Displaying items by tag: United Nations

UN Environment signs MoU with Safaricom to tackle UN SDGs

Written on Monday, 04 September 2017 06:24

The United Nations (UN) Environment Program, an agency that coordinates the UN’s environment activities, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Safaricom, Kenya’s largest telecommunications provider, aimed at heightening the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which focus on protecting and conserving the environment.

UN Environment has urged Kenya’s private sector to collaborate with them in implementation of the SDGs that will help curb climate change. The 17 SDGs cover areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.

Currently, UN Environment is working closely with the private sector through various initiatives, such as the Finance Initiative, which works with over 200 institutions to bring systemic change in global finance for sustainability.

“The private sector, whether a small store or a major conglomerate, must be given a place at the heart of our work,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, speaking during the MoU signing between Safaricom and UN Environment. “Its energy and its innovations will shape the success or failure of our common goals: to build a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world. No organization, not even the United Nations, can do this alone.”

Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, said, “As a purpose driven organization, we realize that it is important to use the SDGs as a lens through which we can do business while ensuring that we are also creating the basis for tangible change for our communities. Over the last few months we began the journey of adopting and integrating the SDGs in a way that made sense for the various divisions in our business.”

The MoU will provide a framework of cooperation and understanding, and facilitate collaboration and implementation of activities and projects that contribute to selected areas of the SDGs. The selected SDGs include Affordable and Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water, and Partnerships.

Qualcomm Technologies has laid out its vision for ubiquitous on-device artificial intelligence (AI) complementing cloud AI. In a press release the company said it “envision a world where AI makes devices, machines, automobiles, and things much more intelligent, simplifying and enriching our daily lives.”

In 2007, Qualcomm started exploring spiking neuron approaches to machine learning for computer vision and motion control applications, and later expanded the scope of the research to look not just at biologically inspired approaches but artificial neural networks — primarily deep learning.

Fast forward to today, and Qualcomm has announced the acquisition of Scyfer B.V., a company affiliated with University of Amsterdam and focused on cutting-edge machine learning techniques. Scyfer has built AI solutions for companies worldwide and in a number of different industries, such as manufacturing, healthcare and finance.

“We started fundamental research a decade ago, and our current products now support many AI use cases from computer vision and natural language processing to malware detection on a variety of devices — such as smartphones and cars — and we are researching broader topics, such as AI for wireless connectivity, power management and photography,” said Matt Grob, executive vice president, technology, Qualcomm Incorporated.  

Many companies focus on the execution of AI workloads in the cloud, but Qualcomm is focused on the implementation of AI on end devices – smartphones, cars, robotics, and the like – to ensure that processing can be done with or without a network or Wi-Fi connection, the company said. The benefits of on-device AI include immediate response, enhanced reliability, increased privacy protection, and efficient use of network bandwidth.

Qualcomm Technologies continues to push AI research forward and is bringing cutting-edge machine learning technologies to the forefront. Examples of such efforts include:

  • Advances in neural network techniques for semi-supervised and unsupervised training like generative adversarial networks (GANs), distributed learning, and privacy protecting
  • Network optimization for on-device applications including compression, inter-layer optimizations, optimizations for sparsity, and other techniques to take better advantage of memory and space/time complexity
  • And specialized hardware architectures designed to accelerate machine learning workloads with greater performance and energy efficiency in embedded devices

The acquisition of Scyfer brings with it a founder and renowned professor at the University of Amsterdam, Dr. Max Welling, which will help to further advance AI research and development at Qualcomm Technologies. Dr. Welling will continue his role as a professor at the University of Amsterdam, and the rest of the Scyfer team will continue to be based in Amsterdam.

In 2015, Qualcomm Technologies and the University of Amsterdam also established QUVA, a joint research lab focused on advancing the cutting-edge machine learning techniques for mobile and computer vision. Qualcomm said it’s excited to continue to work with the University of Amsterdam going forward, underscoring the importance of educating future generations in this important field.

Published in Government

ITU commends Huawei for driving innovation in Africa

Written on Tuesday, 02 May 2017 13:15

The International Telecom Union (ITU) has praised Huawei Technologies, for driving innovation in Africa.

“With the vision of bridging the digital divide, Huawei has never ceased in driving innovation and development in the industry,” said Andrew Rugege, Regional Director of the International Telecommunication Union, the regional office for Africa.

