ITU Conference Focuses on Cybersecurity and Local Content

An International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conference on World Telecommunication Development concluded in Hyderabad, India, on Friday with action plans for providing affordable Internet access, and ensuring cyber security, and local content development.

The ITU launched its "Build on Broadband" initiative earlier this year with a target of providing broadband Internet access to at least half of the world's population by 2015.

But there appears to be a recognition within ITU that there are a lot of challenges ahead, apart from the more obvious one of rolling out the physical infrastructure for the broadband networks.

The growing use of ICT (information and communication technology) applications, the popularity of social networks, and useful services on the Internet have also created the challenge to build trust and confidence in the security, reliability, and privacy of these technologies, ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré told reporters on Friday.

Cybersecurity needs a common legal and regulatory framework across countries, and the regular updating of these laws to take into account the changing nature of cybercrimes, Touré said.

Countries have to also agree on the procedures and approaches for traceback of the IP address of the criminal, as there is often disagreement as to where the cyber criminal came from, Touré added. ITU had made a recommendation on this in 2008, he said.

ITU set up an expert group in 2007 to recommend steps to be taken in the area of cyber security, including the legal and regulatory framework. The group, for example, recommended that countries create a constitutional framework at the national level, assigning cyber security to a specific ministry or agency, to avoid replication of work and competition.

Describing the right to communicate as a fundamental human right, Touré also emphasized the need for local content. The ITU is not in the business of content, but plans to work with other agencies such as the UNESCO and governments to help them develop content, as it is required not only for education but for culture, he added.

The knowledge society will not be reached until content is built, particularly in the local languages of the people, Touré said.

A few languages account for over half the content currently available on the Internet, with much of it in English, according to a report released last month by the market information and statistics division of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau.

Over 80 percent of people in developing countries do not still have access to the Internet, let alone through broadband access, the report said.

A key element of the action plan that emerged at the Hyderabad conference is to create a level playing field that is conducive to innovation, competition, and growth, according to Touré. India's mobile boom, for example, did not happen in a vacuum, but required the right legal and regulatory framework that was provided in the country, he said.

ITU also plans to expand on the role telecommunications and ICT can play in combating climate change, and in disaster detection, early warning, preparedness, response and recovery, according to a declaration at the end of the conference.

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