ITU’s regional initiatives: Ensuring accessible Internet in the European region

While Europe is the most connected region for broadband Internet, there is still more work to be done to ensure everyone benefits from information and communication technologies (ICTs), says Jaroslaw Ponder, Head of the ITU Regional Office for Europe.

At the recent ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018 in Dubai, Mr Ponder discussed the range of activities across Europe and the priorities of regional Member States to ensure affordable and inclusive Internet for all.

“There’s no doubt that Europe is leading at the global level the broadband [penetration] rate. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of things which should be done in view of cybersecurity and building trust and confidence in the use of the ICTs,” said Ponder.

“In the Europe region, we are working very closely with the membership and remain guided by their priorities. This includes a variety of different activities, including the broadband development, cybersecurity, digital inclusion, [and] also innovation,” he explained.

“For the next year, we are working on issues related to accessibility. And this is one of the issues which member states have positioned very high on their agendas: to make sure that the ICT environment is affordable and accessible to all, [especially] for those people with disabilities who can really benefit on the daily basis from … ICTs.”

“This year we will be holding the first-ever Accessible Europe event which is co-organized with the European Commission and which will bring the key stakeholders and community of the key, leading institutions working on this subject in order to make sure that the all websites in the European Union and European region are accessible.”

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In addition to several digital inclusion initiatives, he described the work on 5G and cybersecurity that is happening in the European region.

“We have prioritized recently the very new trend of development of the 5G and implementation of next generation networks across Europe. So, we are working hand-in-hand with … Member States and the private sector in order to make this happen…” he explained.

In addition, he described how ITU is working to improve Europe’s response to cyber-crime: “We are setting up and helping the countries to set up the proper national cybersecurity strategies, to equip them through the project implementation with the CIRTS and the Computer Incident Response Team’s centers.”

Lastly, he called for partners to continue to work together in the region and for new members to join ITU’s work.

“We have a very broad agenda for advancing ICTs and there is a space for all stakeholders active in this area. Therefore, we are calling for strong partnerships with all relevant institutions which can join forces,” he said.