Some 400 senior international policy makers from the world’s ICT regulatory authorities and leading tech companies are meeting in Gabon this week to discuss the best strategies for promoting digital inclusion and harnessing the enormous growth potential of emerging economies and developing markets.
The world’s largest specialized gathering of ICT policy specialists from the public and private sectors, ITU’s Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) is designed to stimulate in-depth peer-to-peer debate, knowledge sharing and exchange of best practice among regulators, Chief Regulatory Officers of private companies, government policy analysts and other key ICT stakeholders.
Hosted by Gabon’s Autorité de Régulations des Communications Electroniques et des Postes (ARCEP) under the patronage of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the event is taking place at Libreville’s Stade de l’Amitié from 9-11 June.
The theme of this year’s symposium is ‘Mind the Digital Gap – Regulatory Incentives to Achieve Digital Opportunities’, with key topics on the 3-day programme including mobile payments; network sharing models; taxation and the digital economy; the ‘Internet of Everything’; regulation and broadband uptake; and ways regulation can help promote accessibility for all.
ARCEP is partnering with ITU to host the symposium, which is officially chaired by ARCEP President Mr Lin Mombo. This morning’s opening ceremony welcomed a number of distinguished guests including Gabon’s Minister of Justice, Séraphin Moundounga; the Minister for Digital Economy and Postes, Pastor Ngoua Nneme; Jean-Francois Ndongou, President of the National Council and of Communication; and Abdoulkarim Soumaila, Secretary-General of the African Telecommunications Union.
ITU Secretary-General Mr Zhao said a strong and flourishing ICT ecosystem will be essential to meeting socio-economic development targets including the new Sustainable Development Goals, which are expected to be agreed by the international community in New York in September. He also stressed the importance of nurturing ICT-focused small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which can leverage strong global demand to become major contributors to the national economy. “Given the right tools and encouragement, today’s youngsters can become tomorrow’s ICT entrepreneurs, creating tech start-ups and providing the ICT skills that can help countries grow a flourishing new business community of small- and medium enterprises focused on ICT goods and services,” said Mr Zhao.
The symposium’s opening Leadership Debate, ‘Funding an Inclusive Digital Society – From Infrastructure to Data’ featured top-name speakers including GSR-15 Chairman Lin Mombo; Bocar Ba, Chief Executive Officer, Samena Telecommunications Council; and Christian de Faria, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Africa. The debate was moderated by Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), which organizes the symposium every year.
“All countries need not just a solid base of ICT infrastructure, but the appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks to foster investment and innovation,” said Mr Sanou. “ITU is dedicated to facilitating information exchange to help regulators and policymakers around the world navigate the multidimensional challenges posed by the convergence of infrastructure, services and service providers.”
As ICT networks and services become ever-more pervasive, traditional regulatory approaches are proving too limited to meet new challenges. Infrastructure convergence, multi-play bundled services and issues such as data privacy, cybersecurity and equality of access are combining to make for a highly complex regulatory landscape.
In his opening address, GSR-15 Chair Lin Mombo said, “I am very pleased to say that, thanks to the enlightened vision of His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon, the country has embarked on a vast programme of modernization and construction of telecommunications infrastructure and broadband in order to achieve full connectivity of the country in the near future.”
GSR-15 continues until Thursday 11 June, culminating in a series of regulatory Best Practice Guidelines. Outputs from the meeting will also be incorporated into ITU’s annual regulatory report, Trends in Telecommunication Reform.