Shift in telecoms regulations could spur economic growth, UN report says

9 March 2010

New approaches in regulating information and communication technology (ICT) could help to stimulate investment and growth in rolling out new networks and upgrading technology, despite the current global recession, according to a new United Nations report.

Demand for services such as mobile telephones and broadband Internet have remained buoyant despite the economic crisis, with mobile subscriptions set to reach 5 billion this year and mobile broadband subscriptions having topped 600 million.

But the ICT industry has also witnessed reduced sales in equipment and manufacturing, as well as lower demand.

The new publication by the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU), entitled “Trends in Telecommunication Reform,” said the industry is currently undergoing a generational shift from fixed telephone networks to mobile connections of all types, next generation networking and broadband wireless networks.

Previously clear borders among telephones, broadcasting and online services are being eroded, with people able to watch movies on their computers and programming being downloaded on mobile phones.

As a result, “ICT regulators play a key role in fostering ongoing innovation and competition, enabling operators to adopt the latest, most power technologies, and ensuring consumers enjoy the very best range of services at the lowest possible prices,” said the agency’s Secretary-General, Hamadoun Touré.

The economic crisis has sounded the alarm on the need for effective regulation and has kick-started a dialogue on the role of the Government, which is now considering the need for State intervention to ensure, among other elements, the development of a ‘broadband economy.’

The new report argued that regulators and policy-makers can tackle the potential risk for under-investment in tomorrow’s networks through a two-pronged approach that would involve Government-backed funding programmes and effective regulatory strategies and policies.

In a related development, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Cambodia today unveiled a training course seeking to boost the South-East Asian nation’s ability to harness ICT to promote development.

According to the ITU, Cambodia is in the early stages of ICT development, ranking 120 out of 159 countries, and has been endeavouring to increase nationwide access to ICTs.

The four-day workshop opened today in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and drew 50 top policy-makers – to examine ways to enhance awareness and bolster knowledge on the effective use of ICTs for sustainable socio-economic development.

The course is part of the UN Asia and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT), headquartered in Incheon, Republic of Korea. Similar workshops have been carried out across the region, including in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan and Samoa.

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Communications prices falling worldwide, UN reports

Prices for information and communication technology (ICT) services are falling worldwide, and services continue to grow, propelled by mobile cellular use, but broadband Internet remains outside the reach of many in poor countries, the United Nations telecoms agency said today.