ICT networks as part of his national rebuilding programme. The Commission’s co-Vice-Chairs are ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

The meeting started with a focus on the role of youth in defining new ICT services and driving take-up. In a continent where more than half the population has yet to reach adulthood, Rwanda has an exceptionally young population, with 42 per cent of people under the age of 15 years.

Photo credit: ITU/D. Court
From left to right: Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of ITU; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; and Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Life-time Chairman of Grupo Carso, at the Broadband Commission Consultative meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, on 8–9 September 2011

“African youth possesses the energy, passion and dedication to use these technologies to address global challenges and truly benefit from ICT. Our duty as leaders is to build the right environment and promote the necessary investments to allow them to fulfil their potential. Let us not wait another century to recognize that broadband was another missed opportunity for Africa”, says President Paul Kagame.

Two high-level round table debates looked at the policies needed to help ensure that African youth gain access to online services such as education and health care, and considered how government and industry can support strategies to encourage youth entrepreneurship.

Participants included Max Ahoueke, Minister of Communications and New Technologies, Benin; Clotilde Nizigama, Minister for Finance, Economy, Cooperation and Development, Burundi; and Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, as well as members of the Broadband Commission, such as Indrajit Banerjee, Director of the Information Society Division of UNESCO; Cheik Sidi Diarra, Under Secretary-General, UN Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for Least Developed Countries; Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General for the Millennium Development Goals; Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Airtel; and musician Youssou N’Dour, among others.

Speaking at the opening of the Youth session, Dr Touré told participants, including 135 students from Kigali’s leading tertiary education institutions and from neighbouring countries, that broadband is the single most powerful tool available to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and to drive social and economic development. “In the 21st century, with broadband, no young African should ever again need to be sent abroad in order to enjoy the benefits of an excellent education,” said Dr Touré. “If you are connected, it no longer matters if you are geographically or socially isolated; you are still connected to the information society. But if you are not connected, you are — literally — cut off from a whole portion of the world’s riches.”

Photo credit: ITU/D. Court

The programme also featured an Innovation Competition showcasing 11 exciting new apps created by young Rwandan developers. Two winners will be sponsored to represent Rwanda at the forthcoming ITU Telecom World 2011 Digital Innovators competition in October.

The event also served as a preparatory meeting for the upcoming global Broadband Leadership Summit, which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, on 24–25 October as part of ITU Telecom World 2011. The Summit will bring together heads of State, prime ministers, ministers, CEOs of major companies, heads of UN agencies and regulators from across the globe. It will allow leaders to connect, exchange knowledge, seal deals, share best practices, and help extend the social and economic benefits of high-speed networks.

Broadband prices falling, but much of Africa remains unconnected

Figures released by ITU earlier this year show that worldwide, on average, consumers are paying 50 per cent less for high-speed Internet connections than they were two years ago. This fall is mainly a result of decreases in the extremely high cost of broadband in developing countries. In 32 countries, a broadband connection still costs more in 2010 than 50 per cent of monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita. And in 19 of those nations, the monthly price of a fast Internet connection was still more than 100 per cent of monthly average income.

Despite encouraging trends, Africa continues to stand out for its relatively high prices. Fixed broadband Internet access, in particular, remains prohibitively expensive. By 2010, only one out of nine people in Africa had access to the Internet, and fixed broadband penetration was just 0.2 per cent, compared to 24 per cent in Europe and 26 per cent in the United States.


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