Twenty years ago, I helped set up the first Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR), held in Geneva.
When we opened our doors to 200+ experts from 85 countries, there were just 96 telecoms regulatory agencies worldwide.
Now, there’s almost no economy that does not have its own information and communication technology (ICT) regulator, managing vital issues like spectrum allocation, operator licensing, and national network development.
For two decades, the GSR has played a central role in helping regulators get to grips with the burning issues that keep them awake at night – issues such as evolving digital taxation frameworks, infrastructure sharing strategies, consumer trust issues, the blurring of demarcation lines between content development and network operation, network investment issues, and digital inclusion.
I’m pleased to say that GSR is stronger than ever.
It has become the pre-eminent global meeting where regulators and policy makers discuss solutions to the many challenges arising from the rapid convergence of ICT services and interact with the private sector in their discussions.
And now, as the world struggles to manage the unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic, the role of collaborative ICT regulation is more important than ever.
This year, in light of the many travel restrictions surrounding COVID-19, we will hold the main sessions of GSR as a global virtual meeting on 1-3 September.
I am pleased to announce that GSR-20 will be chaired by Mr Dan Sjöblom, Director-General of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) and the Chair of Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). I wish to express my gratitude to Mr Sjöblom for agreeing to undertake this important task.
We must seize this historic opportunity to come together to use new regulatory approaches to accelerate the inclusive growth of ICTs.
As always, GSR-20 will feature a full lineup of ICT regulators and policymakers ready to share lessons learned and best practices for new frameworks that could be applied by governments and independent regulators around the world.
But this is no ordinary year. This year, there will be much more.
It all starts on 30 June when we kick off the celebrations of the 20th edition of GSR, including the launch of Digital Regulation Handbook and Platform and a GSR leadership debate on how to build back better after COVID-19.
Then from 5 July to 15 August, we will roll out a series of thematic Regulatory Roundtable Discussions designed to highlight useful examples of regulatory solutions to bolster critical ICT services and connectivity in this time of crisis.
These upcoming discussions will build on the valuable global contributions submitted to the new Global Network Resiliency Platform (#REG4COVID), which ITU worked fast to build to help share best practices during the pandemic.
All are invited to make use of this resource – and to participate in the REG4COVID Discussion Forum, a password-protected site for Telecommunication/ICT Policy Makers, National Regulatory Authorities, Associations, Network Operators and Service Providers, as well as other ICT Stakeholders to share and exchange information, views, experiences and questions on policy and regulatory initiatives applied to ensure communities remain connected during the COVID-19 outbreak.
This Forum also provides support to those who are looking to define appropriate regulatory solutions with relevant and trustworthy information and expertise.
GSR-20 will show our ability to evolve and respond effectively as a global ICT regulatory community, based on our defining principle of consensus.
This drive for consensus is what has always underpinned the GSR Best Practice Guidelines, which have become the final output of every annual GSR event. These Guidelines, coordinated this year by Mr Sjöblom, will build on the collective wisdom of the previous editions spanning over two decades to shed light on the way through the digital transformation and help regulators and policy-makers navigate uncharted territory ahead of us in the aftermath of unprecedented disruption.
Now that ICTs underpin our digital economy, the broadening ICT landscape is increasingly becoming intertwined with that of other industries, from transportation to banking to health – and others. We are seeing this shift play out at ITU, where new, innovative players are joining top names in the business as ITU members.
It is clear, then, that our actions need to go beyond the ICT sector to take into account the digital ecosystem and to define how to foster digital transformation for people, countries and regions.
ICT policy and regulatory frameworks need to be up-to-date, flexible, incentive-based and market-driven to support digital transformation across sectors and across geographical regions.
The GSR has reflected this converging industry landscape in recent years by bringing a wider range of stakeholders to the table to join the critical movement toward ‘fifth generation’ collaborative regulation where all of the relevant players are shaping these key decisions together – from the beginning.
Fifth generation collaborative ICT regulatory measures and tools are the new frontier for regulators and policy makers as they work towards maximizing the opportunity afforded by the digital transformation. Employing these measures and tools will help ensure that more people in more countries worldwide can reap greater benefits from the digital economy. This work to harness the power of ICTs can improve people’s lives at a pace and scale not seen before – if we come together to solve the challenges.
I look forward to a range of spirited discussions during GSR that will help galvanize our efforts to provide better, more secure, more resilient ICT networks and services.
COVID-19 has brought our community together as never before. We must seize this historic opportunity to come together to use new regulatory approaches to accelerate the inclusive growth of ICTs.