International delegates to ITU’s 12th Global Symposium for Regulators who met in Colombo last week recognized the enormous potential of cloud computing for promoting wider, lower-cost access to information and communication technology (ICT), while stressing the importance of close collaboration between governments, industry and consumer groups in promoting data security and privacy and greater confidence in cloud services.
The annual regulatory meeting in Colombo, which welcomed a total of 446 participants from almost 100 countries, sought to forge a common vision around strategies to promote digital opportunities through new broadband-based platforms, while getting to grips with the often complex regulatory implications of cloud-based service provision.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) appointed Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga as ambassador for promoting cloud computing around the globe.
At the close of the final session of GSR, delegates endorsed a set of regulatory Best Practice Guidelines designed to provide a framework for innovation, investment and competition in cloud infrastructure and services while at the same time ensuring protection of consumer interests.
They also emphasized the benefits of innovative infrastructure sharing models based on public-private partnership in driving broadband roll-out in emerging markets and developing countries. Ubiquitous broadband was recognized as the essential platform for the growth of cloud services which, by combining low costs and global scalability, can generate substantial economic returns and improved efficiency for government, businesses and individuals.
Successful innovations at this year’s symposium included a two-day Global Regulators-Industry Dialogue (GRID) and a pre-event day featuring specialized side meetings, including sessions organized by the International Telecommunication Satellite Organization (ITSO) and by the GSMA, as well as an exclusive meeting of Chief Regulatory Officers (CROs) from the private sector.
The GRID programme, which began on October 2, saw lively, interactive discussion among panelists and audience members representing operators, ICT manufacturers, service providers, infrastructure specialists and regulatory consultancies. Industry participants stressed the need for predictable, transparent and flexible regulatory frameworks and technology-neutral policies that allow new services to evolve in line with consumer demand and the rapid pace of technological innovation. They also emphasized the importance of a light regulatory touch.
Speaking to GRID delegates on 3 October, the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), Mr Brahima Sanou, said the key to the success of this new component lay in its unique ability to promote open dialogue and facilitate contact between top decision makers working in a very specialized field on both sides of the market – government and industry.
Held at the Colombo Hilton Hotel, this year’s GRID/GSR programme covered a broad range of hot topics, including net neutrality, international roaming, cybersecurity, IP interconnection, and new partnership models to promote investment in new network infrastructure.
“This key event for the international regulatory community continues to evolve in a very positive direction,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré. “I believe it has been our most successful GSR ever on a number of important levels, from the quality of our expert panelists and moderators to the content-rich programme which ITU develops collaboratively with regulatory professionals to reflect that group’s specific needs and concerns.”
The final set of GSR Best Practice Guidelines focus largely around the challenges and opportunities of cloud-based models, and include recommendations relating to cloud convergence; consumer ‘cloud literacy’ to ensure personal data protection; transparency in cloud service obligations between service providers; the development and adoption of international technical and organizational standards for cloud interfaces and service delivery; data portability in the cloud; and international cooperation between regulators.
The Guidelines also cover other key regulatory areas like digital capacity building, net neutrality, regulatory enforcement mechanisms, and measures to promote broadband roll-out including shared infrastructure strategies, coordination of civil works across different sectors, and policies to speed rights-of-way access.
Discussions during the pre-event programme earlier last week also raised the potential of ‘regional cloud’ models, whereby groups of countries could cooperate on regional frameworks to promote cloud services, leveraging the benefits while reducing security, confidentiality and other vital concerns. The potential of a new sub-regional approach was suggested by one delegate, whereby regulators’ associations could promote efforts to harmonize regulatory instruments among member countries.
Spectrum was another hot topic, with delegates discussing potential strategies for releasing critically-needed spectrum for wireless broadband and endorsing the need for policies that encourage the harmonization of international spectrum and ICT device approvals.
Chaired this year by Mr Lalith Weeratunga, Chairman of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), the GRID/GSR was hosted by ITU and TRCSL under the patronage of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who presided over the opening ceremony on Monday 2 October.
In his closing remarks to delegates on Thursday, 4 October, BDT Director Brahima Sanou said the positive response to this year’s GSR confirmed the event’s continuing relevance to those whose decisions shape today’s and tomorrow’s global ICT markets, and affirmed ITU’s central role as a platform for sharing knowledge and building consensus among an increasingly diverse range of stakeholders.
He thanked co-host TRCSL for its support and exceptional hospitality during the three-day event. “ Sri Lanka has proved not just a beautiful and gracious venue but a very attractive destination for an international event like this one because of its ideal geographical location between east and west. Our hosts have been exemplary terms of their professionalism, their generosity, and the commitment they have shown to making this event a resounding success.”
Since its establishment in 2000, the ITU Global Symposium for Regulators has earned a reputation as the most important annual global gathering of the regulatory and policy-making community.
Next year’s event will be held in Warsaw , Poland , from 3 - 5 July 2013, at the invitation of Polish authorities.