The Arab States Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) for the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference 2010 (WTDC-10) concluded in Damascus on 19 January with delegates reaching consensus on regional strategies to foster the development of information and communication technologies. The agreed strategies and priorities will serve as inputs to WTDC-10, which will take place in Hyderabad, India, 24 May -- 4 June 2010.
The meeting was opened by the Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid who commented on progress in ICT development in the Arab States, particularly in mobile communications, but noted that there is room for improvement in broadband access.
The region has seen internet usage increase by 1648.2% between 2000 and 2009, but with 57.4m internet users in a region that has a population of 202.6m, there is clearly plenty of room to address further penetration which currently stands at 28.3%. When it comes to fixed broadband, penetration is far lower, hence the concerns expressed at the RPM. The ITU has reported that in 2008 fixed broadband penetration had reached just 1% of the population.
Accelerating broadband uptake and availability has been recognised by the RPM as critical to accelerating the diffusion of e-applications and services, and in turn contributing to rapid socio-economic development.
Following a review of the 2006 WTDC Doha Action Plan, the meeting set priorities for future development and proposed a set of key regional initiatives: broadband connectivity, digital broadcasting, open source software, Arab digital content and cybersecurity.