Global technology community gathers for World Conference on International Telecommunications
Date: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 14:55
Delegates from over 160 countries meet to forge new global treaty that will set the stage for broadband boom
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12, 3-14 December) today welcomed over 1,950 delegates, who are gathering at the Dubai World Trade Centre to renegotiate the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), the binding global treaty facilitating global interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, their efficient operation and their widespread public availability.
The treaty sets out general principles for ensuring the free flow of information around the world and promoting affordable and equitable access for all.
Present at the opening of the event this morning were some 50 VIPs, including ministers of communications, corporate CEOs, and leaders from civil society organizations. Over the coming two weeks, delegates will debate revisions to the current treaty to ensure it better meets the needs of tomorrow’s networks, services and users.
Proposals before the meeting include ways to accelerate the global roll-out of broadband; strategies to improve energy efficiency and deal with e-waste; initiatives to improve access to technology for persons with disabilities; mechanisms to ensure continuing investment in networks, services and applications; measures to address the high cost of mobile roaming and taxation of international telecommunications services; and proposals designed to promote a harmonious and conducive international environment that drives future innovation.
The lead-up to the conference has seen concerted lobbying from a range of industry and civil society groups. Speaking at the opening ceremony, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I.Touré said: “Here in Dubai, we will see friction between minds. And as we all know, from friction comes light. That light will help us see our common goal – to build a Knowledge Society where everyone, whatever their circumstances, can access, use, create and share information.”
The conference is chaired by Mohamed Al Ghanim, Director-General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of UAE. Addressing delegates this morning, Mr Al Ghanim said: “The UAE is delighted to host such an important event in the heart of the beautiful city of Dubai. WCIT-12 is recognized internationally as among the most important global conferences on high level ICT policy. The preparations for this conference have taken place over several years, and involved many contributions from ITU private sector and government members as well as other members such as ISOC and ETNO. All contributions share the same objective – to find the most effective approach to promoting confidence and sustainability in the ICT Industry. I am confident that our distinguished delegates will spare no efforts in making this conference a great success and developing fruitful output.”
In a video message to delegates, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of the importance of extending access to information and communication technology to all. “In the coming days, we will revise the agreement that underpins how we communicate with each other across the globe,” he said. “Our overall objective must be to ensure universal access to information and communication technology to the two-thirds of the world’s population not online. A digital divide has no place in the information age and 21st century digital economy. The management of information and communication technology should be transparent, democratic and inclusive. I am gratified that you have taken steps to open the process, including the vital voices of civil society and the private sector ... the right to communicate is essential to the ITU’s mission.”
In the run-up to WCIT-12, the ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12) revised and adopted Resolution 69 on Non-discriminatory access and use of Internet resources recommending that ITU’s 193 Member States refrain from taking any unilateral and/or discriminatory actions that could impede another Member State from accessing public Internet sites and using resources, within the spirit of Article 1 of the ITU Constitution and the principles set out during the 2003/2005 World Summit on the Information Society. Dr Touré said the Resolution sends a strong message to the international community supporting and defending freedom of speech.
At a press briefing on Friday ahead of the WCIT-12 event, Dr Touré also spoke out against recent actions to curb access to communication networks in Syria. “One year ago we were among the first to express the same concerns in Egypt and before that in Myanmar. I take the opportunity to remind all governments that Article 33 of the ITU Constitution, which applies to our 193 Member States, including Syria, protects the freedom to communicate and the right to respect people’s need to access critical communications infrastructures,” he said.