Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has the potential to make the world a better place and contribute immensely to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly, in the developing world. Non-Aligned Movement, largest collective voice of the developing world recognises that a people-cantered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society based on information and communication technology can contribute to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and address new challenges faced by humankind. In this context, NAM has called for supporting and strengthening the role of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in assisting its Member States, particularly developing countries in building their ICT capacities.
ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). ITU’s global membership includes 193 Member States as well as some 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. They represent a cross-section of the global ICT sector, from the world’s largest manufacturers and carriers to small, innovative players working with new and emerging technologies, along with leading R&D institutions and academia.
NAM Member States have supported the work of the ITU. India has been a regular member of the ITU Council since 1952, and has played an important role in harmonizing the contributions of Member States from the region, always respecting the principles of equality and consensus-building. India has also been elected as a Member of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Council for another 4-year term (2019-2022).
ITU has 3 major sectors. ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) plays a vital role in the global management of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources, and develops international standards for radiocommunication systems. ITU Standardization Sector (ITU-T) assembles experts from around the world to develop international standards known as ITU-T Recommendations, which act as defining elements of the global infrastructure of information and communication technologies. ITU Development Sector (ITU-D) strives to spread equitable and affordable access to telecommunications, as a means of stimulating broader social and economic development.
The ITU-D holds particular relevance for the developing world. ITU-D is required to discharge the Union’s dual responsibility as a United Nations specialized agency and executing agency for implementing projects under the United Nations development system or other funding arrangements, so as to facilitate and enhance telecommunication/ICT development by offering, organizing and coordinating technical cooperation and assistance activities.
The key objectives of ITU-D sector are : 1) To foster international cooperation on telecommunication and ICT development issue; 2) To foster an enabling environment for ICT development and foster the development of telecommunication and ICT networks; 3) To enhance confidence and security in the use of telecommunication and ICTs; 4) To build human and institutional capacity, provide data and statistics, promote digital inclusion and provide concentrated assistance to countries in special need; and 5) To enhance environmental protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation and disaster-management efforts through telecommunication and ICTs. All of these objectives hold significance for the developing world.
ITU also publishes regular studies and that highlight the various issues and challenges that impede the growth of ICTs. For example, on November 5 2019, data released by ITU revealed that in most countries worldwide, women are still trailing men in benefiting from the transformational power of digital technologies.ITU data showed that while the digital gender gap has been shrinking in the Commonwealth of Independent States and Europe, it is growing in Africa, the Arab States and the Asia-Pacific region. It is widest in developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries. Moreover, ITU data has also analysed that affordability and lack of digital skills remain some of the key barriers to the uptake and effective use of the Internet, especially in the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs).