By Juliet Umeh
The International Telecommunication Union, ITU, has called on the nations of the world to invest heavily on information and communication technology, ICT, saying it is a unifying factor for society and economy.
Secretary-General of the union, Houlin Zhao, made the call at the ITU’s 20th edition of the Global Symposium for Regulators, GSR-20 held in Geneva, Switzerland.
He noted that there is a need to embrace the reality occasioned by COVID-19 the pandemic crisis which has demonstrated that ICT is a unifying thread that runs through all aspects of societies and economies.
According to him, what is most critical at the moment is for regulators and policymakers across the globe to unlock investments to boost growth and create a job in the sector.
Zhao said: “National economies and citizens have been relying increasingly on digital infrastructure all through the COVID-19 pandemic. The current crisis and the probability of new global emergencies means that regulators will need to switch to regulatory frameworks that are adaptive, collaborative, outcomes-based and technology-neutral,” he said.
Meanwhile, participants at the Symposium have said promoting an adaptive, resilient and collaborative regulatory system is key to “building back better” and advancing digital transformation for all.
The regulatory authorities that gathered at the GSR-20 agreed that in the wake of COVID-19, digital regulation can boost the readiness of digital markets to face unexpected events and emergencies and deliver up to the expectations despite the odds.
Accordingly, they adopted GSR-20 Best Practice Guidelines: The gold standard for regulation to respond to the challenges of digital transformation in the the aftermath of global crises and beyond.
The guideline also emphasize the need for coordination among all stakeholders, integrating sustainability into regulatory frameworks, maximizing benefits.~`while reducing harms of digital technologies, striving for transparency and trust throughout the regulatory process, an evidence-based approach, and frequent revision of regulatory frameworks to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
GSR-20 Chair, Dan Sjöblom, said: “The GSR-20 Best Practice Guidelines cast a framework for progressive regulatory patterns and policy, while charting the way ahead for industry and regulators. We have identified concrete steps to pursue regulatory reform towards achieving thriving, inclusive digital markets.
“As the pace of digital transformation accelerates, developing an effective the regulatory approach is more vital than ever. In the face of new global emergencies, governments, and regulators need to consider holistic, cross-sectoral, and, to the extent possible, multi-national regulatory and policy approaches.”
The GSR-20 Best Practice Guidelines propose the following reforms: “Agile framework for competition in digital markets: Regulators should support innovation and new business and licensing models that facilitate affordable access to and investment in health, enterprise, and educational services on digital platforms; Codes of conduct (voluntary or enforceable):
“Regulators should guide digital platforms and support them throughout the process of creating codes, their implementation and enforcement in important areas, such as online content moderation on digital platforms, addressing misinformation and online news quality, and child online protection. Media and digital literacy and awareness efforts should likewise be central to navigating the challenges around services that are enabled by the digital transformation.
They also agreed that national emergency plans be upgraded: “Creation and implementation of effective emergency plans enables better preparedness and decision-making during crises.
“Such plans are key to anticipating future unexpected events and their negative impacts and they should focus on both urban and rural areas through a multi-technology approach.
“Bilateral, regional and international cooperation should ensure business and public service continuity and underpin national recovery efforts and Spectrum reform:
“Spectrum managers need to be able to respond timely, making spectrum available for wireless applications when and where they are needed, and as easily as possible, giving spectrum users and innovators flexibility to provide services that will deliver the greatest benefits.”
The Participants further urged regulators to ensure that sufficient unlicensed spectrum is available that drives innovation and investment in a range of technologies.
They equally advised that spectrum reform should also be focused on ensuring that access to broadband service is provided, affordably to those areas and populations that have been traditionally unserved or underserved.
Also speaking, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, said the work of regulators and policy-makers is critical in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
He said: “Our ICT policy and regulatory frameworks will need to be fit-for-purpose. They will need to be up-to-date, flexible, incentive-based and market-driven to support digital transformation across sectors, and across geographical regions