Major offensive on war footing called for by ITU Secretary-General to connect every village before 2005
Istanbul, 18 March 2002 The 2002 World Telecommunication Development
Conference opened today with over 1000 delegates from around the world including
30 Ministers and 50 representatives of regulatory agencies converging on the
Istanbul Conference and Exhibition Centre.
The Conference was opened by ITU Secretary-General, Yoshio Utsumi, in the presence
of the President of the Republic of Turkey, the Minister of Transport and Communications
of Turkey and several other dignitaries including the Governor of Istanbul,
Mr Erol Çakir, the President of the Telecommunication Authority of Turkey,
Mr Fatih Mehmet Yurdal and Mr Selçuk Coskun, Deputy Under Secretary of
Transport and Communications.
"My message today is that the telecommunications sector must take urgent
steps to bring basic telecommunications to all the world’s inhabitants"
Mr Utsumi told participants. "We must take a fresh look at our policies,
and modify them to fast-track our objectives" he said. "As we review
our programmes and their implementation, we should do some honest introspection
and ask ourselves whether the telecoms fraternity has been working to bridge
the digital divide, or is it unwittingly and systematically contributing to
widening the divide", he added.
Mr Utsumi recalled that many initiatives had been taken to bridge the digital
divide: from the Maitland Commission more than 15 years ago to the G8 DotForce
and the UN ICT Task Force. "There is no time to discuss again, in yet another
committee, the reasons mired in a deep bureaucratic maze which prevents us from
providing basic telecoms to the inhabitants of the world," he said, adding,
"the need of the hour is to launch an offensive, on a war footing, to make
sure that every village in the World is connected before the World Summit on
the Information Society". He called on the public and private sectors to
be driven by their common objectives rather than divided by their different
views on how to achieve these goals and urged both sectors to harness their
respective strengths to reap the benefits for the populace.
Also speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Doctor Oktay Vural, Minister of Transport
and Communications of Turkey said that the widening inequities in access to
information and technology between industrialized and developing nations could
be a source of tension. "To reap both the economic and social benefits
of technological progress and to improve people’s quality of life, the Information
Society must be based on the principles of equal opportunities, participation
and integration of all, Dr. Vural said. "This can only happen if everybody
has access to at least a basic set of the new services and applications offered
by the Information Society", he said.
He urged the United Nations, the ITU and the wealthy nations, in particular
the G-8 countries, to be more sensitive over these issues and to allocate more
funds to narrow the digital divide, expressing the hope that the World Telecommunication
Development Conference would be a significant milestone in the process of bridging
the digital divide for a better and peaceful world.
The President of Turkey, His Excellency Mr Ahmet Necdet Sezer, delivered the
keynote. "One of the main challenges the new telecommunication technologies
create" he told delegates, "is that only certain countries and circles
possess these technologies while the other countries are not benefiting from
the information society and the opportunities it brings. To mitigate the negative
impacts of these differences" he said, "developing countries should
pursue policies enhancing access to telecommunication services and policies
at affordable price.
He also stressed the importance of initiatives aimed at bridging the digital
divide and the role of this conference in doing so. "My country sees this
conference as an opportunity to be used in order to start cooperation towards
the solving of problems between the governments, non-governmental organizations
and the other actors of the economy," he said.
The Conference also held its first Plenary session at which it elected Mr Fatih
Yurdal, Chairman of the Turkish Telecommunication Authority as Chairman of the
Conference. Mr Yurdal will be assisted by six vice-chairmen (United Kingdom,
United States, Russia, Tunisia, Burkina Faso and India). Chairmen and Vice-chairmen
of the various committees were also elected (see itu.int/newsroom/wtdc2002/Structure.html
At the plenary, Mr Hamadoun Touré, Director of the Telecommunication
Development Bureau – ITU’s development arm – reviewed the major components of
the Valetta Action Plan adopted four years ago at Valetta (Malta) and detailed
achievements in its implementation. He also identified the challenges to be
addressed by this Conference, charting the way for the discussions.
World Telecommunication Development Conferences are held every four years to
map out ways to bolster telecommunication development worldwide. They establish
ICT development priorities, strategies and Action Plans for the future with
special emphasis on the expansion and modernization of networks, the mobilization
of resources and regulatory reform needed to boost telecommunication penetration
and access in the world’s poorer countries.
Special session on the Digital Divide
The Special Session on Bridging the Digital Divide showed that there was a common
understanding on the definition of the digital divide.
Opening the Special Session on Bridging the Digital Divide, Oktay Vural, Minister
of Transport and Communications of Turkey, noted that public policy has begun
to pay attention to providing Internet access and the corresponding skills on
a broad base worldwide.
