Many people see mobile phone communication as a natural tool and part of our normal life. But I ask you: what would life be like under COVID-19 without this tool?
Over the past two decades, the rapid development of mobile communications globally has been a major achievement, as well as their enormous contribution to social and economic development around the world.
I wish to underline the role of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) organized by the United Nations, first in Geneva in 2003, then in Tunis in 2005 – as well as the role of the WSIS Forum since 2006 – in the promotion of information and communication technologies (ICT).
I would also like to salute the leadership of all players in the telecommunications industry, without whom we would be in a very different situation today.
They have been working day in and day out, so the rest of us can continue to work, study and stay in touch with our loved ones during this pandemic.
Fifth generation mobile networks are a prime example of how much more can be done. We have seen a range of innovative 5G applications during this crisis, in areas ranging from healthcare and public safety to manufacturing and education.
Innovations unimaginable just a few years ago will be based on 5G mobile networks.
ITU, as the United Nations specialized agency for ICT, plays a central role in the development of these networks, both by managing the radio spectrum and by developing globally applicable standards.
Last February, for example, ITU published detailed specifications for terrestrial radio interfaces for international mobile telecommunications 2020 (IMT-2020).
These specifications are likely to be the backbone of the digital economy for at least the next decade, allowing the emergence of 5G systems that promise to support ICT-based innovation in many sectors. These systems can bring industry and society into the world of intelligent automation. They can transform lives. But it will require contributions from a wide range of technical and political communities, and we will only succeed if we manage to leave no one behind.
A new state of mind
Some countries have launched 5G services. 5G deployment strategies have been established in many parts of the world. Regulators have already auctioned licenses to operate 5G networks in the frequency bands allocated in the Radio Regulations for the land mobile service. There has never been a better or more critical time to invest in 5G networks and ICT development. This means strengthening the ICT infrastructure, but also investing in digital devices and skills.
The need for more investment in ICT is at the heart of my long-standing strategy based on the âfour I’sâ: infrastructure, investment, innovation and inclusion.
Perhaps most of all we need a new mindset. As I told ITU Council Member States a few days ago, we need to dispel the misconceptions that the ICT industry is still profitable and should not hesitate to invest and develop ICT. The need for a new strategy at national level must be clearly identified, as we can no longer allow ICT to develop as it is today through individual ecosystems.
Otherwise, I’m afraid getting the other half of the world online by 2030 will be very difficult.
Last month, on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, the UN Secretary-General himself said: we need to connect the unconnected to affordable services. ‘by the end of the decade.
To achieve this, we must redouble our efforts to promote 5G and other new technologies.
Telecommunications and ICTs have proven to be essential in these times of COVID-19. But the industry could not have kept them in business without the active support of governments.
I now rely on decision-makers around the world to create the conditions for a better investment environment.
The development of ICT is the cornerstone of today’s accelerated digital transformation and will be essential for better rebuilding.
Let’s continue to work together to make transformative technologies like 5G and others a force for good, for everyone.
As we look beyond COVID and think about shaping Industry 4.0, let’s craft new policies for the digital economy – policies that can accelerate inclusive connectivity, access and use.
Based on remarks made during the GSMA ministerial program, as part of Mobile World Congress 2021.