ITU World Telecommunication Policy Forum opens in Lisbon
Date: Wed, 04/22/2009 - 13:15
The ITU World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF-09) opened today in Lisbon, Portugal setting the course for the future development and growth of information and communication technologies (ICT). WTPF-09 focuses on key policy issues driving the current ICT environment and which will guide future regulatory and standardization efforts worldwide.
The rapid growth of ICT in recent years includes fixed and mobile telephony, Internet bandwidth, and the increased convergence of devices, applications and services that facilitate seamless communications in a multi-service, multi-protocol, multi-vendor environment. This phenomenal growth, highlighted by mobile subscriptions reaching the 4 billion mark at the beginning of this year, prompted ITU’s Plenipotentiary conference in 2006 to convene the WTPF to review the new and emerging directions in telecommunications and ICT.
The main areas of focus at WTPF-09:
• Implications of convergence and the emergence of new technologies
• The transition to next-generation networks (NGN), which enable unfettered access and mobility aimed at consistent and ubiquitous services
• Internet-related public policy matters, including strategies for creating confidence and security in the use of ICT
• International telecommunication regulations (ITRs), which facilitate global interconnection and interoperability for telecommunications
Confronting the crisis
The current financial and economic downturn has had profound repercussions on global markets, affecting all sectors of the world economy. The ICT sector has also been deeply affected, but there are indications that some sections of the industry bottomed out in the first quarter of the year and the future outlook appears brighter.
A high-level Strategic Dialogue brainstormed on ‘Confronting the Crisis’ ahead of the WTPF opening yesterday. Moderated by renowned TV anchors Stephen Cole and Vasco Trigo, the sessions focused on the financial crisis facing the ICT sector, taking a look at how investment and financing in ICT can make a difference, and the experience of industry in formulating strategies to overcome it. Repeated calls were made for a digital Marshall Plan, which had been announced earlier by ITU at the Connect Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda in October 2007. It was stressed that such a Plan should extend beyond the current crisis.
"I am optimistic that not only will the ICT sector recover quickly, but it will also act as a catalyst in stimulating investment and growth in other sectors," said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. "WTPF presents a timely opportunity to forge global strategies that underpin the development and growth of future ICT networks and services." Dr Touré pointed out that Australia, the U.S. and several European countries are investing in stimulus packages based on ICT infrastructure development such as high-speed broadband.
Portugal offers new ICT opportunities
"The economic and financial crisis requires global action," said Mr Mário Lino, Minister for Public Works, Transport and Communications, Portugal. "It is therefore imperative for dialogue and cooperation to establish a concerted and comprehensive response to tackling the crisis, but also in a broader and sustainable framework to reduce the digital divide that still occurs worldwide." He stressed that Portugal was accelerating its transition towards an Information and Knowledge Society. "This is why the Portuguese Government has increased public investment in an area we consider critical to the modernization and competitiveness of the country, especially in the context of the current world crisis," Mr Lino said.
Portugal’s New Opportunities Programme emphasizes broadband access by teachers and students. 1.1 million students registered in the programme for e-school applications, representing about a tenth of the population, have already been provided with over 800 000 computers. The Magalhães computer, produced in Portugal, has been made available to all delegates attending WTPF-09 in an effort to achieve a ‘paperless’ meeting.
Over 880 participants representing 126 Member States, including 40 ministers are expected to attend WTPF-09 along with the private sector, international organizations and NGOs.