Global view

As head of the International Telecommunications Union, Dr Hamadoun Touré is committed to ensuring telecoms technology works for the good of people around the world.

Tags: Cyber crimeCyber warfareGlobal WarmingInternational Telecommunication UnionSwitzerland
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Global view
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By  Roger Field Published  November 3, 2009 Communications Middle East & Africa Logo

While some of the latest developments in telecoms technology were on display in the exhibition hall at the ITU Telecom World event in Geneva last month, for the organisation's secretary general, Dr Hamadoun Touré, the focus was firmly on collaboration at a more human level.

For Touré, the event, which takes place once every four years and brings together key stakeholders in the telecoms sector including government ministers, regulators and operators, is an ideal opportunity to help ensure that telecoms technology is working for the good of humanity.

To this end, this year's event was focused on how the telecoms sector can tackle challenges including cyber security, global warming, international development and the economic crisis.

And while achieving these aims may appear to be a tough challenge, Touré believes the ITU is the organisation that is best placed to achieve this goal. "The ITU is the only organisation that can bring the public sector and private sector together, and it is the tradition of this organisation," he says.

"We are older than the UN. In our 144 years of existence we have been adapting to new technologies and creating the tools and those were always created in a public private partnership.

"Our standards are in collaboration with the private sector and government and academia at the same time."

Environmental push

In terms of environmental issues including global warming, the ITU sees ICT as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Indeed, despite the size of the ICT sector, it creates just 2.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, but also offers "95% of the solution" according to Touré.

He adds that the telecoms sector has a duel role to play in combating climate change. Firstly the industry can cut its own carbon emissions, and secondly it can play a major role in helping other sectors cut their emissions.

"By using ICT you could reduce the global energy consumption by 15% and therefore it was very important to debate these issues at ITU this year," Touré says.

He adds that the ICT sector will also become more efficient as networks move towards LTE and broadcasting goes digital. "By 2015 we are supposed to go fully to digital broadcasting which will mean a 40% saving in energy consumption in hundreds of thousands of radio transmitters and TV transmitters in the world, and those are goals set by the ITU," he says.

Cyber threats

Despite the level of coverage that global warming commands, cyber security emerged as one of the most pressing issues at Telecom World.

While the ITU has long been focused on the issue, it continues to push cyber security as a major growing concern that could potentially threaten global stability.

"In terms of cyber security it is important that we put together an international framework because the criminals might not necessarily be on the crime scene.

ITU on regulation

At ITU Telecom World, Dr Hamadoun Touré said that the current financial crisis has shown the importance of the role of governments in creating a robust regulatory environment.

"The role of government is just that, putting the right regulatory framework so that the private sector in the ICT sector can evolve freely, and government will not only invest in putting the right regulatory framework but also capacity building,' Dr Touré said.

"And there I can say that there is very good progress. Around the globe we have 153 countries where there is an independent regulatory authority today, from 10 in the year 2000.

"A lot of progress has been made and if the framework is there the regulators are exchanging best practice, so they will avoid making unnecessary mistakes." "The criminal knows no borders in cyberspace and therefore only an organisation like the ITU is capable of brokering an international deal as we have done in the past," Touré says.

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