Pandemic: ITU launches Global Network Resiliency Platform
- Outbreak putting stress on world networks
- New knowledge, expertise and advice resource online
- Will be continuously updated and interactive
- Relevant and trustworthy information and no fake news
The International Telecommunications Union, (ITU) is launching a "Global Network Resiliency Platform" to help protect telecoms networks during the COVID-19 crisis. In a statement issued this morning the venerable organisation's current Secretary General, Hulin Zhao, says the initiative is designed to help both national governments and the private sector to ensure that networks are "safer and stronger", "kept resilient" and are "more connected" to ensure that telecoms services remain "available to all."
Hulin Zhao added, "I have instructed my team to leverage without any delay ITU's existing regulatory and policy-maker platform to help countries and industry cope with the increasing stress being put on global networks.”
The hope is that the dissemination of information and the sharing of expertise will give those countries that still have time to prepare for the full onslaught of the corona virus the opportunity to learn about and draw lessons from the telecoms solutions that have been deployed elsewhere around the globe. These, the ITU says, can range from emergency spectrum reassignments to guidelines for consumers on responsible use.
Calling for worldwide industry solidarity from all ITU members in both the public and private sectors the secretary general said, "Never before have telecommunication networks been so vital to our health and safety, and to keep our economy and society working, as during the COVID-19 crisis we are living through today. At stake is our ability, as one human family, to give health workers everywhere the tools they need to carry out their duties, to allow all those that can to work from home, to trade online, to ensure that hundreds of millions of children and young people keep up with their studies, and to keep in touch with loved ones, wherever they are."
The new platform will help national policy-makers, regulators and industry stakeholders to ensure "that network efficiency is maximised via the sharing of best practices and various initiatives put in place during the pandemic. This will be effected by the collection of "relevant and trustworthy information and expertise on actions that telecommunication policy-makers, regulators and others in the regulatory community can use to ensure that their telecommunication networks and services serve the needs of their country."
The Global Network Resiliency Platform is currently a static information source but the ITU will will soon transmute it into a continuously-updated interactive platform for sharing "throughout this crisis and beyond".
Showing that the ITU is still relevant to world telecoms
For the advice offered to be effective the ITU needed to move fast and, to it's credit, it has done so. There can be no denying that the organisation's influence has declined since the turn of the millennium but, while it no longer has the popular pulling power it had back in its glory days of the huge exhibitions that attracted the entire global industry to Geneva back in 1995 and 1999, today's announcement is evidence of its continued importance and relevance to world telecoms. Indeed, arguably it is even more relevant in this time of global crisis.
The ITU is a special agency of the United Nations and was founded as long ago as 1865 to facilitate international connectivity in communications networks. The organisation allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develops technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect. It should never be forgotten that the ITU is completely committed to connecting all the world's people, regardless of where they live or wherever they live or whatever their means.
Today's ITU initiative was announced a matter of days after the organisation published new recommendations to aid national governments and telcos in the development of national emergency communications plans and systems - something that is still conspicuously lacking in the UK.
Back in 2013 the government here carried out successful trials of a nationwide emergency alert system. Under the now-abandoned decade-long austerity regime that saw successive conservative governments impose massive cuts across the UK's national and local health and social services the emergency alert system was "kicked into the long grass" and all but forgotten about as government departments squabbled over which of them would manage its development and deployment and which would pay for it. Seven years of inexcusable inaction later, we are all paying for now.
Meanwhile, Michael O'Reilly, one of the board of commissioners of the US telecoms regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently has publicly been questioning the continued existence and value of the ITU and has been calling for the establishment of a "G7-like" alternative composed of the world richest countries. Telecoms has always been a political issue as well as a technological one and the ITU has often been criticised for being overly bureaucratic and partial to the interests of smaller nations in general and the Third World in particular.
Well, the ITU has 196 members, not seven. It isn't a spoiled rich boys club and, as it should, it takes input from both sides of the Digital Divide and operates on behalf of all its members not just a few. It continues its work, rather more quietly and with less flamboyance than it did in the 1990s and remains very important to the global telecoms community. There's room in the world for more than one telecoms regulation and technical standards organisation. The ITU's voice should be heard and it has barked today. It's nice to be able to report today that there's life in the old dog yet.
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