Are networks ready for today’s demand? Here’s how regulators will rethink ICT policy in 2022

Malcolm Johnson, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

Over the last two years, the world’s telecom regulators, network operators and platform providers have responded decisively and effectively to the huge increase in demand created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When examining how they have helped maintain network readiness, a good starting point is the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Global Network Resiliency Platform, also known as REG4COVID — where policymakers and other stakeholders can find comprehensive information about what has worked, what has not, and how to prepare for the future.

Meeting standardization demand

As countries consider their post-COVID recovery options, information and communication technology (ICT) standards will be vital to create a more sustainable, more prosperous future. Internationally agreed standards help to deploy new technologies efficiently and at scale, with openness and interoperability, for the benefit of all.

The ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) is scheduled from 1 to 9 March in ITU’s headquarters city, Geneva, Switzerland.

It will be preceded by the ITU Global Standards Symposium (GSS), with the option of online remote participation available for both events.

WTSA reviews the overall direction of the ITU Standardization Sector (ITU-T), ensuring we continue to meet emerging standardization needs, and approves the mandate and leadership of specialized ITU-T Study Groups.

As digital transformation accelerates across all industries and sectors, the Conference will facilitate global participation and input into key ITU standards.

Standards can support environmental sustainability, smart cities and communities, road safety, technologies for healthy ageing, and digital financial inclusion.

The GSS discussions will enable ICT stakeholders from around the world to discuss their expectations for international standardization that supports digital transformation and the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Digital development in focus

The pandemic has been a major setback for sustainable development. ITU’s next World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), scheduled for June 2022, offers an opportunity to re-energize the global development agenda and accelerate progress on the SDGs.

WTDC comes on the heels of the World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF-21), organized virtually by ITU in December 2021, where over 400 top global representatives from the public and private sectors affirmed the need to align emerging tech and ICTs with global priorities for sustainable development.

The ability to connect remains profoundly unequal: of the 2.9 billion people still offline, some 96 per cent live in developing countries, ITU data show. Globally, people in urban areas are twice as likely to use the Internet as those in rural areas.

WTDC seeks to forge a bold new development agenda, putting digital technologies at the heart of every nation’s future growth and prosperity.

For the first time, the increasingly vital voice of youth will be heard through the Generation Connect Global Youth Summit ahead of the main conference.

WTDC will also feature a brand-new partnership stream, called Partner2Connect, bringing in new stakeholders and constituencies and facilitating more active participation from the private sector, academia, and civil society.

Collaboration, coordination and cooperation

2022 promises to be a big year for ITU. Along with WTSA and WTDC, we are gearing up for the next edition of our four-yearly Plenipotentiary Conference, or “PP”, which serves as ITU’s highest policy-making body.

PP-22 is set to take place in Bucharest, Romania, between 26 September and 14 October.

As a backdrop, the pandemic that has highlighted the vital role of ICTs in all aspects of economic and social life, confirming digital transformation as key to meet all SDGs.

Yet as more and more nations and organizations place more importance on ICTs to meet the SDGs and tackle the world’s most pressing challenges, we must avoid duplication of effort and safeguard ITU’s core remit as the UN specialized agency for ICTs.

PP-22 will adopt strategic and financial plans setting out ITU’s four-year priorities. Also topping the agenda is the election of the ITU Council and top management for the next four years.

These decision-making conferences are part of what makes 2022 such a big year for tech and regulators everywhere. Collaboration, coordination, and cooperation between the public and private sectors will be more important than ever, whether at the national, regional or global level.

Based on Mr. Johnson’s remarks during a panel discussion at the Pacific Telecommunications Council annual meeting(PTC’22). The panel was moderated by Tricia Paoletta, Partner at Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. Mr. Johnson was joined by Robert Pepper, Head of Global Connectivity Policy and Planning at Meta, USA; Gisa Fuatai Purcell, CEO/Regulator, Government of Samoa; and Tomoo Yamauchi, Deputy Director-General for ICT R&D and Cybersecurity Policy, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan.

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