“Together, we can build a better connected Africa and I hope that Huawei can become partners with us to make this happen. It is not only a sponsor but also a potential future employer with 18 years’ of experience in Africa,” said Rugege at the ICT day held at the headquarters of the African Union on Thursday.

Since 2016, the Chinese multinational company has been one of the main architects of the ICT sector in Ethiopia. “Huawei and ITU are long-term strategic partners and our cooperation and support will remain the same," a representative from Huawei said.

The Information Communications Technology (ICT) day, a United Nations endorsed initiative marked to highlight the need of more women in the IT sector, was held on Thursday, April 28th as part of the International Girl in ICT day.

Ethiopia has been observing and marking the worldwide held event  for a number of years and to date, thousands of young women has taken part in more than 7,000 celebrations of international Girls in ICT day in 160 countries worldwide.

The gatherings included informative panels, discussions, networking opportunities, from leaders in the industry, potential mentors and representatives of companies and a slew-of-speakers including, the minister of Women and Children Affairs and the Minister of Communication and Information Technology.

An initiative of the UN Women, UNDP, the European Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union Commission, with the cooperation and support of Huawei Ethiopia, the gathering brought hundreds of local attendees as well as delegates from a number of African countries.

Keiso Matashane-Marite, social affairs officer at the UNECA was at the celebration and expressed the importance of the initiative and the day. “Today is a special day and it belongs to the girls,” she said. “As ECA, we are happy to be highlighting the importance of why girls should be involved in ICT, raising awareness and encouraging our girls to consider careers in IT.”

According to various reports, there is an increasingly marginalized African women populations in the IT and Science sectors, with most women still involved in informal labor intensive jobs across the continent.

Published in Telecom Vendors

Broadband is the “most important technology” today because of the transformation to society that it can bring, said Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Ericsson’s SVP and Chief Sustainability Officer, at the launch of Ericsson’s Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Report at MWC 2017. Using the UN SDGs as a framework, the report highlights how the telecommunications industry can positively evolve through use of responsible business practices, reducing energy consumption through 5G, and providing internet for all.

“At Ericsson, we start with our commitment to responsible business which is to us the very foundation of the company,” said Ms. Weidman-Grunewald at the press briefing. “We believe in making sure that our standards are high on an ethical level. We work a lot with anti-corruption, occupational work and safety, and responsible sourcing methods, to make sure that the entire value chain meets high ethical standards.”

Ericsson’s work with sustainability and corporate responsibility is as much about embracing opportunities as tackling global sustainability challenges, Ms. Weidman-Grunewald says in the new report. Ericsson uses the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to measure its impact on society. One of the most important initiatives Ms. Weidman-Grunewald spoke of to meet the UN SDGs was Ericsson’s commitment to bringing internet to all through broadband.

“How will governments deliver education if it’s not digital? How will you reach every child if we don’t use internet and if we don’t use the advantages of mobile broadband? Mobile broadband is the most important technology because of the transformation to society that it can bring,” said Ms. Weidman-Grunewald.

When it comes to binging an additional 4 billion people online, Ms. Weidman-Grunewald strongly believes that broadband will be “instrumental” she says in the report. The fastest and most cost-effective way to do this, she says, is to enable cost efficiency upgrades from 2G to 3G and 4G. Ericsson advocates strongly on “how ICT can help shape more sustainable societies” and the company engages in “public-private partnerships to advance shared aims and vision,” Ms. Weidman-Grunewald says.

In 2016, Ericsson launched a new suite of mobile broadband solutions for which total cost of ownership has been reduced by up to 40 percent. This makes investments in mobile broadband viable in markets where average revenue per use is low, helping to grow the reach of 3G and 4G and making the internet available to more people.

Ericsson’s Technology for Good initiatives now positively impact 89 million people through programs like Connect To Learn and Ericsson Response, which Ms. Weidman-Grunewald leads. The Connect To Learn global education initiative has been launched in 23 countries and benefits more than 80,000 students.

In 2016, Ericsson made significant progress in its Connect To Learn project in Myanmar. 155 teachers from all 31 schools successfully completed the first stage of their training, which allows them to begin integrating ICT into their classroom teaching, and to use the internet to enrich the learning experience of students.

Connect To Learn is a public-private partnership that involves the use of ICT solutions to promote universal access to quality secondary education in developing countries. The project was largely made possible through a strategic partnership between Ericsson and the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) Girls’ Education Challenge. 

