By Cyber Era NG Special Correspondent, Geneva
The Government of India will fund a new Area Office for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to foster digital technology uptake in line with sustainable development across South Asia.
The new ITU Area Office and Innovation Centre, set to open in New Delhi by the middle of this year, aims to strengthen technology cooperation and boost regional telecommunications development.
“Today’s agreement is an important step in the enduring partnership between ITU and the Republic of India, and between ITU and the South Asia sub-region,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “I’m confident that the establishment of an ITU Area Office for South Asia in New Delhi will help to push the boundaries of innovation and accelerate digital transformation for all people and communities across India, the region and beyond.”
Through a closer presence, ITU hopes to advance shared regional priorities, such as reducing disparities between developing and developed countries in terms of Internet access, digital skills, and other socio-economic indicators after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Enhanced regional digital engagement
From India’s national capital, the new office will implement ITU initiatives and provide technical assistance and policy guidance on information and communication technologies (ICTs) in South Asia.
India’s Minister of Communications, Ashwini Vaishnaw, welcomed the opportunity for closer regional and international engagement through the signing of a host-country agreement for the office, saying: “India is proud to partner with ITU on this progressive initiative for the region, which will advance shared regional priorities, help reduce disparities with developed countries, and strengthen South Asia’s post-COVID recovery. India is determined to bridge the digital divide and help address the ensuing inequalities in digital access affecting the entire region.”
ITU – the United Nations specialized agency for ICTs – promotes inclusive connectivity for all as a key part of global sustainable development.
Governments, companies, research institutes, and civil society organizations from around the world, gathered at the last ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai in 2018, noted the need for an upgraded regional presence to conduct programmes and projects harnessing technologies for sustainable development.
ITU regional and area offices report to the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, currently Doreen Bogdan-Martin, who said she was excited about the opening of the South Asia Area Office in New Delhi.
“”This new office will allow ITU to broaden partnerships, building upon current work and facilitating digital innovation,” she said. “ITU will work, together with the Government of India, to ensure that the new office strengthens ITU’s regional presence, by bringing ITU closer to member countries, and further enhances ITU’s capability to help them recover from the COVID pandemic, accelerate the achievement of sustainable development, and at the same time advance digital transformation.”
Spurring innovation and technology uptake
ITU’s South Asia team will focus specifically on:
- Setting up an Innovation Centre for exchanges of ideas, success stories, innovative solutions, and global endeavours
- Promoting the introduction of advanced technologies
- Contributing to the development of ICT/telecommunication networks and services in South Asia
- Providing technical assistance in relation to infrastructure, e-governance, and cross-sectoral ICT applications
- Assisting with human resources and capacity development
- Conducting other activities related to ITU’s mandate to connect the world and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals