Another year, another ITU plan

07 Jun 2010

I know the ITU is a soft target; it’s not just a government bureaucracy – it’s an inter-governmental maze of obscure committees and acronyms.

Apart from its high-priced trade shows, it’s probably best-known for working stiffs in telecom as the forum that codifies mobile standards after the industry has agreed on them.

These days the ITU puts a good deal of effort on the developing world and in the last 20 years it has no doubt helped steer dozens of ministers and officials away from their traditional practice of plundering the state PTT. (Though the mobile phone has probably been just a touch more influential.)

Now, after an 11-day cluster at the Hyderabad Novotel, some 900 ITU worthies have boldly stepped forward with the Hyderabad Declaration.

This declaration, like the Doha Declaration and the Tunis Commitment before it, says exactly what you’d expect from government officials not actually involved in running telecom networks: broadband is essential for development, the digital divide is a bad thing, e-government is a good idea, next-gen networks “hold great promise.” And so on.

I know officials on need have something to show for themselves at the end of a two-week jolly, but that is not a declaration. That is a shopping list.

The conference also came up with an action plan, which has not been released, but what is the point of these schemes which are never measured? The declaration actually reels off the list of previous grand plans – Buenos Aires (1994), Valletta (1998), Istanbul (2002), Doha (2006) – but doesn’t tell us just how they performed. More to the point, they don’t tell you what role the ITU played.

It’s time the ITU dumped these pointless “declarations” and got on with the job of getting ICTs to those who don’t have them.

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