iBurst Association Secretary-General & CEO, Eddy KhiamJin Lee, reports from Bangkok, September 2008, ITU Telecom Asia 2008
The annual ITU Telecom conference and exhibition is held in a different region each year. This year’s theme addressed the demands of the ‘New Generation’.
With over two billion telephones, including 1.4 billion mobile subscribers, and 42 per cent of the world’s Internet users, Asia is, according the the ITU, the world’s largest broadband market with a 39 per cent share of the world’s total at the end of 2007.
“This high penetration is closely linked to creativity. Hundreds of millions of people are experimenting with new usages and new innovations – new behaviours and needs are created continuously and, with a significant demographic shift, over the next 10 years the vast majority of new ICT users in this region will be under the age of 18.” [ Welcome message of HE Dr Hamadoun Toure, ITU Secretary-General ]
The ITU Secretary General’s welcome message set the scene for an impressive turn-out of ICT policy makers, industry leaders, service providers, government officials from 40 countries across the Asia Pacific region.
HE Mun Patanotai, Minister of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Thailand, opened the event by highlighting how ITU Telecom Asia 2008 provided a significant networking platform for sharing ideas from all sectors of the telecommunications and information industries – regulatory, policy, economic and development issues, to meet these challenges of strong growth in ICT in Asia Pacific region – and around 12,000 participants including 150 VIP’s and 200 journalists made this a very busy event despite last minute concerns that recent political uncertainties in Thailand might deter some visitors.
The Impact Challenger, an ultra-modern exhibition and conference centre on the outskirts of Bangkok, was packed with delegates - many standing throughout the Joint Forum Opening on 2nd September.
The name of the centre, ‘Impact’, seemed entirely appropriate as speakers focused on how ICT is changing our lives. Distinguished speaker, Mr Wang JianZhou, Chief Executive, China Mobile Communications Corporation, revealed his personal experience of visiting one of the most remote villages in China. He discovered first hand the transforming power of mobile phones by speaking to the villagers. When the village was totally disconnected with the outside world, the farmers were helplessly dependent on the agent for the crop’s pricing; now with direct communication and the elimination of crop price manipulation their well-being was significantly improved.
In his keynote address during the Joint Forum Opening, HE Dr Hamadoun Toure, Secretary-General of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), focused on the issues of climate change.
He pointed out that the ICT sector contributes approximately 2.5 % of annual greenhouse gases - mainly from the proliferation of devices which rely on power and radiate heat. Nonetheless, the appropriate application of ICT is instrumental to combating climate change and improving energy efficiency. NGN technologies, for example, have an advantage in power saving when a single network based on the Internet Protocol is capable to carry many services simultaneously. According to Mr Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU Standardization Bureau (ITU-T), the application of ICT is able to contribute to greenhouse gas reductions in a range from 15 to 40%.
ITU has set an example by putting its house in order through paperless meetings, video conferencing, webcasting of meetings, remote teleworking and even a carbon audit !
Emergency Communications and Disaster Relief
The ITU Telecom Asia would have been incomplete without in-depth discussion of ICT’s vital role in emergency communications and disaster relief, especially when the Asia-Pacific region is the most disaster-prone region of the world.
The “ Policy Framework on Space Information Products and Services for Disaster Management” prepared by United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia & the Pacific ( UNESCAP) in 2004 had clearly stated that the country’s sustainable development cannot be achieved without integration of disaster risk reduction into development policies, planning and implementation.
Emergency telecommunications and other wireless communication channels are always needed to assist disaster relief agencies in managing public safety, to mitigate disaster risk and to recover general public information swiftly.
During the “Forum of Emergency Telecommunications and Relief ” on 4 Sep 2008, Dr Xuan Zengpei, Director of the Information & Communication Technology & Disaster Risk Reduction Division, UNESCAP, elaborated the importance of effective delivery of interim products and services for specific disaster management and necessary of national preparation.
Dr Xuan also emphasized that an institutionalized cooperative mechanism is crucial as disaster risk reduction is information–intensive and knowledge-based. Hence ICT is able to play an effective role in risk assessment, preparedness, mitigation and response planning, early warning and monitoring, rapid identification of affected areas, and estimation of damages, relief and re-habitation. [Policy Framework on Space Information Products and Services for Disaster Management, UNESCAP, 2004]
Mr Shoichi Sugiura, the Secretary-General of eXtended Global Platform (XGP Project : www.xgpforum.com) from Japan impressed me with details of this project.
XGP is one of the high-speed big-capacity wireless telecommunication systems standardized by PHS MoU Group in September 2006. It is one of the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) technologies recommended in ITU-R. XGP adopts OFDMA/TDMA/ TDD as access method. XGP has 2 predominant differences from other BWA systems, namely : a) wireless network is constructed on micro cell base, and b) Autonomous Decentralized Control realized by Dynamic Channel Allocation (DCA).
The Connected World
Amongst the many useful contacts I made during this visit perhaps the most charismatic was Mr NK Goyal, President of Communications & Manufacturing Association of India (CMAI) and Chairman Emeritus, Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India (TEMA).
Mr Goyal spoke in both the ITU Telecom Forum as well as the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) Operators Forum. He shared with delegates his insights about challenges of connectivity, devices and services in India’s broadband development. India is now emerging as an anchor of global networks where new telecommunication technologies are tested, carriers are sharing network resources and new business models are pursued.
Despite of all of the possibilities offered by ICT, and particularly in the range of mobile hi-speed broadband solutions, ICT policies and processes are always at risk of a lack of continuity, institutional support and capacity building opportunities. With an accent on youth (the events in Bangkok included a very lively and well-supported Youth Forum) the societal significance of innovation was obvious.
Major ITU events such as this help to bolster collaborative endeavour and enable telecommunication industry players to accelerate the huge investment in ICT infrastructure and wider technology innovation. Under the banner of ‘New Generation, New Values’ the entire event underscored the message that the global community gains far more from ICT than cheaper communication and operational efficiencies – and here in Bangkok the messages for the New Generation’ about greener sustainable solutions for the environment, and converged regional mechanisms for disaster risk management, were both well said and well heard.
And looking forward ?
Next year ITU Telecom returns to Geneva. Remember to mark the date 5-9 October 2009.
Now is the time for us all to plan for a stronger iBurst presence and to demonstrate our technology leadership and business innovation – not just in those critical areas of disaster recovery and climate change mitigation but also in the challenges and opportunities of Connected Health and Public Services delivery where advanced mobile technologies can make a huge contribution to societal development.
For more information on the iBurst Association see www.iburst.org