Broadband access, digital broadcasting aim to stimulate economic growth and development
Minsk, Belarus, 27 November 2009 — The ITU Connect CIS Summit wrapped up today with a declaration by Heads of State and Government of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) calling for an inclusive and development-oriented Information Society and recognizing "the important contribution of ICTs in stimulating economic growth, employment and broader sustainable development in the region." The leaders also recognized the "essential role of governments in devising national e-strategies and establishing an enabling policy and regulatory framework to foster ICT investment". They reached out to other partners to "achieve the vision and goals of the World Summit on the Information Society in the CIS region."
The two-day Summit brought together some 350 participants, including five Heads of State and Government from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, as well as seven Ministers and other leaders from the CIS Territories and neighbouring countries, the telecommunication/ICT industry, financial institutions, and international and regional organizations. The Summit was hosted by the President of the Republic of Belarus Mr Alexander Lukashenko.
In his message to the Summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "Unequal access to ICT impedes productivity and innovation." Asserting that this directly affects efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he added, "We want to enhance digital opportunities for all, and find new ways for these remarkable technologies to advance economic and social development."
As the specialized UN agency for information communication technologies (ICT), this landmark event was organized as part of ITU’s Connect the World series, an ambitious multi-stakeholder effort aimed at connecting the unconnected by the year 2015. The overall objective of the Connect CIS is to mobilize the human, financial and technical resources required to support a rapid, region-wide transition to digital infrastructure and services, widely recognized as the engine of future employment, economic growth and social and economic development.
In his opening speech, ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré noted, "It is now time to turn words into action, and that is why we are here together. This can only happen through a renewed commitment to partnership — in particular partnerships between the public and private sectors. It can only happen if policy and regulatory frameworks are conducive to doing business profitably. And it can only happen with the political will on the part of governments to make ICTs a key priority in their development agendas."
Mr Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, focused his remarks on the increasingly important role of broadband Internet access for the overall economy. He said, "Broadband is no longer a luxury. It has become the core infrastructure of the modern economy, which is needed to support advanced applications and services for governments, businesses and consumers. If we take the right steps together now, broadband networks will serve as a platform in the coming years for innovation, growth and development across the CIS region."
Mr Al Basheer also highlighted a number of "ITU Flagship Initiatives" to connect the unconnected, which are designed to leverage the unique contributions of various global and regional partners, including governments, the telecommunication/ICT industry, development banks and international and regional organizations.
The Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau Valery Timofeev focused on the transition to digital broadcasting in the CIS territories. "Moving from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting will revolutionize communication in the CIS region and set the stage for a rich digital dividend," Timofeev said. "Digital broadcasting media enables high quality delivery of different multimedia applications such as films, books and data while using less radio-frequency spectrum." He added that in countries where "on-air broadcasting is the main distribution media for delivery of television and sound programmes, it is very important to provide a smooth switchover to digital broadcasting."
Among other initiatives, the President of Kyrgyzstan Kurmanbek Bakiev, along with CIS leaders attending the Summit, focused on implementing the Transnational Eurasian Information Super Highway project.
Earlier in the week, ITU released a report: "Information Society Statistical Profiles 2009: Commonwealth of Independent States", which showed a striking difference in the CIS region between the uptake of mobile telephony and other ICT services. In the region as a whole, the number of cellular mobile subscriptions has surpassed the number of inhabitants, reaching 113 per cent at the end of 2008 and placing the region second globally after Europe. However, when it comes to Internet use and fixed and mobile broadband access, the region lags behind others. In particular, fixed and mobile broadband penetration stands at only 4.6 and 0.9 per cent respectively, which is below the world average of 6.0 per cent. A major challenge for the CIS territories is to bring the benefits of broadband Internet to a larger part of its population.
The Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus, Mr Victor Burya, representing the host country of the Connect CIS Summit, said, "Information and communication technologies are one of the most important factors in the economic and social development of the state. Using the latest technology facilitates the growing information needs of the population, business and government. It eliminates disparities in access to services and information for urban and rural residents and creates conditions for improving the quality of life of citizens and for the free development of society."
The Connect CIS Summit was organized by ITU in partnership with The Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications, The Commonwealth of Independent States Executive Committee, The World Bank, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, The European Investment Bank, The Islamic Development Bank, The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and The United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development.
As a key partner at the Summit, Mr Igor Shchegolev, Minister of Telecommunication and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation and Chairman of the Board of the Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC) said, “Our society has the huge task of building a common information society, without which it would be impossible to increase productivity and generate economic growth.” Noting that the creation of an information society would significantly increase the indicators for a better quality of life, Mr Shchegolev added, “These goals will be achieved collectively if public access to information services is provided in all CIS countries.”
The Connect CIS Summit was preceded 23-24 November 2009 by the CIS Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC). The next WTDC, which will take place in Hyderabad, India from 24 May to 4 June 2010, will set priorities, programmes and initiatives for the coming four year cycle. Proposals from the CIS RPM for consideration by the WTDC global conference included the development of broadband access and the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting with a focus on combating climate change through the use of alternative sources of energy in telecommunication infrastructure.
Note: Countries participating from the region include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.http://www.itu.int/newsroom/press_releases/2009/54.html