In the context of bridging the digital divide, he felt the telecommunications
community should address the issues of the financial divide, the knowledge divide
as well as the confidence divide. At international level, four elements in the
digital divide should be taken into account: education, electricity, governance
In remarks that followed, ITU was recognized as the leader in various activities,
such as raising efficiency of limited resources like the radio spectrum, and
was also seen as keeping in step with the huge transformation in technologies.
While it has done much to bridge the digital divide, ITU could become more involved
and become a focal point for information about digital divide initiatives.
The digital divide should not be accepted as an irreversible marginalization
of the knowledge "have nots". The digital divide could be seen as
a cloud with a silver lining. Bridging it could be the means to, for example,
create new jobs and improve transparency of government services. The digital
divide must be dealt with from the perspective of globalization with a view
to promoting the concerted development of the world telecom industry. With will,
more importantly, political will, intractable obstacles could be overcome.
Multilateral institutions have a role to play in creating a balance in access
to Internet at a reasonable price. There were calls for a concerted information
strategy, based on applications like tele-health and tele-education.
Rural areas suffered from lack of reliable, modern equipment and the problem
of isolation. ITU was asked to continue its work in technical assistance to
ensure sustainable development, while also adapting solutions to the living
conditions and fostering the conditions for connectivity to be made more widespread.
ITU should help to strengthen national regulatory bodies, but at the same time,
remove the regulatory underbrush that hampers investment inflows.
Many speakers also raised concerns and hopes about the development of Internet
content. Multiple cultures and languages require that every country take effective
measures to gradually redress the imbalance in the Internet content and making
the Internet a more accommodating space culturally.
International organizations also had a role to play in bringing about "digital
justice" or "digital equity" through strengthening regional initiatives,
enhancing cooperation between developing countries and through "government
push". International cooperation also needs to be strengthened to combat
cybercrime in all forms, in a bid to protect and preserve the security of the
network and information.
Among the various concrete proposals to combat the digital divide were proposals
to include digital broadcasting in the agenda of the Istanbul Action Plan, deploy
digital radios with computers and printers in projects intended to bridge the
digital divide; and promote the creation of local content to drive development
agendas. On a national level, community awareness, educational empowerment,
development of professional skills were other means to transform the 2Ds (digital
divide) into 3As (awareness, access and affordability). Provision of Public
Infocentres at schools, libraries and other locations were a favoured solution.
It was also suggested that industry contribute a common corpus similar to a
National Universal Service Fund.
Russia’s Minister for Communications and Informatization, Leonid Reiman, Cameroon’s
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Maximin Paul Nkoue Nkongo, FCC Commissioner,
Kevin Martin, Syria’s Minister Basheer Mohammed al-Munajed, Minister of Tunisia,
Ahmed Friaa, Vice-Minister of China, Jiang Chun Zhang, France’s Minister Christian
Pierret and a spokesperson for Egypt’s Minister of Telecommunications and Information
Technology, Ahmed Nazif, led the roster of ministerial-level speakers at the
special session. France’s Regulator Jean-Michel Hubert, Shyamal Ghosh from the
Indian Department of Communications, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s
Shehzada Alam Malik and Malaysia’s Suriah Abd Rahman also added remarks.
Jan Mutai, Secretary-General of African Telecommunication Union; José
Pileggi-Veliz, chairman of Com-Citel; Maya Shankar Verma, chairman of the Telecommunication
Regulatory Authority of India, Noah Samara, CEO of WorldSpace and Arthur Reilly,
senior director of Cisco made presentations.
The strategic approaches recommended by both ITU Member States and Sector members
at the Special Session on Bridging the Digital Divide will be submitted to a
plenary session of the Conference, which in turn would reflect the outcome in
the final report of the WTDC, including the Action Plan, the Strategic Plan
and the Istanbul Declaration.
The full text of the statements made at the Opening ceremony as well a number
of statements made at the special session on the Digital Divide can be found
ITU is a world-wide organization which brings governments and industry together
to coordinate the establishment and operation of global telecommunication networks
and services; it is responsible for standardization, coordination and development
of international telecommunications including radiocommunications, as well as
the harmonization of national policies.
To fulfil its mission, ITU adopts international regulations and treaties governing
all terrestrial and space uses of the frequency spectrum as well as the use
of all satellite orbits which serve as a framework for national legislations;
it develops standards to foster the interconnection of telecommunication systems
on a worldwide scale regardless of the type of technology used; it also fosters
the development of telecommunications in developing countries.
ITU also organizes worldwide and regional exhibitions and forums bringing together
the most influential representatives of government and the telecommunications
industry to exchange ideas, knowledge and technology for the benefit of the
global community, and in particular the developing world.