The U.S. and the International Telecommunications Union: Accelerating Internet Connectivity

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Two men stand shaking hands in front of a banner for the International Telecommunications Union Conference
Deputy Assistant Secretary Rob Strayer joined International Telecommunication Union Secretary-General Houlin Zhao at the World Telecommunication Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The U.S. and the International Telecommunications Union: Accelerating Internet Connectivity

Expanding connectivity to the Internet is one of best ways to help people in the United States and developing countries improve their quality of life. The Internet and the information and communications technologies (ICTs) that it enables increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and spur innovations. They have already contributed to dramatically improved outcomes in the areas of health, education, and agriculture. As we have seen all too clearly with recent hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, ICTs play an absolutely critical role in preparing for and responding effectively to natural disasters. ICTs also facilitate the promulgation of information, knowledge, and ideas around the world, and improve the ability of people to participate in democratic processes. 

The United States benefits from increased prosperity globally as markets grow and new investment opportunities emerge. Internet connectivity creates networks that grow stronger and more beneficial to all as the number of users increases around the world. A global marketplace for ideas and enterprise benefits everyone. This is why we all share an interest in ensuring that we maximize the contribution of ICTs to global economic development.

With this goal in mind, the United States played an active role in this year’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), a conference that takes place every four years and guides the efforts of the ITU Development Sector to help developing countries take full advantage of expanded Internet connectivity and ICTs. During the conference, the U.S. delegation, with participants from government, the private sector, technical community, and civil society, worked diligently in Buenos Aires to listen to the needs of developing countries and to ensure that the ITU Development Sector remains focused on its core competencies and fully leverages relevant expertise in areas like regulatory best practices, disaster preparedness, and infrastructure deployment. As a result, the ITU’s development agenda for the next few years continues to prioritize what we believe to be the more pressing needs of developing countries, including fostering regulatory environments that promote investment, enabling innovation to expand broadband access, encouraging international cooperation and furthering countries’ abilities to protect their information networks and build computer incident response teams. 

 The United States has been a member of the ITU for over 100 years, and we are going to continue to stay engaged because we know how important its work is to enhancing the value of the world’s digital and expanding economic growth from which we all benefit. We believe it is crucial that the ITU be efficient and agile in delivering valuable services to all countries. We want it to have the right structure, strong financial management and requisite transparency, and the right people leading its capable workforce. We believe the experience that the United States has had in setting the stable regulatory environment for investment, innovation, and leadership that has fostered a robust international digital economy can be an asset to the leadership of the ITU.

 When it comes to Internet connectivity, ICTs, and development, the United States and our partners around the world share the same goals. Governments, companies, and citizens all want to see ICTs raise living standards and open new opportunities. At the WTDC in Buenos Aires, we succeeded together in setting a path for the ITU and its membership that will help produce those results. We hope this progress continues in the coming years.

About the Author: Robert Strayer is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Cyber and International Information and Communications Policy in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.