Emerging Trends | Policy/ Regulatory Reform | Regulation
May 15, 2013

Building bridges to access the future

By Paul Conneally

The World Telecommunication Policy Forum #WTPF is now well underway and delegates are already making great progress in endorsing the draft Opinions. At the time of writing Opinions three and four are already approved, well ahead of the allotted time, and proceedings are being conducted in what was described by one avid #WTPF twitter follower @CarolineGreer “a spirit of consensus and compromise”.

Perhaps taking a cue from the visual design around the World Telecommunication Policy Forum, the motif of building bridges and moving forward together was a constant and consistent message as delegations provided their opening statements and preliminary comments to the Secretary General’s report. The report is compiled with the support of the Informal Experts Group – made up of ITU members and non-members alike across all sectors including civil society – and is the main input document to the conference.

During the opening statements the UK delegate expected “discussions this week relating to fostering an enabling environment for greater broadband connectivity, to underscore the ITU’s pivotal role, firstly, in developing the infrastructure that will ensure the benefits of the global information economy are fully realized by all states; and secondly in fostering competitive, well-regulated telecommunications markets.”

India stated that “supports participation of all stakeholders in the global internet governance” noting that “factors of governance such as standardization, high level policy formulation and management of critical resources, require various levels of expertise and therefore, stakeholders need to play specific roles in accordance to their expertise, ability and mandates.”

Canada’s view was that “the Report of the Secretary-General, as well as the positive outcome of the Strategic Dialogue, will provide all participants with greater understanding and appreciation of the issues associated with the theme of this year’s Policy Forum [International Internet-related public policy matters].”

Several delegations recalled the recent deliberations at the treaty-making World Conference on International Telecommunication held last December in Dubai and felt that the time is now ripe to take stock and work together to achieve real digital inclusion and greater access to the internet.

Singapore noted that in the discussions on Internet-related policies in the run-up to, during and after WCIT-12 “there were concerns about the inclusion of Resolution 3, which seeks to foster an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet”. The delegate continued to say that “In Singapore’s assessment, the reference to the Internet was practical and relevant in the present operating environment. Indeed, the Internet infrastructure today is crucial to telecommunications, whether national or international. It is a critical development in reshaping the traditional modes of international telecommunications and the services that are delivered. It would thus be unrealistic to totally exclude mention of the Internet from discussions at a technical platform such as WCIT-12. In our opinion, this Resolution does not purport a move away from the multistakeholder model. We believe it serves to encourage all stakeholders to continue.”

Reinforcing the post-WCIT spirit of collaboration the European Commission delegation stated that it “believes that the better resourced countries should offer some sort of technical assistance vehicle to countries with fewer resources, a mechanism to digest information and make it [outcomes of WTPF] useable. The European Commission is willing to play a very active role in achieving this objective” – and the ITU will of course stand ready to work with all its partners and stakeholders to accelerate progress in “accessing the future”.

In its deliberations to plenary the US delegation echoed what many had noted, and commended the fact that “the Opinions attached to the Secretary General’s report were prepared with input from a broad range of stakeholders because the IEG was open to all those who wished to participate”. The US delegation went on to say that it fully endorsed the work of the IEG “and the carefully crafted opinions before us” and in doing so “believe that all participants will leave this forum enriched by the discussions and better equipped to achieve our shared goal of an Internet that flourishes and provides the economic growth and social welfare we all deserve”.

All statements to the Opening Plenary of the WTPF-13 are available online. In addition you can view videos from the forum on the ITU’s YouTube channel where this is a specific WTPF Playlist. On Twitter please join the conversation on the #WTPF hashtag and a selection of social media content is being curated on the ITU Storify page.

By Paul Conneally

@conneally is Head of Communications and Partnership Promotion Division at the ITU.

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