View other issues


Excitement from the ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009 Conference

by Harry Rudin

These days, the air is typically full of discouraging economic news. In contrast, the atmosphere at the ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009 Conference in Geneva, 5 - 9 October, 2009, was up-beat and rippling with energy and excitement. Relevant to this issue of ERCIM News, there was considerable interest in Green ICT.

Compared with most other branches, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry is doing well. The resultant enthusiasm was very much in evidence at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) TELECOM WORLD 2009 conference. At the conference, the ITU released several reports; here are some observations taken from one of them, "The World in 2009 - ICT Facts and Figures":

  • Mobile growth is continuing unabated, with global mobile subscriptions expected to reach 4.6 billion by the end of this year, and mobile broadband subscriptions to top 600 million in 2009, having overtaken fixed broadband subscribers in 2008.
  • More than a quarter of the world’s population is online and using the Internet, also as of 2009. Ever-increasing numbers of users are opting for high-speed Internet access, with fixed broadband subscriber numbers more than tripling from 150 million in 2004 to an estimated 500 million by the end of 2009.
  • ITU estimates show that three quarters of households now own a television set and over a quarter of people globally – some 1.9 billion – now have access to a computer at home. This demonstrates the huge market potential in developing countries, where TV penetration is already high, for converged devices, as the mobile, television and Internet worlds collide.

A key question is what to do about the current general economic crisis. In another report released, “Confronting the Crisis: ICT Stimulus Plans for Economic Growth,” it is convincingly argued that relatively small investments in ITC result in substantial increases in a country’s gross domestic product.

One conference session dealt with ICT stimulus stories from around the world. The world not only has economic problems - there was a widespread feeling that ICT will help with other problems such as making the provision of health services more efficient and helping to relieve the world’s environmental problems through energy conservation and perhaps even climate control.

One of the sessions on green ICT dealt with the cataloging of different approaches for saving the energy required by ICT. Another session dealt with applications of ICT such as in smart homes, smart appliances, smart transportation, and smart energy grids.

Of course there are also problems resulting from ICT such as child protection in cyberspace, protection of property rights and even the danger of war in cyberspace. These topics were also discussed at length.
Overall, though, the general feeling at TELECOM 2009 is one of great optimism and the belief, for example, that ICT will be a major contributor to increasing the wellbeing in developing countries.