ITU Telecom World 2017: Exploring Opportunities in Smart Digital Transformation

0

An Interaction with ITU | TelecomDrive.com

The International Telecommunications Union’s authority and experience as the UN’s specialized agency for ICTs enables it to convene a unique international audience from emerging and developed markets from all around the world.

As part of ITU Telecom World 2017 – various heads of government will come together with ministers; regulators; leading industry CEOs from major players and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to discuss topics such as collaborative regulation, connected cars, smart sustainable cities, Industry 4.0, digital skills, security in the age of smart technologies and the ethics of AI.

ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao interacts with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com ahead of the upcoming ITU Telecom World 2017 to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 25 – 28 September, 2017.

What is the broad theme for this ITU Telecom World 2017?

ITU Telecom World 2017 will focus on the theme of smart digital transformation, its impact and global opportunities. There are a number of key technological trends which will fuel this transformation, and these will be explored in depth through debate, discussions and across the exhibition at our event.

Artificial intelligence, digital financial services, the Internet of Things (IoT) are some of the emerging trends that will fuel the next generation of technological advancement, but what will be the impact of smart machines on our jobs, economies and societies? How will the next set of international standards and harmonized spectrum unfold to provide global interoperability and seamless connectivity?

Questions like these will be at the heart of ITU Telecom World 2017, to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 25 – 28 September, 2017. The event will explore the power and potential of the digital transformation revolutionizing the way we live, work and do business.

Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, ITU

What are your expectations for this mega event?

ITU Telecom World 2017 features an international exhibition for digital solutions, a forum of debates for sharing knowledge, an awards programme recognising ICT innovation with social impact and a networking hub connecting nations, organizations and individuals.

ITU’s authority and experience as the UN’s specialized agency for ICTs enables it to convene a unique international audience from emerging and developed markets from all around the world. Heads of government will come together with ministers; regulators; leading industry CEOs from major players and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to discuss topics such as collaborative regulation, connected cars, smart sustainable cities, Industry 4.0, digital skills, security in the age of smart technologies and the ethics of AI.

By combining ITU’s expertise in allocating spectrum, establishing consensus and promoting connectivity with our uniquely powerful global audience in the pioneering smart city of Busan, we hope to provide expert analysis on smart digital transformation – and even some answers to the key questions shaping the ICT industry today.

What are the top priorities for ITU today?

Developing new and more advanced ICT technologies and services, bridging the digital divide and fostering the use of ICTs to accelerate the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are top priorities for ITU.

ITU is working on 5G, Big Data, cloud computing, IoT, cybersecurity, Smart Cities, artificial intelligence.
ICTs are driving substantial transformation in many development-related sectors, from health and education to financial inclusion and food security. Yet today, more than half of the world’s population is still offline, unable to benefit from the positive impact that ICTs could have on their lives.
ITU, together with its Members and partners, is committed to leaving no one offline.

Even though we are living in a fast-paced telecom world – there are 5G networks being deployed – there are many geographies that have very limited connectivity. How is ITU looking at promoting telecom adoption for such geographies?

The scale of the infrastructure that must be built to help connect the unconnected is unprecedented.

Our focus is to create a better environment for investment, with close public-private partnerships that cut across industries and sectors – in particular in those hard-to-reach areas with no Internet access. And we need to focus our efforts on SMEs – which are vital to the digital economy in terms of jobs, innovation and growth.

It’s crucial to help policymakers strengthen their digital development strategies. A recent joint survey by ITU and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) found that less than 25% of these strategies contain details on investment requirements for infrastructure – and less than 5% on investment needs beyond infrastructure, including for the development of digital industries.

In your opinion, what are some of the big challenges that you see in front of the telecom community today. How can these challenges be overcome?

Big Data, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 5G and other emerging technologies will shape our digital future. But we must ensure that they shape our future for the better – and for all.

There are several emerging challenges, ranging from growing digital inequality to gaps in transmission speeds.

Many tools and platforms created for high-resource environments are not fully designed to function with the constraints of low-resource environments. In addition, some of these technologies can prove to be too expensive or less suited where unreliable electricity, intermittent connectivity and limited expertise present everyday challenges.

The development of these technologies will benefit from globally harmonized standards that can improve interoperability across borders. ITU is well-positioned to help in this regard.
Our work on international mobile telecommunications (IMT) is setting the stage for 5G research activities emerging around the world. It is the on-going enabler of new trends in communication devices – from the connected car and intelligent transport systems to augmented reality, holography and wearable devices. IMT-2020 will be the global cornerstone for all activities related to broadband communications and the Internet of Things for the future – enriching lives in ways yet to be imagined.

There are also a range of challenges in regard to privacy and security. ITU is working hard with all our partners to build a universally available, open, secure, and trustworthy Internet. ITU is assisting several Member States assess their national cybersecurity preparedness and response capabilities.

How does ITU look at the recent developments in the telecoms space – more and more networks are embracing digital transformation, network evolution today?

There are encouraging developments as networks embrace digital transformations to better serve more customers in an agile and cost-effective way.

Our hope is that the digital transformations underway enable providers to go far beyond just connecting people to each other. We hope that the changes unleash the unprecedented power of emerging technologies to improve people’s daily lives – including their health, well-being, jobs, and access to financial services.

In your opinion how will future networks look like? How can operators move towards delivering an all-inclusive connectivity today?

ICTs now form the backbone of today’s digital economy. Connecting the next billion people is, therefore, both a challenge and tremendous opportunity.

It is estimated that 85% of the world’s population is covered by at least 3G services, but still we have less than 50% of the population connected. We are facing many challenges.
Connectivity alone won’t be enough. Digital inclusion can only be effective and meaningful if and when everyone feels empowered to use the technology – and when the technology is affordable, attractive and safe. Digital skills and literacy must be increased in order to boost demand in many parts of the world where people remain unconnected. The relevance of local content also plays a key role and could be a big opportunity in emerging and frontier markets.

Whether it is a large operator in India or a small operator in Surinam, innovation has become very important for telecoms today. How does ITU promote innovation in various geographies?

Through events such as ITU Telecom World 2017 and many other initiatives, we are committed to helping bring public and private stakeholders together to discuss how best to stimulate the right environment needed for tech SMEs to flourish. This is critical to industry disruption, market growth and job creation — in both developed and developing markets.

The next World Telecommunication Development Conference organized by ITU will start in Buenos Aires on 9 October. It is an opportunity for all stakeholders to shape the future of ICT development.

At WTDC-17, we will develop our strategies and actions over the next four years, including our goal to encourage investment and innovation in ICT infrastructure.

Promoting investment in broadband connectivity from a broad range of sectors can help achieve the full potential of ICTs and bring the world closer to the goal of an inclusive digital society accessible by all.