Ericsson and its coalition of partners for the Connect To Learn project leverage the strengths and contributions of each collaborator. For example, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) provides project funding, UNESCO provides teacher training and mobile technology-based educational programs on English language and life skills, and the Earth Institute manages the student stipend and school grant component, as well as conducting implementation research at the schools.

In addition, Finja Five provides child-friendly computing solutions, while EduEval Educational Consultancy conducts monitoring and evaluation. Qualcomm Incorporated, through its Qualcomm Wireless Reach initiative, also provides funding and the program utilizes mobile devices enabled by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. Ms. Weidman-Grunewald says the method of delivering teachers ICT training content is more effective than simply delivering computers to a school that just sits there because nobody knows how to use them.

In order to attract more businesses in the industry to implement sustainable practices, it needs to be profitable, says Ms. Weidman-Grunewald. At the briefing she spoke of another report released in January called ‘Better Business, Better World’ which puts into question the economic value of the UN SGDs. According to the report, if businesses look at areas such as clean energy, health, smart cities, etc, it could generate trillions of dollars.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) opens up $12 trillion of market opportunities in the four economic systems examined by members of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission: food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, as well as health and well-being. The ‘Better Business, Better World’ report says these areas represent around 60 percent of the real economy and are critical to delivering the SDGs.

“To capture these opportunities in full, businesses need to pursue social and environmental sustainability as avidly as they pursue market share and shareholder value,” the report says. “If a critical mass of companies joins us in doing this now, together we will become an unstoppable force. If they don’t, the costs and uncertainty of unsustainable development could swell until there is no viable world in which to do business.”

Ericsson’s commitments to deliver superior energy performance include a strong focus on 5G, according to its report – a goal to dramatically reduce the use of diesel, and a commitment to ensure the Ericsson Radio System platform remains the most power-efficient on the market.

“We’ve made a commitment that our 5G systems will be ten times more energy efficient than our 4G systems by 2020,” said Ms. Weidman-Grunewald. “It’s a very big commitment, because when you think of our industry, there’s more and more video, more and more growth with more and more things connected, so if we don’t think about power consumption, it will continue to increase. We decided to break that trend and we will lead our industry to have greener telecommunications networks in the future.”

PureSolar, a project completed with Telenor in Myanmar, involved the deployment of the world’s first 500 watt solar-powered site. Within just one year of operation, the solar-powered site proved to be more economical than the diesel alternative. Ericsson says overall it has reduced CO2 emissions per employee by 45 percent by targeting business travel, product transportation and energy usage in its facilities.

Ms. Weidman-Grunewald also highlighted Ericsson’s commitments to maintaining high standards for suppliers and taking a stand against slavery and human-trafficking. Ericsson manages the social environmental impacts of its supply chain as part of its “approach to embedding corporate responsibility” throughout its business practices, the report says.

“A new legislation in the UK for anti-slavery and anti-trafficking [UK Modern Slavery Act] has passed and we decided to implement this globally because we think it’s the right thing to do,” said Ms. Weidman-Grunewald. “It’s a commitment where we make sure that in our supply chain we will actively work to make sure that we’re using suppliers and labor according to protecting people’s dignity and rights.”

In 2016, Ericsson made its first Statement on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking for the Ericsson Group, in which it says Ericsson has a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, and a significantly strengthened anti-corruption program. For its third year in a row, Ericsson has reported according to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights reporting framework – and remains the only ICT company to do so, according to the report.

Published in Featured

On January 16, 2016, the United Nations lifted sanctions against Iran, opening the country up to long lost opportunity, after the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran had adequately dismantled its nuclear weapons program. Providing an understanding of the effect that the lifted sanctions has had on Iran, Kantar TNS’ recent ‘Connected Life Iran’ study provides insights on digital attitudes and behaviour of the country’s 80 million inhabitants.

According to the study, Iran’s long history of internet censorship and imposed bans on global sites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, etc., has led the country to develop a unique digital ecosystem comprising both local platforms like Telegram, as well as global digital platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp.

Telegram enjoys the highest popularity in terms of communication applications in Iran, followed by Instagram and WhatsApp, the study shows. Iran has a population of 80 million, and 70% of the population are under the age of 35 years. It has become a “digitally savvy” nation with internet penetration estimated at close to 70% and rising.

