Dubai: International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are getting together for the first time in the history of ICT.

They will be working apart from the 2,000 delegates from over 160 countries who have assembled for the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT12), being held in Dubai from yesterday till December 14. The aim of the conference will be to review the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which was last negotiated in 1988.

In this opening speech, Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, said the Arab Spring showed the power of ICT to help people voice their legitimate demands for human rights and greater accountability.

“As we strive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and shape the post-2015 development agenda, WCIT12 conference is well placed to help further unleash the benefits of ICTs while promoting an environment that drives innovation,” Ban said.

In the coming days, he said,” you will review the agreement that underpins how we communicate with each other across the globe. The overall objective is to ensure universal access to the benefits of information and communication technology — including for the two-thirds of the world’s population currently not online.”

He said the United Nations system stands behind the goal of an open internet, and that the right to communicate is central to the ITU’s mission.

“We must continue to work together and find consensus on how to most effectively keep cyberspace open, accessible, affordable and secure,” he said.

“It’s time to start working together and believe we have taken the first step. I believe it is in the right direction. WCIT12 will close as an important year and fulfill the promise of not only this year but also for the century,” Dr Hamadoun I. Toure, Secretary-General, ITU, said.

“This conference is about giving access to the people without internet and mobile phones. This new treaty is to ensure that the remaining 4.5 billion are connected while the remaining one billion and the 650 million with some type of disabilities are connected in a safe manner,” Toure said.

For ITU and its members, the main goal for the next two weeks is to find ways to help bring the benefits of broadband to the people of the world.

“Two-thirds of the world’s population still doesn’t have access to the Internet and we need to change that at WCIT12. The three keys to the conference are consensus, consensus and consensus,” he said.

Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Australia, endorsed Toure’s view that consensus is what we are seeking at WCIT12 for the next two weeks.

Touré said that nothing at WCIT12 will negatively affect freedom of expression.