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Brussels, 4 December 2006
This week's ITU Conference in Hong-Kong and the new focus on the international dimension of Europe’s Information Society: Frequently Asked Questions
Today, Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, is addressing, in an opening speech, the Telecom World 2006 conference of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Hong-Kong (see SPEECH/06/772 "Connecting-up the Global Village: A European View on Telecommunications Policy").
For the European Commission', this ITU conference is seen as an opportunity to give a new focus on the international aspects of the EU’s policies in the field of ICT research in which the EU will invest a further €9 billion from 2007 to 2013 (see IP/06/1590).
Commissioner Reding, who has been meeting policy-makers and business leaders in Hong-Kong, also used her speech today to announce her plans for a new EU strategy on the international challenges for Europe's ICT sector. She plans on this issue a Commission Communication to be adopted in 2008, based on a broad public consultation to be launched in the second half of 2007.
Why is the ITU Telecom World 2006 conference important for Europe?
ITU Telecom World 2006 is the world's biggest telecommunications fair. Starting today in Hong-Kong and running until Friday, the conference will bring together business representatives, technology experts and policy-makers from around the globe to discuss economic, regulatory and political issues related to the telecom sector. (Further information at http://www.itu.int/WORLD2006/)
The conference seeks to provide a "networking platform" for the global ICT community. More than 60'000 participants and visitors are expected at the conference. Issues on the agenda include the development of digital services, more market-oriented approaches to radio spectrum, regulatory questions related to ensuring competition on next generation networks, network security aspects and the fight against spam, research priorities in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as well as the need to ensure freedom of expression in the development of the global Information Society.
What is the ITU?
The ITU (International Telecommunication Union), which is the organiser of Telecom World 2006 in Hong-Kong, is one of the oldest international organisations. It is particularly active in the management of radio spectrum, the development of global telecommunications standards and helping the development of ICTs in emerging economies.
ITU has a broad-based membership, which includes 191 Member States and over 650 sector members, which represent various organisations with an interest in telecommunications, including major industry players in service provision, equipment manufacturing, and network and radio infrastructure design.
All 25 EU Member States are members of the ITU in their own right. Since 1996 the European Commission has also participated in the work of the ITU as an observer. For the EU, the ITU is a particularly useful international organisation because it gathers decision-makers and private sector representatives. It is therefore an excellent platform for the global debate on ICT and electronic communications issues.
Why does the EU have a concrete economic interest in the international dimension of the Information Society?
Promoting the European ICT industry as a key driver of economic growth is an integral part of the EU's Lisbon agenda. This is why the EU is working on ways to ensure its ICT industry has access to global markets and can compete effectively.
Europe’s ICT industry is a major economic sector with the telecommunications, IT and audiovisual markets making up 6-8% of EU GDP, and 4-6% of employment. Internationally, the stakes are high for Europe's ICT industry:
In 2004, the global ICT market increased by 6%, to an estimated €2,530 billion. ICT equipment in international trade has increased substantially over recent years and is now around 15% of global trade. The EU represents approximately 20% of world ICT supply. Telecommunications, embedded computing, micro- and nano-electronics, micro-systems, ‘smart’ integrated systems and rich audiovisual content are Europe’s main industrial and technology strengths.
European industry is strong in telecommunications services and equipment. It has six of the global top 10 telecommunications providers and four of the global top 10 equipment manufacturers. Europe is also strong in electronic design for mobile phones and automotive electronics, signal processing, smartcards, and microsystems.
Several major breakthroughs in communication standards have been generated in Europe in the last 10-15 years, including the Web, mpeg2 and mp3 encoding, and the Linux operating system with its influence on the open source software movement.
What does the Commission do to promote international cooperation in research, development and standardisation for digital TV?
In Europe, digital television is supported by an open standard developed by the open DVB Consortium with the participation of over 250 entities from all parts of the world. DVB-T (for terrestrial TV) is part of a family of interoperable standards that dominate digital broadcasting around the world, together with DVB-S for digital satellite TV, DVB-C for digital cable TV and DVB-H for mobile TV.
DVB-T has already been adopted by over 100 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and is becoming a global standard, as it has been the case with the GSM standard for mobile communications. Regarding the other digital terrestrial TV competing standards, ATSC has been adopted in the US, Canada, Mexico and South Korea, while ISDB-T has been adopted in Japan and last June Brazil adopted a modified version. Argentina is expected to take a decision on DVB-T soon.
What does the Commission do today to promote the interests of Europe's ICT sector around the globe?
The EU is already today working with many countries and international organisations to both represent Europe's interests and actively promote the benefits of the Information Society around the world.
In view of the growing importance of the Asian market for the ICT industry, DG Information Society and Media has posted for this purpose a special Commission ICT liaison officer to Beijing (China) who also supports the important work done by DG Trade as regards market access.
How does the EU cooperate with third countries in research and innovation?
For some years already, the Commission has been supporting programmes that promote the national educational and research networks in third countries. The Commission in particular seeks to facilitate the very high-speed interconnectivity between the North and the South. GÉANT, Europe's multi-gigabit computer network for research and education, the world's largest, is thus being rolled out with the objective to create a single global research network (see IP/05/722, MEMO/05/205).
Europe’s financial solidarity and openness is also illustrated by the Commission's international cooperation activities under the Research and Development Framework Programmes. From 2002 to 2006, 1402 organisations from countries outside of the EU participated in the 6th Framework Programme (FP6) receiving in total €283.3 million in EU funding. Since 2002, Science and Technology Agreements have been signed with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, India, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the USA. In addition, an agreement with Egypt was initialed and a mandate to negotiate an agreement with Japan was approved. Of these countries, China is the second most successful participant in the IST Programme after the US. Chinese participants received €9.2 million in EU funding in FP6. For a detailed overview of international participation in FP6 by activity and region see http://cordis.europa.eu/ist/international/.
This important work will continue in the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) (2007-2013) (see IP/06/1589). Strategic partnerships with third countries in scientific fields of mutual interest will be supported to engage the best scientists worldwide to work with and in Europe. Specific issues and problems – either of a global nature or facing individual countries – may also be addressed within this framework. Cooperation with non-EU countries in the Framework Programme will be targeted in particular at the following groups: candidates for joining the European Union; EU neighbours, Mediterranean countries, countries of the Western Balkan region that are not already acceding or candidate countries, Eastern European and central Asian states; developing countries focusing on their particular needs; and emerging economies.
Some examples of successful international collaboration under the EU's ICT research programmes include:
§ With the help of an American company, the development of a ‘black box’ capable of deciphering obsolete media and transferring it to digital data (www.prestospace.org).
§ EU-China cooperation on organising a high tech Olympics, one of the pillars of the Beijing Olympics Games 2008 (www.EuroChina-IT.org).
§ A common interoperable networked and distributed computing infrastructure available to EU and Indian scientific communities (www.euindiagrid.eu/).
What is the Youth Forum of the ITU Telecom World 2006 conference?
This week's ITU conference in Hong-Kong also features a Youth Forum, where the younger generation has the opportunity to express their expectations and concerns about the development of the global Information Society and to discuss and interact directly with policy-makers.
Commissioner Reding addressed the Youth Forum on 3 December (see SPEECH/06/773 "The Disruptive Force of Web 2.0: How the New Generation Will Define the Future"). In this speech, Commissioner Reding also underlined her firm belief in an open and democratic Internet that is free from undue governmental influence, and voiced her clear opposition to all forms of censorship.