As never before in human history, we take for granted the ability to communicate across borders, oceans, and continents. Mobile technology and Internet connectivity are woven into the daily life of most Americans, and have created new avenues for connection, interaction, sharing, and understanding. Meanwhile, the pace of evolution and innovation in mobile and Internet technology ensures an ever-changing, ever-expanding communications landscape.
That landscape extends across the globe, and while not all corners of the world have come to enjoy the full benefits of the Internet age yet, the global expansion of those benefits is gaining speed. The number of Internet users in Africa, for example, is growing by more than 30 percent per year, and mobile broadband services in developing countries grew by nearly 80 percent in 2011 alone.
Consider for just a moment the distance we have traveled since the early days of international communications. In 1865, the United States was a signatory to the very first International Telegraph Convention. This convention established a cooperative approach to the development and expansion of new communication tools. As the telegraph gave way to telephone and radio communication, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was born to coordinate international standards of electronic communication, including management of the radio spectrum. This means that ITU plays a central role in minimizing conflict on the international airwaves, and that, in turn, means that communicating with friends and family around the world is increasingly routine.
Of course, a great deal has changed since world leaders first met to discuss the potential impact of the telegraph. When members of the ITU meet this December at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, there will be discussion of how best to update and improve the International Telecommunications Regulations.
As the world leader in telecommunications technologies, the United States goes to the conference committed to a goal of maintaining an open, consumer-driven and multi-stakeholder approach to telecommunications, which holds the best promise of maximizing social and economic benefits to consumers, citizens, and societies. Click here to learn more about the World Conference on International Telecommunications.
Editor's Note: The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 3-14, 2012. Read Ambassador Kramer's preview of the conference here.