ITU’s 19th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference being the world’s largest meeting of international policy makers from the information and communication (ICT) sector welcomed over 3,000 delegates and almost 600 local and international media. Hosted by Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), the event took place at Busan’s BEXCO exhibition and conference centre.
Known informally as PP-14, this year’s conference welcomed participants from some 175 ITU Member States, Sector Members and observer organizations, including over 104 Ministers, 35 Deputy Ministers, and 67 ambassadors. It is held every four years to set the strategic direction of ITU and to develop policies and recommendations that address the evolving needs of the Union’s members.
Issues on this year’s agenda included digital inclusion and broadband rollout, broader international cooperation on ICT development, and new strategies to encourage membership and strengthen multi-stakeholder participation. For the first time, the conference tried to reach international agreement on establishment of new global ICT development goals and targets under a new framework called ‘Connect 2020’.
Speaking to delegates at the opening ceremony, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré noted that since he took office in January 2007 the number of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide has more than doubled, from 2.7 billion to 6.9 billion. During the same period, the number of Internet users has grown from 1.2 billion to an estimated 2.9 billion. “This is not just a story of connectivity for connectivity’s sake – it is a story of real human progress,” said Dr Touré, reminding delegates of the need to take bold decisions that will help connect the billions who still remain offline. “In ultra-connected environments like Busan it’s too easy to forget that, for most of the world’s people, phones, smartphones and connected computers are a lifeline, not a luxury.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, himself a Korean national, joined the event via video message, telling assembled delegates that “Mobile phones have connected people as never before. Broadband networks have made information accessible, helping to bridge the digital divide, especially for women, youth and people living with disabilities. ICTs are in short, among the keys to achieving sustainable development. As we shape a new development agenda and strive for a new agreement on climate change, let us continue to work together to harness the power of technology to create and accessible and sustainable future for all.”