Digital Finance | Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG
November 17, 2016

ITU Telecom World Leadership Summit focuses on collaboration in digital economy

By Brahima Sanou

Key questions around building collaboration in the growing digital economy were explored at the Leadership Summit at ITU Telecom World 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Panelists at the Summit included Ministers from the Kingdom of Thailand and Cote d’Ivoire, regulators such as ANACOM (Portugal) and TRAI (India), and heads of international organizations, including United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Major international and regional entities including World Economic Forum, The Internet Society, World Wide Web Foundation and Telecommunications Association of Thailand also took part, alongside key industry names such as Huawei and Mastercard. The Summit featured two discussion sessions: ‘Why working together is critical for growth’ and ‘Pathways to success’.

Common themes arising from the Summit included:

What type of collaboration?

Collaboration and inclusiveness means breaking down the silos of industry and government and establishing common goals on sustainability. For Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, public-private partnerships, including partnerships with small enterprises and tech entrepreneurs, can be used as a learning experience, “transforming trust into synergy.”

As ICTs underpin the foundations of more and more industry sectors, the nature of collaboration also needs to shift. “The spread of ICT is so wide” explained Bruno Nabagné Koné, Minister for the Digital Economy and the Post of Cote d’Ivoire, in the Summit’s ‘Pathways to Success’ session, “that it is no longer a vertical sector but one with a horizontal impact.”

Reaching the digitally disenfranchised

Despite the huge potential offered by technology, there is a rising digital inequality between the haves and have nots – or the digitally empowered and the digitally disenfranchised – and one particular point noted by World Wide Web Foundation CEO, Anne Jellema, as well as other panelists at both sessions, is that the digital revolution needs to be increasingly geared towards empowering people and communities.

Extending connectivity – and the tremendous potential for social, economic and human development it brings – is critical.

“The digital divide is still very much with us, a divide of geography and gender, of education and resources. It is critical that we continue to work to close that digital divide,” urged ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, speaking at the ‘Collaboration for Growth’ session.

Summarizing the challenges involved in tackling digital exclusion, Prajin Juntong, Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Government of the Kingdom of Thailand, stressed four key pillars of activity, which occurred throughout the discussion: digital economy, connectivity, cybersecurity and capacity building.

Future challenges and opportunities

Cybersecurity is a common concern globally, and must be approached collaboratively, looking at multiple layers, from network transport to software and services, at government, national, regional and international levels. “We cannot do it alone,” said Kathryn Brown of The Internet Society, “we need collaborative security, not just connection, but safe connection”.

New regulatory approaches must do more to enable open standards, software and systems to break down silos, encourage multiple technologies and ensure growth. For Fatima Barros, Chair of ANACOM’s Board of Directors, it is a balancing act: “The big challenge to achieving connectivity is keeping the goal of building the single market whilst sustaining competition.”

Looking to the future, as we move beyond mere connectivity, traditional concerns of security and privacy have now also evolved into more complex concerns, according to Fadi Chehadé, Senior Adviser to Executive Chairman, Digital Governance, World Economic Forum, including human dignity and the data integrity. “Is anyone thinking of the dignity on a human level as technology takes over?” he asked.

Nevertheless, this future of extensive convergence offers many opportunities. Mobile broadband, for example, offers “tremendous opportunities for all vertical industries,” according to Joy Tan, President, Corporate Communications, Huawei, as connections increase not just among people but also things. Industry and regulatory convergence has created a raft of opportunities for extending the reach of digital financial services, said Ari Sarker, Co-President, Asia Pacific, MasterCard, forging new collaborations in contrast to the recent past when “one side didn’t need the other.”

Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, summarized in conclusion: “ICTs should work for people, we need to put people back at the centre of our activities.”

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ITU Telecom World Leadership Summit focuses on collaboration in digital economy

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