As this post is being written, ITU is hosting TELECOM WORLD 2006 Asia in Hong Kong. It is one of the leading events of the telecom world, “bringing the world’s leading ICT companies, decision-makers, organisations and governments together, Telecom WORLD features a major exhibition, a high-level Forum and numerous opportunities for meeting, discussing, networking and getting business done.”

One of the most interesting part of this event is the Forum where leaders (see a few leading speakers below) get together and discuss the technical, economic, social and policy matters surrounding telecommunications and ICT in general. The theme for this forum is Living the Digital World which seems quite appropriate given the fast-paced changes digital technology is making in the world.

There are many hot topics in the agenda such as broadband triple play, digital content, Wimax etc. While each of the above topic merits in-depth discussions, I’d like to point out to one of the most important subject for the world today: Next Generation networks for Development. The decisions of today will impact how tens millions of people in developing countries with low income levels can join this information revolution. In my opinion, telecommunication related technologies have a vast potential to change these people’s lives.

In the ITU conference the Telecommunication Development Symposium will cover how telecommunication can enhance development. More information about this theme is here. Excerpts below:

Developing countries have made tremendous strides towards increasing connectivity by using fixed, wireless and mobile technologies. At the same time, there is wide consensus that the next phase of networked communications will be based upon Next Generation Network technologies that promise to achieve enhanced connectivity through cost-effective and sustainable infrastructure development and management.

The concept of the Next Generation Network (NGN) covers the transition from current to future packet-based infrastructures, which is essential to take advantage of new opportunities for development and to bridge the digital divide. It spans both the fixed and wireless worlds so that the same services can be delivered no matter what access technology is used — whether it is a mobile device, a fixed network broadband connection or a fixed wireless connection. As a result, NGNs promise to foster the use of communications for greater socio-economic development, including E-education, E-health, and E-government, and enable countries to boost productivity and growth.

Participants and attendees will learn what NGNs look like, which NGN applications can succeed in developing countries, whether existing business and regulatory models will be applicable, and whether developing countries can move beyond existing technologies to a state-of-the-art wireless NGN world. They will also discuss what kinds of handsets and devices will be most appropriate, how end users will pay for broadband services such as IPTV, VoIP and e-health services in an NGN environment, and what kind of NGN policy developing countries should embark upon.

I hope that after this conference a concrete action plan is published and follwed so that we can see some results and its not all talk. The representatives of developing countries need to take the lead on this.