Pursuant to point 43 (f) [1] under Commitment 4 of the Brussels Programme of Action, (Building productive capacities to make globalization work for LDCs), International Telecommunication Union is providing assistance to least developed countries (LDCs) in the following priority areas:

– Introduction of new technologies e.g. assistance was provided to Nepal in its migration from a Public Switched Telephone Network to an Internet Protocol network;

– Sector reform and restructuring e.g. Guinea Bissau received assistance in a very comprehensive sectoral study;

– Rural telecommunication development e.g. Mozambique received assistance in the development of its universal access policy and Niger got assistance in the modernization of that country’s 7 provincial towns;

– Human resource development/management e.g. Eritrea received assistance in the development of business plan for the establishment of a telecommunication training college;

– Financing, tariffs and partnerships e.g. a Partnership Round Table was held in November 2001 to promote projects from six countries namely, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger and Yemen.

In 2002 efforts are focused on concentrating assistance on eight LDCs (Bhutan, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Haiti, Kiribati, Malawi, Mali and Zambia). Priority areas are also in the above listed areas.

Following all the efforts made in the post-Third United Nations Conference on LDCs, teledensities in least developed countries have significantly improved. By end of 2001, out of the 49 countries, 26 had a combined (fixed and mobile) teledensity above 1. Cape Verde is leading with 14,27 main lines and Maldives follows with 10.09 main lines. Some of the LDCs have by far higher teledensities than most non-LDCs. Ten of the LDCs enjoyed mobile teledensities above 1 by end of 2001 and have even risen further during the first quarter of 2002.

Special assistance was also provided to countries emerging out of war situations (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Somalia), otherwise known as Countries in Special Need. ITU has devoted a lot of resources in assisting these countries. In 2002, this list was expanded to include Afghanstan, East Timor, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. In 2001, CHF 1,242,000 was provided to these countries as a group from ITU’s Telecom Surplus Funds. In 2002, Burundi and Rwanda received US$ 1,000,000 each for purposes of reconstructing their telecommunication infrastructures destroyed by war. Each of the countries will reconstruct 4 rural telecommunication networks destroyed by war or whose installation was disrupted by war. Although, these countries’ telecommunications is characterized by feeble fixed main line teledensity, this is somewhat propped up by robust growth of the cellular networks.

Assessment of Implementation of Deliverables as presented to the Third United Nations Conference on LDCs

a) The Telecommunication Development Bureau’s (BDT) Sector Reform Unit provided assistance to LDCs in restructuring of their telecommunication sectors. An online forum was launched to help telecommunication regulators to exchange views on how to handle regulatory issues that may help attract investment into the sector. A Global Symposium for Regulators was held in December 2001, attracting 370 delegates from over 100 Member States, including representatives from 72 regulatory bodies, communications ministers and policy-makers as well as 21 Sector Member companies. Representatives from least developed countries were provided with fellowships to allow them to attend and participate in this event. At the regional level, BDT assisted the African regulators community to launch the African Telecommunication Regulators’ Network at the Forum on Telecommunication Regulation in Africa and the Arab States held in Morocco in September 2001.

b) Rural Development and Universal Service/Access: The implementation of ten MCT [2] pilot projects in different countries was pursued, focusing expanding services and increasing the potential for sustainability. Various new projects following different organizational and implementation models have been initiated. The projects involve a number of international and national partners, both public and private. A number of training seminars were recently held focusing on strategies for sustainable universal access in four participating countries, three of which are LDCs i.e. Burkina Faso, Malawi and Nepal. This included training of senior policy-makers, regulators, operators and representatives of the private sector from the four countries.

c) Finance and economics, including WTO issues, tariffs, accounting rates etc: Five seminars and five workshops were organized in the Africa and Asia-Pacific regions. The seminars were mainly oriented towards propagating the guidelines for pricing both frequency usage and telecommunication services including interconnection. Significant room has been left for the present and future situations of Internet Protocol-based networks in relation to settlement regimes and congestion-dependent pricing principles. Ethiopia and Sierra Leone are some of the LDCs that received assistance in setting up a mechanism for financing universal service.

d) Development of partnership with the private sector: Two meetings were held in Geneva and followed by presentations made at Supercomm in Atlanta focusing on the Americas region. The region has one LDC, Haiti. However, forging partnership with organizations in all regions will certainly benefit LDCs irrespective of where they are located. Other two private-sector coordination meetings were held in the Arab region in Casablanca and in the Asia region in Bangalore. More partnership meetings are scheduled for the whole period leading to 2010.

e) Capacity building through human resources development and management: Within the framework of various projects (Centres of Excellence, Global Telecommunication University/Institute, Management Development for Telecommunications, Virtual Training Centre, etc), over 70 training workshops were organized in both distance-learning and face-to-face approaches. Subjects covered varied from business planning, spectrum management, and technology awareness to regulatory issues. Seven new training partnerships with members were established, and the resulting training materials and subsequent workshops were/will be of great value to LDCs. The fifth Centre of Excellence (CoE) for the Arab region was created and so joins those created for English-Speaking Africa, Americas, and Asia and the Pacific, where a comprehensive training programme including seven parallel streams has been maintained.

f) E-Strategy: In the framework of E-strategy activities, many projects to build e-transaction infrastructures and Internet Protocol-based e-services (such as e-commerce, e-government and e-marketplace) were initiated. Today, some 220 organizations all over the world are participating in infrastructure deployment activities undertaken by BDT. Major efforts were undertaken to establish partnerships, with emphasis on technology deployment. This has tremendously benefited LDCs whose transportation systems are highly under-developed and would rely more on electronic commerce transactions in both South-South and South – North trading.

ITU’s Special Programme for LDCs in the next four years (2003 – 2006)

ITU recently held its World Telecommunication Development Conference in Istanbul, Turkey and came up with a multi-pronged Action Plan to guide the BDT in its work in the next four years. The Istanbul Action Plan underlines the leading role, which ITU can play in bridging the digital divide. The Conference stressed the need to develop larger scale partnerships (public-private, public-public and South-South) to better implement strategies for ICT development, enhance cooperation, particularly with regional organizations and the private sector, and reinforce and support regional initiatives for ICT development, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Connectivity Agenda for the Americas region and the Tokyo Declaration of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity Summit on the Information Society, and increasing available resources for telecommunication development and direct a greater share to least developed countries through aggressive resource mobilization. The Action Plan adopted by the Conference contains a Special Programme for LDCs whose goal is to provide focused and differentiated assistance to the world’s least developed countries in all the development activities of ITU in order to fully meet the urban telecommunication needs of LDCs and provide access in rural areas. The Special Programme for LDCs will for the next four years be implemented using a biennial approach i.e. direct concentrated assistance will be given to about twelve countries over a period of two years to allow for a sustained follow-up or actions taken, including possible evaluation, and a mustering of partnerships through partnership roundtables and other means of mobilizing resources. Priority areas for this programme over the coming four years will be: development of rural telecommunications to bring about easy access to telecommunication services in the rural areas where the majority of the population LDCs lives; development of infrastructure and introduction of new technologies and services through which LDCs will receive assistance on technological choice; sector restructuring to bring about liberalization and competition and, possibly, privatization as applicable with the objective of inducing faster network growth and better management of the sector; human resources development/management; financing and partnerships, aimed at pooling resources and directing the aggregated resources to LDCs so as to avoid duplication of effort and wastage of resources.

Geneva, 22 May 2002

“Special Programme for the Least Developed Countries 2002-2003: Making a Difference”

ITU website on LDCs