Dubai Hosts International Telecommunication Union's Sixth World Telecommunication Development Conference

Posted by Daniel Sepulveda
April 11, 2014
Visitors to Dubai Use Their Smart Phones to Take Pictures of An Electronic Version of the City's Skyline

As a U.S. delegation of government and private sector advisors departed for the World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC) in Dubai two weeks ago, the specter of the previous International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conference held there in 2012 loomed large.  The earlier meeting was marked by division and tension.  It shook the confidence of those who value the important work on the ITU and want the Union to succeed within its mandate.

The difference between Dubai 2012 and Dubai 2014, however, could not have been more striking.  I believe this was due, in large part, to the leadership of my Deputy, Julie Zoller, and the diligent work of our colleagues other government agencies and the private sector.

The professionalism and inclusiveness demonstrated by the ITU leadership and the conference Chairman, Director General Al Ghanim of the UAE, enabled us to work with the institution and our counterparts to achieve a mutually-beneficial outcome for the United States and the developing world.  The conference set a positive precedent as we move on to the ITU Plenipotentiary in South Korea later this year.

Julie's positive approach during the delegation’s preparatory process in the preceding weeks set the tone for our participation.  And the leadership of our colleagues from the FCC, NTIA, and DHS, as our private sector advisors, in chairing and contributing to working committees at the conference was exceptional.  The event also gave us an opportunity to champion our nominee for the ITU Radio Regulations Board, Ms. Joanne Wilson, a dear colleague and true expert on the ITU and radio regulation matters.

On a range of topics, we were very successful in properly scoping the work of the ITU.  While some delegates tried to frame telecommunications challenges in a negative light, the U.S. delegation focused on enhancing and embracing the opportunities that modern telecommunications create for people and nations all over the world.

We were able to persuade other member states to task the ITU to study how developing countries can facilitate access to cloud services, rather than focus on the regulation of cloud computing.  We successfully encouraged a focus on the enabling environment necessary for broadband deployment such as investments in infrastructure and promoting competition to facilitate the development of Internet services rather than on regulation or taxation.  We worked hard to keep any reference of the regulation of content transmitted over communications networks out of the final document.

As the head of our delegation, I could not be prouder of the expertise and hard work that our team brought to bear on the ground.  We look to you and other U.S. stakeholders to continue working with us as we engage the international community to connect every child in every community to the information economy and provide all the opportunities for education, democratic development, and social mobility that it entails.

About the Author: Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda serves as U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy at the U.S. Department of State.

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