ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference drives use of ICTs to achieve Development Goals

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​Delegates participating in the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2017 (WTDC-17), which took place in Buenos Aires from 9 to 20 October, have adopted a forward-looking agenda designed to leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs) towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and to chart the course for the next four years of the International Telecommunication Union’s Development Sector (ITU-D).  

More than 1,360 participants, including more than 1,010 government delegates representing more than 130 countries, convened in Buenos Aires to specifically review and endorse actions under the WTDC-17 theme “ICT for Sustainable Develop Goals (ICT4SDG)”. This represented a unique opportunity to realize a “common understanding” on the forward-looking role of ICTs toward achievement of the SDGs, and in so doing, improving livelihoods around the world.

Oscar M. Gonzalez, Under-Secretary for ICT Regulation, Ministry of Modernization, Argentina, was elected and served as Chairman of the Conference.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message to WTDC-17 that “ICT is a powerful tool to help us achieve each and every single Sustainable Development Goal.”

“The decisions taken at WTDC-17 reaffirm our commitment that ICTs have an important and distinct role to play in the attainment of sustainable development thereby improving the lives of millions of people around the world,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General. “I am confident that infrastructure will be strengthened, investment will be increased, innovation will be developed, and inclusion will be fostered – and that this better ICT will bring a better life to all without leaving anyone behind.”

In his closing remarks, Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Development Bureau, said that the end of WTDC-17 “marks a new beginning”. “A new journey is about to start and it will pave the way to new opportunities to achieve socio-economic development,” he added. Sanou highlighted that the discussions held at WTDC-17 represented an opportunity “to reshape the future of the ICT Sector and reposition the sector in the new ecosystem.” He also said that “the Buenos Aires Declaration we adopted at this WTDC is our vision for the future. It sends a strong message from the ICT community to the world about our contribution to the attainment of the SDGs.”

The two-week meeting programme included a high-level plenary segment in which ministers and deputy ministers shared their views on emerging trends and on matters of strategic importance to the development of the ICT sector. Knowledge and experience were shared among participants at a series of side events on timely issues including cybersecurity, gender, digital skills for youth employment, emergency response telecommunications, digital finance and e-health. Rich strategic discussions were also held at the national, regional and international levels, with many views and experiences shared.

The Buenos Aires Declaration states that “universally accessible, secure and affordable telecommunications/ICTs are a fundamental contribution towards the achievement of the WSIS Action Lines and of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the development of the global information society and the digital economy.”

The Buenos Aires Action Plan provides a simple, comprehensive and functional instrument for the achievement of the strategic objectives of ITU‑D. The Buenos Aires Action Plan, specifically its programmes, regional initiatives and Study Group Questions will further contribute to the implementation of ITU resolutions and recommendations relevant to the mandate of ITU-D, including the ITU Connect 2020 Agenda, the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) action lines and Sustainable Development Goals and Targets.

Regional initiatives outlined in the Buenos Aires Action Plan are intended to address specific telecommunication/ICT priority areas, through partnerships and resource mobilization to implement projects. Under each regional initiative, projects will be developed and implemented to meet the region’s needs.

The working methods of the Sector were further improved, the strategic guidelines were developed, resolutions were adopted, and the management teams of the various organs were elected.

As outlined in the Buenos Aires Action Plan, ITU-D study groups are responsible for developing reports, guidelines and recommendations based on input received from the membership for review by their members. Information is gathered through surveys, contributions and case studies, and is made available for easy access by the membership using content-management and web-publication tools. The study groups will examine specific task-oriented telecommunication/ICT questions of priority to ITU-D membership to support them in achieving their development goals.

WTDC-17 also commemorated the 25th Anniversary of ITU’s Development Sector. The milestone was marked by two Ministerial Roundtables focused on the impact of ICTs for SDGs and the future of the digital economy. This was followed by a Gala Dinner honouring all of the Telecommunication Development Bureau’s Directors and recognizing the contribution made by ITU-D long-standing Members.  The ITU-D 25th Anniversary celebrations were graciously supported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Platinum sponsor), Communications Regulatory Authority of the State of Qatar (Gold sponsor), Burkina Faso (Silver sponsor), Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (Silver sponsor) and Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan (Silver sponsor); along with discretionary sponsors: Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Zimbabwe, State of Kuwait, Ministry of Post, Telecommunications, Technologies and Digitalization of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Republic of Azerbaijan, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, EMEA Satellite Operators Association and Sudatel Telecom Group.

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