Sanctions against Iran were imposed by the United States following the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The sanctions were expanded in 1995 to include firms dealing with the Iranian government, and by 1996, the United Nations passed Resolution 1696 which imposed further sanctions, after Iran refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program. As an oil-rich nation, Iran was hit hard by the sanctions which targeted investments in oil, gas, and petrochemicals, and exports of refined petroleum products.

Sanctions against Iran were also imposed on business dealings with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which encompassed banking and insurance transactions, shipping, web-hosting services for commercial endeavours, and domain name registration services.

The sanctions against Iran had a serious impact on the country’s economy and its people, who became isolated from the world. Sanctions against Iran were eventually lifted in January 2016, when Iran and the P5+ (China, France, Russia, the UK and the United States, plus Germany) met in Switzerland, reaching a provisional agreement on a framework that, once finalized and implemented, would lift the sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear programs extending for at least ten years. The country is now opening up and Iranians are embracing what the world can offer.

A monumental moment for Iran was in May 2013, when U.S. President Barack Obama lifted US trade sanctions that barred sales of consumer communications equipment and software to Iranians. The policy shift was announced on May 13 by the US State and Treasury departments, which administered the sanctions imposed on such consumer electronics since 1992. The lifted sanctions allowed for sales to non-government consumers involving US hardware such as mobile phones and laptop computers, and software such as anti-virus programs.

This change was intended to help Iranians to communicate through social media and text messaging through mobile phones in order to overcome some of the media and communications restrictions imposed by Iranian authorities at the time, it was reported. A statement by the Treasury Department said the actions aimed to “empower the Iranian people as their government intensifies its efforts to stifle their access to information.”

Jamal Abdi, a spokesperson for the National Iranian American Council, a non-profit group based in Washington, D.C., said at the time: “The US is taking steps to ensure that as Iran’s government cracks down on internet access and SMS, sanctions will no longer block cell-phones, software and hardware.”

The products covered by the general license issued by the US government included mobile phones, satellite phones and broadband hardware, modems, network interface cards, routers, WiFi access points, laptop computers, tablets, disk drives, data storage devices, anti-virus and anti-tracking software, online store applications, virtual private networks, anti-censorship tools, and fee-based personal communications tools including voice, text, video, voice-over-IP telephony and video chat (Bloomberg).

The lifted communications sanctions seem to have had a significant impact on Iranians, as identified in Kantar TNS’ Connected Life Iran study released on January 17. The study is an extension of their Connected Life study that covers 57 countries. The Iran study provides unparalleled insight on the behaviour and preferences of the digitally connected Iranian consumer.

On average, a person owns 2.3 devices in Iran, comprising tablets, PCs and mobile phones; however, it is clearly a mobile centric market, where bulk of online time is taken up by mobile: 78% versus the global average of 56%, the study shows. Smartphone penetration is on the rise in Iran. Mobile devices are Iranians’ window to the world and their solution for most information and content, the study highlights. Hence, global marketers should customize their messages and content for mobile devices, in order to gain traction in Iran.

“With Iran opening up, there is a real opportunity for brands to connect with consumers more meaningfully than ever before,” commented Stephen Hillebrand, Kantar Insights CEO for MENAP. “Recognizing that the Iranian digital landscape is very unique within the region, brands need to choose the right channels through which to engage them. Digital media offers significant opportunity for brands wanting to enter this exciting market.”

The Iranian market has been blocked by sanctions for many years, but there is increasing exposure to global innovations in marketing, the study indicates. Marketers can no longer rely only on traditional media; digital is growing in terms of importance and may become the entry point of choice for brands newly entering the market. Digitally active Iranians already spend 64% time on digital media compared to 36% time on traditional media.

But how do marketers connect with this digital consumer base, given government restrictions on some social media platforms? The study indicates that despite restrictions, Iranians do access platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp. However, similar to China, it is local social media platforms that enjoy the highest levels of popularity.

Telegram is one such platform that has near universal presence in Iran and is accessed by more than 90% of online Iranians on a weekly basis. Telegram was launched in 2013 by brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, who previously founded the Russian social network VK. Another upcoming platform in Iran is Aparat, the Iranian version of YouTube.

Compared to their global counterparts, Iranian consumers seem far more open to brands targeting them via online adverts, the study shows, perhaps because they haven’t been exposed to it as much as citizens in the US and Europe, for instance. Only 22% of Iranian consumers feel they are stalked by brands as opposed to 34% globally. This highlights the immense potential for marketers to target consumers via digital platforms in Iran.

