From left: Houlin Zhao, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Beatrice Pluchon, the ITU’s senior external affairs officer for Member State Relations and Intergovernmental Organisations, and Tareq Al Awadhi, the TRA’s executive director for Spectrum Affairs, at an ITU press conference in Dubai on Monday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: The twentieth edition of International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18) opened in Dubai on Monday with a global call for the world to “act as one” to connect the world’s nearly four billion people who remain unconnected to the internet.

The Plenipotentiary Conference is the highest decision-making body of ITU, the United Nations specialised agency for ICT.

Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, said that new technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things will change how we live, work and learn in ways that have yet to be imagined. “The challenge before us today is to ensure that these technologies and ICTs, in general, continue to be a source for good for everyone across the world,” he said.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, attended the opening session along with Shaikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and other dignitaries.

According to a statement from WAM, Shaikh Mohammad said that he was happy that such a massive international event is being held in the UAE, within the city of Dubai. He reaffirmed that the UAE will always welcome its guests, whether they are scientists, experts, investors, tourists or intellectuals, which in turn consolidates values and bridges of communication, knowledge sharing, respect and cooperation.

In a speech during the opening session, Major General Talal Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Chairman of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE, said that the TRA is keen on regulating the telecommunications sector to make sure that it is of high quality and can positively contribute to the UAE’s sustainable and comprehensive development process.

Al Falasi announced that the TRA, in cooperation with local telecom operators, is working on completing the necessary infrastructure to launch the 5G network to the public by 2020 at the latest, making the UAE as one of the first countries to adopt the high-speed network.

Held every four years, the conference is the key event at which ITU’s 193 member states build consensus on key international ICT issues, elect leaders for the Union’s top five posts, and decide on a road map for the next four-year period, including strategic and financial plans.

PP-18 takes place from October 29 to November 16 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

More than 3,000 participants, 130 eminent personalities and 800 private sector companies, academic institutions and regional and international bodies are taking part.

Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Deputy Director General for Telecommunications Sector at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE (TRA), has been elected as the chairmanship of the PP-18.

Delegates will tackle a number of pressing issues, from strategies to promote digital inclusion and bridge the digital divide, to ways to leverage such emerging technologies as the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, 5G, and others, to improve the way all of us, everywhere, live and work.

Zhao said that the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic are investing in ITU ’s new building to be constructed at its current location in Geneva, Switzerland.

Construction of the new building is expected to start in 2022, with the opening in 2025.

“Most of the target for the 2020 agenda is on target. I urge the members to focus on four Is — Innovation, investment, infrastructure and inclusiveness — where we can have the most impact,” he said.