The world’s most pressing information and communication technology (ICT) issues are being discussed and debated by a wide variety of key stakeholders at this week’s ITU Telecom World 2015 event in Budapest, Hungary.
During the first day of the event, Brahima Sanou, Director of the International Telecommunication Union’s Development Bureau, opened a panel discussion with some remarks that encapsulated the spirit of the overall discussion. Here are some excerpts from Mr. Sanou’s remarks.
We are gathered here today because we truly believe that the ICT sector has become the main driver for sustainable development and that the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals will rely heavily on the digital ecosystem.
We are also here today because we all recognize that for digital opportunities to fully materialize, we need, now more than ever, to embrace innovative approaches to policy, regulation and service provision.
On the rapid pace of change
As a global trend, the landscape of policy, regulation and service provision have changed and will continue to change because we are living in an era of convergence of telecom/ICT infrastructure, services and service providers. We are witnessing the emergence of new players without any regulatory or infrastructure legacy. We are also witnessing the displacement of revenues and changes in business models for service provision.
We are living in a sector where no matter what time you go to bed, when you wake up your first question should be ‘what has changed when I was sleeping?’ The second question should be ‘what must I do to remain relevant?’
On the infrastructure side, we will have a combination of optical fiber, satellites and alike for backbone infrastructure. We should make sure that these technologies complement each other.
Mobile access, including satellite mobile, will be the first way to access broadband. 4G access technology, and soon 5G, will put unprecedented computing power in the palm of our hands.
The development of broadband in developing countries will heavily depend on the usage of broadband-enabled services for provision of basic services such as e-government, e-health, e-education, e-agriculture and e-commerce.
Cybersecurity will continue to be a big challenge as we embark on the Internet of Things (IoT) where we continue to connect men-to-machine and machine-to-machine.
On the consumer side
There is an ever-expanding variety of services and applications to serve our social, business and entertainment needs.
We will move from owning infrastructure and devices to the usage of them. We will be more inclined to pay for the usage than for the ownership. We will rely more and more on cloud computing.
The feeling of freedom of expression and interaction with an unlimited number of people in cyberspace will continue to outweigh the issue of privacy for the younger generations that are known as digital natives. It will be interesting to see how the debate on privacy will look 20 years from now.
A call for collaborative action
In order to transform these challenges into opportunities we need to put in place new policy and regulatory frameworks that will embrace the new ICT ecosystem. For example, current ICT regulation is not enough to regulate e-health, e-education or e-banking. We need to move from vertical regulation to collaborative regulation.
Capacity building will continue to be an issue. It is estimated that in the near future, 95 per cent of work will require ICT skills. This is a common challenge in the ICT ecosystem that must addressed, particularly in developing countries.
Partnerships will be key to any and every success. We need to extend public-private sector partnership to include all stakeholders and build cross-sectoral partnerships.
For all this to happen, all stakeholders, governments, regulators, telecom/ICT operators and service providers, consumers, academia and civil society need to change the way they interact with each other in order to create a new environment and a new deal.
The future of the ICT sector is bright, but in order to tap into the full potential of ICTs, all players and stakeholders in the ICT ecosystem need to not only think innovatively, but – more importantly – to innovate their way of thinking.