South Africa: ITU Telecom World 2018’s stage for smart digital development

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There’s no doubting the importance of connectivity in driving social and economic development throughout the world, in emerging and developed markets alike. 

Much of ITU’s work is focused on driving inclusive connectivity, ensuring universal access for all the world’s citizens to level the playing field of opportunity in the digital age.

‘Development in 2018 means digital development. This is why ITU Telecom World 2018 will focus on innovation in smart digital development in South Africa, across the continent of Africa and throughout the world.’

It is an enormous challenge, requiring ongoing investment in infrastructure, innovative business models and inventive technology mixes, all facilitated by multi-stakeholder partnerships between governments and private sector companies.

Alongside the physical infrastructure, be it wireless or fixed, satellite or fibre, bringing the Internet to rural, remote and underserved areas means providing affordable devices and access to the services, products and applications they make possible.

Driving demand amongst potential users is just as important, from public awareness to digital skills and literacy programmes – and, above all, compelling content. Creating relevant content in local languages is critical, and here is where governments can take the lead in providing services and applications, from e-health and e-education to transport and local government services.

The advent of future networks, powered by artificial intelligence and 5G as the key enablers, will only increase the potential of technology to make life better, sooner – even as they bring potential disruption to our societies.

This is why development in 2018 means digital development – with digitally smart humans at its centre. Preparing for the digital future means ensuring we are aware of what is happening, aware of the need for training and education to adapt and flourish. It is the urgent responsibility of governments, industry and civil society everywhere to engage in this process.

This is also why ITU Telecom World 2018, taking place in Durban from 10 to 13 September, will focus on innovation in smart digital development in South Africa, across the continent of Africa and throughout the world. It is the greatest, and potentially most rewarding, challenge of our age. And it is one that the government of South Africa, in particular, is tackling head on with its ambitious programme of national broadband roll out, digital services development and initiatives supporting tech small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and digital entrepreneurialism.

Leaders from government, industry, regulatory bodies, international agencies, consultants and academia will gather in Durban to explore the technologies, strategies and policies shaping the digital age. They will share expertise in lively Forum discussions on a range of key topics such as: new regulatory approaches; the standardization of the Internet of Things; artificial intelligence; powering smart cities; innovative connectivity solutions; the empowerment of digital finance; critical digital literacy initiatives – and much more.

Alongside the Forum, the ITU Telecom World Awards, which will recognise some of the most innovative tech SMEs for social good, make this event a powerful platform for networking, exchanging ideas, building contacts and taking ideas forward – together.

Connectivity is, after all, a necessity, not a luxury. Smart digital development is the key to all our futures. ITU Telecom World 2018 is where we can work out just how to go about developing those futures – in Durban, in South Africa, across the continent – and throughout the world.

By Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General

August 1 (Wednesday), 2018 |

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