Outlook for 2013 A busy year ahead Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary‑Generale

ITU got off to a dynamic start in 2013, which promises to be just as busy and exciting as last year. Looking ahead, we will build on the extensive work done in 2012, which culminated in the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT‑12, held in Dubai from 3 to 14 December.
At WCIT‑12 we saw a new divide opening up between members. This is not a divide about issues within ITU, however, and we are therefore confident that in the true spirit of the Union we will continue to work together to bridge that divide. All members have expressed their desire to continue participating actively in ITU’s ongoing work, and we fully appreciate their confidence and support.
As reported in the December 2012 issue of ITU News, the newly revised International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) treaty coming out of WCIT‑12 contains many gains and achievements, including increased transparency in international mobile roaming charges and competition — an extremely important win for consumers.
A total of 89 Member States signed the revised ITRs in Dubai in December, and many others will accede to the treaty after they have gone through national consultations, ahead of the treaty coming into force at the beginning of January 2015.
The new treaty charts a globally agreed road map that promises to bring the digital era within reach of the 700 million people around the world who still do not have mobile phone network coverage and the 4.5 billion people not yet online.
That is what WCIT‑12 was really all about: creating the right environment for telecommunication infrastructure investment and roll-out — because connecting the unconnected is at the heart of what ITU does. Thanks to WCIT‑12, a healthy digital ecosystem — where everyone on the planet can participate — is now within our grasp, and all stakeholders, including governments and businesses, must do their utmost to ensure that we deliver on this promise.
As an institution, ITU has successfully been an influential but neutral global convener throughout its history, and we are firm believers that only open, transparent and inclusive processes will lead the way to successful policy-making. That is why we continue to act as a bridge builder, promoting a multi-stakeholder approach to dealing with telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICT).
In this regard, I am very much looking forward to the fifth World Telecommunication/Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum (WTPF‑13), which we are honoured to organize in Geneva from 14 to 16 May, providing a global platform for our members to examine international Internet-related public policy matters. The Forum will enable all stakeholders to contribute their unique perspective to the discussions and help the global community chart a common course forward. Just before WTPF‑13, ITU will host a high-level Strategic Dialogue on 13 May to discuss the importance of investment in infrastructure and the changing nature of ICT regulation. The focus will be on broadband — the critical infrastructure essential for national competitiveness in today’s global economy.
In another example of open consultation, ITU, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will welcome all WSIS stakeholders to the WSIS Forum 2013, which is being held in Geneva from 13 to 17 May.
Meanwhile, we have started implementing the Union’s operational plans for 2013–2016, which encompass the diverse priorities of its membership. For example, the operational plan for the Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R) reflects the Radiocommunication Bureau’s intensified cooperation and assistance to the membership, particularly in the areas of spectrum management, transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, and effective and efficient use of the digital dividend.
In addition to the traditionally strong areas of the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T), such as optical transport, quality of service, numbering and addressing, economic and policy questions, and security, ITU–T’s portfolio is being augmented by new areas such as cloud computing, smart grids, home networks, intelligent transport systems, the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications, ICT and climate change, and telepresence technology.
In the Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D), the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) is responding to the expectations and priorities expressed by the ITU–D membership regarding the Sector’s transparent, efficient, accountable and results-based management. The operational plan for ITU–D thus encompasses all relevant information on resource requirements, expected results and key performance indicators.
This year will see ITU organize six regional preparatory meetings to prepare for the sixth World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC‑14), which will take place in 2014 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The first regional preparatory meeting took place in February in Chisinau, Moldova, for the Commonwealth of Independent States, with other meetings scheduled to follow for Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Africa, the Arab States and Europe.
ITU will also organize the 13th Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR), in Warsaw, Poland, from 3 to 5 July, under the theme “4th Generation regulation: driving digital communications ahead”. GSR remains a unique venue for regulators and policy-makers from both developed and developing countries to meet and exchange views and experiences. The General Secretariat’s operational plan specifies the way forward for achieving effectiveness and efficiency in the planning, management, coordination and delivery of services to support ITU’s entire membership, ensuring the implementation of the financial and strategic plans of the Union, and coordinating inter-sectoral activities.
All of these operational plans were approved by the ITU Council session last year, which this year will run from 11 to 21 June and will focus on the budget for 2014–2015 and on preparations for the Plenipotentiary Conference, to be held in 2014, in Busan, in the Republic of Korea. In September, ITU will be organizing the Global Youth Summit, to be hosted in Costa Rica under the patronage of President Laura Chinchilla, the Patron of ITU’s Child Online Protection initiative. The summit will bring together young people to create solutions for social good, enabled through widespread access to ICT.
Wrapping up the year in our calendar of global events is ITU Telecom World 2013, which will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 18 to 21 November. The event will take place under the central theme of embracing change in a digital world. I invite all our members to join us in 2013 “to continue the conversation that matters”.
With ever-increasing connectivity, and with data in the cloud, on search engines, on social networking sites and transmitted through online commerce, I believe that “big data” will be one of the next drivers of social and economic progress. We can use the power and scale of the cloud to bring virtually unlimited processing power and data storage capacity to everyone — wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. But we do also need to consider data protection and privacy — subjects that are dealt with in this issue of ITU News.