Hosted by ITU and the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (ARTP) of Senegal under the auspices of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, the Global Industry Leaders Forum (GILF, 9 November) and Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR, 10-12 November) provide a unique platform where industry and regulators from markets worldwide can share experiences, build consensus and forge common approaches to managing todays complex and fast moving ICT markets.
Held in Dakars Meridien President Hotel, this years meetings focus on key issues including ongoing mobile and wireless market development, the impact of broadband on and beyond the ICT sector, and the migration from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting and allocation of the so-called digital dividend.
Speaking at the opening of the GSR this morning, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour urged the worlds ICT regulators to do for the Internet and broadband what we have now so successfully achieved with mobile.
Noting that this years GSR is the first to be held on the African continent, he spoke of the extraordinary progress Africa has made in ICT development, with mobile cellular penetration now reaching 44% across the continent as a whole, an increase from just 15% four years ago.
Two things need to change if the online world is to become a ubiquitous resource for all Africans, Dr Tour said. Firstly, governments need to raise broadband to the top of the development agenda. Secondly, we need to ensure that Internet access and especially broadband access becomes very much more affordable. This is where the GSR can play an important role. Affordability is dramatically improved when competitive forces are brought to bear, and when there are clear incentives to increase capacity.
The symposium was officially opened this morning by President Wade, who stressed that everyone should share in the benefits of the digital dividend, even those who are not aware of the transition to the digital economy, and presented initiatives for youth, such as “cyberhuts”, which act as hubs for communication and training. “The aim of regulators can be stated quite simply: A computer for all, digital for all”.
He was joined on the podium by Dr Tour; Mr Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITUs Telecommunication Development Bureau; Mr Ndongo Diao, Director General of the ARTP, who is serving as Chairman of GSR 2010; and this years Chairman of the Global Industry Leaders Forum, Mr Mahfoudh Ould Brahim, Deputy Director-General of Expresso.
With the theme Enabling Tomorrows Digital World, this years GSR features a special focus on broadband, looking at the challenges for regulators in stimulating nationwide broadband deployment through adaptive and targeted regulation and out-of-the-box tools.
The event also focuses on the need to keep up with the pace of convergence and integration of ubiquitous networks, in particular through adapting institutional structures and mandates, adopting cutting-edge best practices, and embracing new tools such as innovative dispute resolution techniques.
A main output of the GSR is a set of Best Practice Guidelines based on contributions from regulators around the world. The theme of this years guidelines is A new ladder of regulation: best practices for enabling open networks. The guidelines are designed to assist regulators in markets worldwide to promote open access to ICT networks, services, applications and content.
In addition to the usual panel discussions and presentations, two interactive workshops are included in this years programme: one on the topic Building on broadband, and the other on National School Connectivity Plans featuring the ITU flagship initiative Connect a School, Connect a Community (connecting children).
Regulators hear the voice of industry
The Global Industry Leaders Forum, which took place yesterday, featured animated discussions between representatives from leading industry players including Alcatel-Lucent, Bharti Airtel, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, France Telecom-Orange, the GSMA, Intersat Africa, MTN, SES and Zain. GILF participants are encouraged to offer their views and contributions on key issues, with their input serving as the basis of the GILF Chairmans Report, which Mr Mahfoudh Ould Brahim presented to the GSR Chairman this morning, as input to this weeks ongoing GSR debates.
Speaking at the opening of the GILF on Tuesday 9 November, Director of ITUs Telecommunication Development Bureau Sami Al Basheer emphasized the fact that industry, government and regulators all have major interests in common. We are all striving towards the same goal: a growing and vibrant ICT sector, he said. If, by working together, we manage to extend the benefits of ICT to as many people as possible across the world, we stand to win. We have seen that the fastest growing ICT markets are the emerging markets, in particular in mobile. We now need to work together to extend this progress to broadband network expansion, to create a platform for innovative new services such as m-banking, m-government, m-health and other services.