“Connected Life Iran shows there is a real opportunity for brands to tap into the popularity of digital platforms like Telegram by creating ‘personalisable’ and shareable content, such as videos and stories,” Hillebrand continued. “Brands need to find means of being present at the intersection of physical and virtual worlds, in order to make strong connections with consumers.”


Published in Featured

ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICT). The organization is given life by a membership of 193 Member States and over 700 private-sector entities and 120 academic and research institutes. Its membership-driven work is supported by a secretariat based in Geneva. Chaesub Lee, Director of Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU, discusses ITU standardization in the following interview, as well as ITU’s latest achievements, and looking ahead to 5G.

Can you give us an introduction to ITU and its work?

ITU was established in 1865 to meet the need for international standards for telegraph systems. From the day of the telegraph, through our formative role in telecommunications, and in today’s converged ICT ecosystem, ITU has offered a neutral platform to broker consensus on policy and technical questions of common global concern.

ITU is responsible for the global coordination of satellite orbits and radiofrequency allocations. We develop international standards that underpin the interconnection and interoperability of ICT networks, services and devices. And we complement this technical work with capacity building in the application of advanced ICTs.

How are ITU standards conceived and agreed? Is an intergovernmental agency such as ITU the right place to set standards to be followed by the fast-paced ICT sector?

ITU is unique among UN agencies in that, in addition to governments, our membership also includes leading private-sector players and academic and research institutes. Our private-sector members include the telecommunications carriers that build and operate the infrastructure that forms the backbone of the global ICT ecosystem. And in recent years we have welcomed digital service providers such as Alibaba, Netflix, Facebook and Google as new ITU members.

Our technical standardization work is driven predominantly by our private-sector members. Standardization experts representing leading private-sector players come together on the ITU platform to develop the international standards demanded by the market as common platforms for growth and innovation.

Our contribution-led standardization process is beholden to longstanding commitment to consensus-based decision-making. Standardization work on a particular subject is initiated in response to contributions from ITU members if the membership reaches consensus on the inclusion of that subject in ITU-T’s work plan. Similarly, the standards developed as a result are only approved when ITU’s membership reaches consensus on their composition.

ITU standards are voluntary technical standards – conformance to our standards is not mandatory unless such conformance is mandated by regulation. Despite their implementation being voluntary, the approval of ITU standards by consensus ensures the buy-in of all stakeholders, which increases the likelihood of these standards which will be implemented worldwide.

What is the relevance of ITU standards to modern communications systems?

There are over 4000 standards in use in modern ICT infrastructure. Year 2016 alone has seen the delivery of nearly 400 ITU standards. Estimates suggest that 95 percent of international traffic runs over fiber optic infrastructure built in conformance with ITU standards. ITU standards for digital certificates and the broader public-key infrastructure were critical to the rise of e-commerce, and our standards remain essential to the high-speed exchange of financial information. Our standards also underpinned the critical access technologies of the internet, at first with V-series modems and now via broadband DSL and FTTH. 

Many estimates suggest that video accounts for over 60 percent of internet traffic, a figure expected to rise to over 80 percent by 2018. The Primetime Emmy award-winning ITU H.264 ‘Advanced Video Coding’ remains the most deployed video codec worldwide. Its successor, ITU H.265 ‘High Efficiency Video Coding’, will help ease the burden on global networks, increasingly geared towards the massive exchange of video traffic.

Take for example your smartphone, ITU standards are crucial to the long-haul fiber optic transport networks that form the backbone of the global ICT ecosystem; we provide phone numbers, signaling protocols and codecs for voice and video and we also manage the radio spectrum in which the smartphone operates.

What is the main value proposition of ITU standardization? In other words, what attracts companies to develop standards on the ITU platform?

The principles underlying the ITU standardization process ensure that all voices are heard, that our standards efforts do not favor particular commercial interests and that resulting standards have the consensus-derived support of the diverse set of stakeholders that comprise the ITU membership. This inclusivity of ITU’s standardization platform – supported by our Bridging the Standardization Gap program – assists in offering all the world’s countries equal opportunity to benefit from the ICT advances changing our world.

Joining ITU offers companies the opportunity to work together with technical experts representing stakeholders from both developed and developing countries, setting standards that help to build global markets. 

You mention a program to “bridge the standardization gap”. What are the aims of that program?

