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EghtesadOnline: ICT decision makers from around the globe met in Dubai this week for the International Telecommunication Union's 20th Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18) to set the ITU’s direction for 2020-2023.

Iran’s ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi participated in the conference that opened on Oct. 29 and will continue until Nov. 16, the ministry’s website reported.

Azari Jahromi addressing the participants cautioned against the widespread use of modern technologies and social media platforms for enticing violence and sowing discord. He raised the call for peaceful application of information and communication technologies, according to Financial Tribune.

Reiterating the potential of the ICT sector for wealth creation and improving the livelihood of the large sections of the society, Jahromi regretted that “Technologies are being used for igniting discord and conflict around the globe.”

The meeting is the ITU’s highest-level meeting where its 193 member states debate, discuss and agree on the union’s overall strategic and financial agenda. 

Member states also elected the union’s management team, including its secretary-general. Houlin Zhao of China was reelected ITU chief. Zhao garnered 176 votes and contested the position unopposed.

Founded in 1865, originally as the International Telegraph Union, the ITU is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.

During the opening ceremony on Oct. 29, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Your meeting will set the International Telecommunication Union’s path for the next four years as we strive together to build a more sustainable and inclusive digital economy for generations to come. We face a crucial challenge: harnessing the benefits of new technologies for all, while safeguarding against the risks from their misuse.

“Digital technologies have a crucial role to play in accelerating progress towards the sustainable development goals… Together, we can nurture a digital future that is safe and beneficial for all,” Guterres said.


Act as One

ITU Secretary-General called on all nations to act as one and help connect the world’s nearly 4 billion people who remain unconnected to the Internet.

While great progress has been made, there still remain 3.9 billion people in the world who are not connected to the Internet, according to a survey from the ITU.    

ITU’s Connect 2020 Agenda calls for up to 50% of households in developing nations to have access to the Internet by 2020 and also curb the costs of Internet services. The union estimates that almost 3 billion people will still remain offline by 2020 in the absence of coordinated efforts.

Houlin Zhao, the ITU Secretary-General, said, “Right now, over half of the world’s population is still not using the Internet, cut off from today’s digital economy. As we debate over the next three weeks how to build the skills and the ICT infrastructure necessary to foster inclusive economic growth and trust, let us work as one.”

“New technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of things will change how we live, work and learn in ways that have yet to be imagined… The challenge before us today is to ensure that these technologies and ICT, in general, continue to be a source for good for everyone across the world,” he added.


Regional Collaboration

On the sidelines of the event, the Iranian minister held talks with his counterparts from Indonesia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Promotion and expansion of ICT ties were discussed.

According to Jahromi, the talks were in line with earlier agreements between Iran and the three countries to boost technological cooperation.

During the meeting between the Iranian minister and his Azeri counterpart Ramin Namiq Oglu Guluzade, “Agreements were reached as per which Iranian knowledge-based firms and companies active in cybersecurity are to participate in the upcoming round of the Bakutel [slated for December in Baku],” Jahromi told reporters.

Regional ICT experts and policymakers will meet in Baku to forge a joint plan for closer collaboration and enhancement of communication services in the region. He did not elaborate. 

During an earlier meeting between Jahromi and Guluzade, the latter said, “Given Iran’s geography, the country can become the region’s Internet transit hub… We look forward to joint projects with Iran to enhance data transit between Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan.”

Iran and Azerbaijan have close economic ties. According to Jahromi, collaboration between the two sides in fields of data transit, postal services, space science and cybersecurity will be enhanced. Furthermore, startups from the two countries are to get connected. 

In talks with the Indonesian Communications Minister Rudiantara, who uses a single name, Jahromi invited him to visit Iran. He also held talks with his Turkish counterpart Mehmet Cahit Turhan.


Iran Dubai conference ITU ICT Minister