“In a world where digital increasingly lies at the heart of all we do, collaborative cross sector regulation is the best and quickest way to leverage digital transformation and deliver meaningful connectivity and inclusive digital markets,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, as she welcomed participants of the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR-2020) Regional Regulatory Roundtable Discussion for Europe and CIS: The Regulatory Wheel of Change, which was held remotely on 7 July.
With a diverse group of representatives from regulatory organizations, including BEREC, EaPeReg, EMERG and the National Regulatory Authorities from Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the webinar explored the role of regulators in safeguarding an environment for the development of resilient and secure digital connectivity for all.
Based on the challenges and experiences of collaborative regulation, radiofrequency spectrum management, as well as digital safety and inclusiveness, the webinar provided a unique opportunity for presenting the consultation process leading towards the elaboration of the GSR Best Practice Guidelines.
As the GSR-20 Chair, Mr. Dan Sjöblom, Director General of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) and Chair of BEREC, set up the context for discussion among participants by reminding the audience of the vital role of GSR Best Practice Guidelines in helping regulators accelerate inclusive growth of ICT in the region. He also noted that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic offers regulators with a learning opportunity and a call for action toward increased collaboration between regulatory bodies and all stakeholders both nationally, and around the world.
Divided into two major sessions that addressed current trends and national regulatory approaches in fostering post-COVID-19 digital transformation, the webinar benefitted from interventions and expertise from regulators from countries in the region.
Sharing views, shaping policy
“Sharing views, ideas, and experiences of regulatory authorities is important, since it allows participants to consider not only the existing connectivity challenges in the region but also learn from the best policy approaches capable of enabling the digital economy to grow sustainable and meet social goals,” said Ms. Sofie Maddens, Head of Regulatory and Market Environment, ITU.
Some key regional trends highlighted by participants included changes in mobile data packages by telecom operators, adaptation in streaming services for maximizing data trafficking, information on network performance, expansion of broadband access, updates to 5G deployment timelines, information sharing between agencies and countries, as well as the contentious trade off between protecting end-users and allowing innovation to happen.
How COVID-19 is spurring new approaches
After discussing the key trends in the regions, participants also had the opportunity to share specific national regulatory approaches to post COVID-19 digital transformation, thus exploring challenges and opportunities for what lies ahead in terms of ICT regulation. A common thread from the roundtable discussions was the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic became indeed an accelerator of new initiatives and projects to address the new kids of shifts in societal values that COVID-19 has caused.
As a result, these shifts shape the kinds of demands for ICT services that are currently offered and regulated, challenging operators to accelerate their activities, supply chains, coverage, and cycles of innovation. Extension of payment deadlines as well as the expansion of data collection on network load and capacity are a few examples of such initiatives.
Both sessions also addressed a variety of trends that reflected the relevance of coordinating strategies with telecom providers amid emergencies such as a global pandemic. Moreover, they also shed light on the fact that telecommunications is a cornerstone of a much broader digital ecosystem that includes not only providers and regulators, but also end-users who help shape the industry going forward. Among other things, this scenario provides opportunities to explore new ways of fostering more effective collaboration across sectors, as well as promote cooperation across borders.
All in all, the expected output of this GSR’s Regional Roundtable Discussion, coupled with the engaging participation of Regional Organizations and National Regulatory Authorities, exemplifies the growing importance of uniting forces and synergies. Such collaboration will help “new regulatory approaches to get the support from the policymakers to accelerate inclusive growth of ICTs contributing to the socio-economic development,” said Mr. Sjöblom.
Related: Economic contribution of broadband, digitization and ICT regulation: Econometric modelling for the ITU Europe region and Economic contribution of broadband, digitization and ICT regulation: Econometric modelling for the ITU Commonwealth of Independent States region
ITU Regional Initiatives for Europe and CIS regions offer an excellent opportunity for building upon the outcomes of GSR-2020, including Best Practice Guidelines, while providing expert and technical assistance, adapting countries’ regulatory environment to foster the development of gigabit society, resistant to natural hazards, including pandemics, such as COVID-19.
More information on the roundtable, including the outcome report, is available here.
See also the GSR-2020 Discussion Paper on Pandemic in the Internet Age: Communications Industry Responses here.
Photo by ah.life via Unsplash.