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ITU holds mega event to outline 2016-2020 strategy

ITU has kicked off a series of events to outline 2016-2020 strategy

The ITU (International Telecommunications Union) has kicked off its 19th ‘Plenipotentiary Conference’ (informally known as PP-14), which outlines the UN ICT unit’s strategy and financial plan for the period 2016-2020. The event, which takes place in Busan, South Korea over the next three weeks, gathers together some 3,000 international delegates to discuss the future of the global ICT sector, and develop policies and recommendations.

The event’s participators include delegates from around 175 ITU member states and sector members, as well as observer organisations represented by 104 ministers, 35 deputy ministers and 67 ambassadors.

This year’s agenda focuses on digital inclusion and broadband rollout, international collaboration on ICT development, and strategies to strengthen and encourage membership and multi-stakeholder participation. The conference will also try to reach an international agreement on development goals and targets for the Connect 2020 framework.

“We are about to enter an age of hyper-connectivity where cross-border activities and connections become stronger than ever,” Yanghee Choi, Mayor of Busan and Korea’s Minister for Science, ICT and Future Planning said.

“In such a world, ICT development is no longer an individual nation’s issue. And the fact remains that there are still many who have little or no access to broadband or ICT… we look forward to PP-14 not only discussing technological and industrial development, but also collectively addressing the issue of expanding the infrastructure in developing countries and creating the environment conducive to secure and sound utilization of ICT.”

“This is not just a story of connectivity for connectivity’s sake – it is a story of real human progress,” Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary General said opening the event. “In ultra-connected environments like Busan it’s too easy to forget that, for most of the world’s people, phones, smartphones and connected computers are a lifeline, not a luxury. Connectivity brings healthcare, education, employment, banking and improved governance, so over the course of the next three weeks I hope you will take the time to dream, to imagine, to innovate, and to create a bright, long-term future for the ICT sector.”

The conference also heard from the Korean President Geun-hye Park, who praised the ITU claiming it is a “premier global policy-making body for telecommunications and ICT”, and a “pivot of international cooperation which has made significant contributions to advance the economies and living standards of its 193 member states by developing technological standards telecommunications, and managing international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon delivered a message via video, where he said ICT plays one of the key roles in achieving sustainable development. “Broadband networks have made information accessible, helping to bridge the digital divide, especially for women, youth and people living with disabilities,” he said.

During the first week of the PP-14, the conference will elect the ITU’s next top five executives: the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General, and the Directors of the Radiocommunication, Telecommunication Standardization and Telecommunication Development Bureau, as well as other governing bodies of the union, the ITU council and Radio Regulations Board. It has already been confirmed the next Secretary General will be Houlin Zhao, the current Deputy Secretary General.

To coincide with PP-14, a number of side-events are also being organised, such as a 5G forum, and exhibition of accessibility technology to aid persons with disabilities, an e-health exhibition, cloud and big data expos, the gender-focused GEM-TECH Awards and Korea’s annual Science & Creativity Festival. ITU’s Young ICT Policy Leaders (YIPL) programme is also organising sessions where young (under 35-year-olds) members can meet more senior delegates in informal discussions.

Despite many events and initiatives, it is not entirely clear what exact targets have been set for these. The Connect 2020 framework for example has set out the following: growth, inclusiveness, sustainability, and innovation and partnership. All well and good, but perhaps slightly fluffy.  However, getting the industry leaders together to discuss important topics is in itself positive, and perhaps more  precise targets will be revealed over the course of the event.

ITU is celebrating 150 years of establishment next year, and to commence celebrations PP-14 is officially launching the ITU 150 campaign to mark the milestone. The PP-14 event runs from 20 October to 7 November.

  • ITU Telecom World


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