ITU standardization has a development dimension unmatched by other standards bodies. Our Bridging the Standardization Gap (BSG) program is our vehicle to improve the capacity of developing countries to participate in the development and implementation of international ICT standards. The ultimate goal of our BSG program is to support national standardization experts in meeting their potential to become international standardization experts.

Participation in ITU standardization work helps countries to ensure that their priorities are addressed by ITU standards. Participation also results in expert knowledge of our standards, knowledge of great value to developing countries in their work to implement ITU standards effectively.

It is crucial that ITU standardization encourages knowledge and technology transfer. Newcomers to ITU learn from experienced delegates how to participate in international standardization most effectively. We support this sharing of knowledge by offering training courses in effective participation in the ITU standards-development process. These courses aim to improve delegates’ capacity to engage in debate using well-constructed arguments, helping them to build the consensus essential to the development and approval of ITU standards.

What are some of the latest achievements of ITU standardization?

ITU-T is a renowned centre of excellence in standardization for transport and access systems and multimedia.

ITU members recently concluded a three-year process to enable optical transport at rates higher than 100 Gbit/s, meeting industry demand for increased capacity in metro and long-haul transport networks to support the unceasing growth of video and data traffic.

We recently achieved an industry first in broadband access with the completion of for 40-Gigabit fibre to the home (FTTH), an achievement coming in parallel with the release of a new standard for 10 Gigabit symmetric FTTH. ITU’s suite of access solutions also includes G.fast, an ITU broadband standard that allows delivery of up to 1 Gbit/s over the traditional telephone lines that still make up a substantial proportion of so-called “last-mile” networks.
ITU H.265 ‘High Efficiency Video Coding’ – the successor to the Primetime Emmy award-winning ITU H.264 ‘Advanced Video Coding’, which we see at play in almost all HDTV offerings – offers double the compression power of H.264 provide the platform for the next decade of innovation in video.

A new ITU standard defining the requirements for 4G mobile high quality voice communications has joined ITU’s portfolio of standards to assist operators in their work to offer services of the quality necessary to attract and retain customers in today’s competitive business environment. 

Smart cities are a key application area for Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and we recently released a set of standardized key performance indicators for smart sustainable cities. ITU is engaged in a two-year pilot project with various cities around the world to implement these indicators, which will ensure that any future refinement of these indicators is undertaken on the basis of cities’ experiences with their implementation.

We have also released a key standard for personal health systems, supporting the development of medical-grade e-health devices that can help the prevention and improved management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

How has so-called ‘convergence’ impacted ITU’s standardization work?

The distinction between different segments of the ICT industry is not nearly as clear as it once was, and the sliver of difference that remains is dissipating fast. ICT also plays a key role in driving the convergence of industry sectors, and ITU continues to play a central role in enabling this telecom-based convergence.

ITU led several key areas of convergence within the telecom domain, such as data-voice convergence with next-generation networks (NGN), fixed-mobile convergence and telecom-broadcasting convergence with Internet Protocol TV (IPTV).

With respect to the convergence of industry sectors, the ICT sector has gained a diverse range of new stakeholders as other industry sectors continue to scale-up their use of ICTs as “enabling technologies”. ITU standardization work is mirroring these bi-directional movements. The wide array of industry sectors now in demand of ICT standards continues to draw great value from ITU. For example, the scope of ITU standardization has expanded to include the development of ICT standards to support e-health, smart grid, smart water management, intelligent transport systems and smart city.

Since your election as TSB director, in what way have you contributed to enhancing the value of ITU standardization?

I have encouraged our members to be bold in using the ITU platform to launch new standardization work and to strengthen ITU’s efforts to bridge the standardization gap between developed and developing countries. I am pleased to say that our members have done exactly that.

ITU members are engaged in a new standardization effort to define the principles of a trusted ICT environment, one that will be integral to the achievement of our priorities in the spheres of 5G, IoT and smart cities.

In 2015, our members established a new standardization expert group – ITU-T Study Group 20 – to develop standards for IoT and smart cities. The formation of the new ITU-T Study Group 20 has contributed to the consolidation of over 10 years of ITU activity in IoT standardization and the group’s work targeted towards smart cities will provide valuable stimulus to this key IoT application area.

Our Focus Group on network aspects of IMT-2020 (5G) has undertaken a preliminary study into the wireline networking innovations required to support the ambitious performance targets of 5G systems. This group has undertaken in-depth studies into areas such as network ‘softwarization’ and slicing, emerging networking technologies, mobile backhaul and fronthaul, and end-to-end quality of service (QoS).

