Laying foundations for a better, more connected and more secure world

October 23, 2020 | 11:09 am GMT+7

Expecting that the ITU Ministerial Roundtables will lay the foundations for a better, more connected and safer world, ITU Secretary-General Zhao Houlin emphasized that countries must work together to narrow the digital gap.


"Joining hands" to address digital inequality

From 6pm on October 21 (Vietnam time), the second session of the ITU Ministerial Roundtables - an important part of the ITU Virtual Digital World 2020 - began.
With a new name and being held online for the first time, ITU Digital World 2020 opened on October 20. With the theme “Building the digital world together”, the global ICT event was jointly organized online by the Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), using the Make-in-Vietnam platform at
The importance of IT during and after the Covid-19 pandemic as well as how to effectively take advantage of the great opportunity from the pandemic to foster national digital transformation was the focus of discussion in the second session.
In his opening remarks at the second discussion session on October 21, the representative of the Ministry of Information and Communications, Deputy Minister Phan Tam, said that since the Covid-19 pandemic started, IT has proven its importance in helping countries adapt and react to challenges, activating distance learning and working. The epidemic has forced us to accelerate digital transformation in all areas.
“We are entering a new era of the digital world with digital government, digital economy and digital society. ITU now plays a more important role, which is supporting member countries' digital plans, promoting global cooperation to build the digital world. I hope today's discussion will be effective and contribute to reinforcing the role of ITU in the digital transformation process,” he said.
Sharing Mr. Phan Tam’s viewpoint, Mr. Zhao Houlin, ITU Secretary- General, said that Covid 19 has made enormous changes and also opened up unprecedented possibilities.
Zhao Houlin said that Covid-19 has led to a push to promote digital power and national digital strategy. When government services go online, governments need to be able to promote online business by devising policies to attract investment and appropriate incentives for telecom service providers and manufacturers.
Affirming that the new digital world should be built on the cooperation of nations, the ITU Secretary General suggested that we need to focus on promoting online education, improving digital skills for people. Human resource development is at the heart of efforts to connect people who are not yet connected.
“We also need to help small and medium-sized businesses thrive. And above all, we need to work together to narrow the digital gap between countries and within countries by providing more meaningful, cost-effective connectivity services,” Zhao Houlin said.
Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau, said that IT plays an important role in eliminating social and economic gaps.
Citing statistics which show that there are 47 least developed countries in the world where about 20% of the population are not connected to the Internet due to lack of infrastructure and expensive service prices, she said: “This digital equality is not the world we envisioned five years ago."
Ms. Bogdan-Martin said the Covid-19 pandemic requires the urgent establishment of Internet connections all over the world. This urgency will not end when even when Covid disappears. And we can take advantage of today's unprecedented situation to place digital at the heart of a global recovery.

ICT helps many countries to "leave no one behind" during the Covid-19 pandemic
The Minister of Telecommunications Technology of Costa Rica said that in March 2020, when the country implemented social distancing, all economic, social, educational and medical activities were put in a digital environment.
The Ministry of Telecommunication Technology of Costa Rica directed the Telecommunications Commission to require telecom service providers to ensure stable connection services. Learning and working online increased the Internet traffic of carriers. According to statistics, more than 140,000 households received Internet support packages so that the learning of more than 250,000 elementary and high school students was not interrupted; students could study online without going to school.
Similarly, for Spain, where up to 85% of the population has access to fiber optic networks, the Spanish Minister of Economy and Digital Transformation said that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Spain focused on maintaining the network, with the view of "not leaving anyone behind".
“It is necessary to have a combination of management measures to take the country through the crisis and to negotiate with telecom service providers so that they agree to come up with measures to help people stay connected during the epidemic. We are planning to have the remaining 15% of the population to use optical fiber network at home,” said the Spanish Minister of Economy and Digital Transformation.
Sharing this viewpoint, the President of the Uruguay Communication Service Authority emphasized that during the Covid-19 pandemic, the most important task of the Government is to protect the people. All activities move to digital environment so the quality of connection services is more important than ever. Government agencies, organizations and people must cooperate and strengthen solidarity so that no one will be left behind. Government agencies need to provide more information to the people.
“It is also important to equip citizens with digital skills so that they can access government services in a digital environment. The digital environment presents many opportunities as well as many risks. The government must take measures to ensure transparency and clarity to encourage people to use online services,” recommended the representative of the Uruguay Communication Service Authority.
How to seize the opportunity for digital transformation?
Regarding how to effectively take advantage of the opportunity brought by Covid-19 pandemic to accelerate digital transformation, the Indonesian Minister of Communications and Information said that Covid-19 has affected every aspect of life but has also helped to speed up the digital transformation process.
Considering that the digital transformation program needs to be accelerated, the Indonesian Minister of Communications and Information described initiatives implemented by Indonesia, including the improvement of digital infrastructure to narrow the digital gap and provision of cheap, secure connection solutions for everyone.
“We plan to roll out 4G infrastructure in more than 12,500 villages that have not yet had 4G coverage. This will be completed by 2022. We will also add tens of thousands of public Internet connection points, bringing the total number of connection points to half a million by the third quarter of 2022. Indonesia has also started developing the 5G network,” said the representative of Indonesian Ministry of Communications and Information.
Indonesia also encourages better policies for the digital economy. At the same time, the Indonesian Ministry of Communications and Information is considering building and promulgating a Law on Personal Data Protection and regulations for electronic system providers, and the public sector. "The new regulations will create an environment for innovation as well as ensure that personal data is protected," said the representative of Indonesian Ministry of Communications and Information.
According to the Minister of Post and Telecommunication of Laos, technology has helped many fields solve major problems during the pandemic and for IT to be effective, connectivity must be guaranteed at affordable service rates. In addition, government agencies, when establishing a virtual work environment, must pay special attention to cybersecurity.
Sharing views with other speakers on the importance of connection services as well as the quality of such services, from the corporate perspective, a representative of Ericsson, said that connections have become the “must-have” thing for the entire economy and connectivity should be at the forefront, the center of policy concerns. Continuing to build 4G LTE networks and deploying 5G is extremely important.
“It can be said that the technology to support global connectivity is ripe and ready. Currently, the role of Governments and relevant authorities is very important in creating the right environment for realization and ITU also plays a very important role in supporting Governments worldwide," said the representative of Ericsson.