Organised by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and held in the United Arab Emirates for the first time, the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18) has concluded, with a number of landmark decisions that contributed in drafting the future roadmap for the global information and communications technology (ICT) sector.
Members, delegates and guests from more than 180 countries convened at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) for a period of three weeks, wherein they discussed a total of 274 working papers, moved various resolutions, decided on proposal and elected the management of the ITU, with an overarching aim of making efforts to bridge the global digital divide.
As the 20th edition of the conference officially concluded, the member states reaffirmed their commitment to the collective vision of a connected world, where information and communication technology (ICT) is a source of good and upliftment for everyone, everywhere and the mandate of ITU to realise this vision.
The conference has come out with a number of important resolutions, some of which are:
PP-18 saw a number of breakthrough records towards gender parity, including the election of the first woman to one of the five top management positions in the 153-year history of the organisation. Also, nearly 30% of the PP-18 participants were women, up from 20% at PP-14.
In addition to aforementioned, for the first time in the history of ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conferences, ITU Member States elected more women than men to Committee Chairs (four out of seven). They also elected three women to the Radio Regulations Board. It is notable that for the past four years, only two women served on the board, which approves the Rules of Procedure in the application of the Radio Regulations, the international treaty on the allocation and use of radio frequencies and the use of satellite orbits.
Important PP-18 decisions:
Harnessing new technologies as a source of good
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – ITU Member States approved the Union’s strategic and financial plan, which sets the targets for 2020-2023, asserting ITU’s role in facilitating progress towards the implementation of the SDGs through ICTs. These targets are divided into five strategic goals: growth; inclusiveness; sustainability; innovation; and partnership.
Innovation – ITU Member States also passed a new resolution to promote an enabling environment for telecommunication/ICT-centric innovation by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Over-the-top services (OTTs) – A new resolution recognised the positive roles of OTTs in fostering socio-economic benefits and stated that mutual cooperation between OTTs and telecommunication operators can foster innovative, sustainable, viable business models.
Internet of Things (IoT) – ITU Member States resolved to promote investment in the development of the IoT, smart sustainable cities and communities to support the SDGs.
For everyone, everywhere
Future networks for developing countries – ITU Member States resolved to continue ITU’s work related to the deployment of future ICT networks in developing countries. Future networks such as 5G are set to play a pivotal role in the digital economy. They will support applications such as smart homes and buildings, smart cities, 3D video, work and play in the cloud, remote medical surgery, virtual and augmented reality, and massive machine-to-machine communications for industry automation and self-driving cars.
Bridging the ‘standardisation gap’ – ITU Member States resolved to promote the increased participation of developing countries in ITU’s standardization process so they can develop their digital economy faster. International standards, developed rapidly in line with the principles of global connectivity, openness, affordability, reliability, interoperability and security, are critical for generating confidence for investments in ICTs.
Gender equality – ITU Member States resolved to strengthen efforts to make progress on gender equality within ITU and in the ICT sector, e.g. by reviewing their respective policies and practices to ensure that recruitment, employment, training and advancement of women and men in the ICT sector are undertaken on a fair and equitable basis.
Accessibility – ITU has been instructed to share best practices implemented in favour of accessibility to telecommunications/ICTs for people with disabilities and people with specific needs and to promote the collection and analysis of statistical data on disabilities and accessibility that Member States can consider when preparing and designing their own public policies to promote accessibility.
Safeguarding people against the risks from ICT misuse
Child online protection – ITU Member States resolved for ITU’s Child Online Protection (COP) Initiative to work with Member States and partners to disseminate methodological frameworks for data production and statistics with the purpose of maximising data comparison among countries.
Cybersecurity – ITU Member States resolved to strengthen the role of ITU in building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, such as by promoting a culture in which security is seen as a continuous and iterative process and by supporting the standard-setting activities of ITU. The number, severity and diversity of cyber-threats and -attacks have increased. They can compromise the availability, integrity and confidentiality of critical information and infrastructure. They can impact countries’ economic and social development.
Commenting on the conclusion of the Conference, head of the UAE delegation, and the Director General of the TRA, H.E. Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, said: “I seize the opportunity to thank again the ITU for their valuable trust in the UAE, exemplified by convening the Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai. I would also like to thank all the delegations for their attendance and active participation in the conference meetings. I would like to thank the Arab Group for their active and effective coordination before and during the conference.”
The delegates and guests, at one of the most important telecom events of the world, lauded the exceptional advancements that the UAE has made in terms of ICT, and praised the way the Conference was held by the TRA.
The 20th Plenipotentiary Conference, held in Dubai from October 29 to November 16, closed with the signing of the Final Acts. The Conference attracted more than 2,300 participants from 180 countries this year, up from 171 countries in 2014.