In the framework of the WTSA, what plans are you working on achieving? Why is this event of a great importance for the telecoms industry?

The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) is held every four years for ITU members to refine the strategic direction of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). At WTSA-16 in Hammamet, Tunisia, from 25 October to 3 November, ITU members will review ITU-T’s structure, working methods and mechanisms for collaboration with other standards bodies, SMEs and open-source communities, and the many vertical sectors applying ICTs as enabling technologies.

WTSA-16 is an opportunity to ensure that ITU standardization remains well positioned to support the development of the information society. The decisions of the Assembly will ensure that ITU-T provides its members with a standardization toolkit optimized to assist government, industry and academia in achieving their ambitions for year 2020 and beyond.

In this sense, the task of WTSA is to reshape ITU’s standardization platform in line with the evolving demands of the telecommunications and ICT market, demands including the need to support technological and industrial convergence. WTSA is the best platform to achieve this, with its agreements incorporating the views of a globally representative set of stakeholders.

What kind of opportunities does the WTSA provide to experts in the ICT sector?

Member States’ delegations to WTSA include representatives of industry, academia and civil society, ensuring that delegations include technical experts well-versed in the latest movements of ITU standardization. WTSA offers standardization experts the opportunity to campaign for their priorities to be reflected by the international standardization agenda, giving them a voice in ensuring that the ITU standardization platform continues to meet their needs.

When it comes to the 2020 plan, what are the future measures that you will be taking in the upcoming four years?

The years approaching 2020 will be a pivotal period in the development of the global ICT ecosystem. We will see 5G systems beginning to take shape, and investments in long-lived urban infrastructure will incorporate investments in ICTs to build IoT-enabled smart cities. ITU is supporting the ICT community in its work to create a post-2020 environment where we will all have access to affordable, reliable communications; where highly-reliable ICTs will be core to innovation in all industry sectors.

In the approach to 2020, ITU standardization will be guided by three interdependent priorities. We will support 5G systems with the necessary innovations in network infrastructure. We will work to ensure that IoT technologies and applications meet their full potential, particularly in the context of smart cities. And we will define the principles of a trusted ICT environment and the technical mechanisms required to achieve it.

How can you describe the bureau’s role in solving pending issues in the ICT sector, especially those related to the challenges of the 5G and the use of big data in smart cities?

When speaking of 5G, we are speaking of a huge leap beyond 4G. Wireless communication in the 5G era should match the speed and reliability achieved by fiber-optic cables. The application fields of 5G technologies, in addition to voice and video, range from industrial robotics to automated driving, remote medical surgery, virtual reality and much more.

Recognizing that today’s network architectures simply cannot support the envisaged capabilities of 5G systems, ITU members established the ITU-T Focus Group on network aspects of IMT-2020 to undertake a preliminary study into the wireline networking innovations required to enable the 5G era. The ITU-T standardization work to build on the findings of this Focus Group will offer valuable support to the ICT industry in ensuring that wireline and wireless elements of 5G systems work in harmony.

With respect to Big Data in smart cities, our increasing ability to capture and analyze data generated by smart city systems will help us to identify where and how innovation can contribute to greater efficiency and sustainability. However, this will demand an integrated data ecosystem. We cannot allow data “silos” to emerge in different sectors. For this reason, one of the priorities in ITU standardization work for IoT is to develop mechanisms for smart city operation that ensure the interoperability of IoT applications and datasets employed by various vertical sectors.

In light of the current debate on 5G standards, can you tell us some details about the 5G frequency allocation in different countries?

Looking towards 2020, one of the highest profile areas of ITU work is our standardization of 5G systems. In 2012, ITU established a program on “International Mobile Telecommunications for 2020 and beyond (IMT-2020)”, providing the framework for 5G research and development worldwide. Our members have defined the framework and overall objectives of this standardization process, as well as the roadmap to guide this process to its conclusion by 2020.

ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector, ITU-R, is coordinating the international standardization and identification of spectrum for 5G mobile development. ITU-R is applying the same process used to coordinate the standardization of IMT-2000 (3G) and IMT-Advanced (4G) systems, a process with a proven track-record of success and reliability befitting its importance.

ITU’s Standardization Sector, ITU-T, will play a similar convening role for the technologies and architectures of the wireline elements of 5G networks, using the launching pad provided by the ITU-T Focus Group on network aspects of IMT-2020.

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