International Telecommunications Union Plenipotentiary Conference, Antalya, 2006 – Final Acts: briefing and finalisation

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

22 February 2011
Chairperson: Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

Members were briefed on the structure of the International Telecommunications Union. The highest body was the Plenipotentiary Conference, which met every four years. There were various outcomes from the conference held in Turkey in 2006. Major concerns were the allocation of radio frequencies, the control of the internet and cyber security in the face of criminal activities, hacking and pornography. South Africa had been elected onto the Executive Council.

Members expressed their concern over cyber crime. Countries had been crippled by hacking activities. Children needed to be protected.

Members were briefed on a course being presented at the University of the Witwatersrand. This was designed to produce professionals in telecommunications policy, regulation and management.

The Committee adopted a report on the outcomes of the 2006 conference in Antalya.

Meeting report

Presentation by Department of Communication (DOC)
Mr Jim Paterson, DOC Director:
International Affairs (Multilateral), said that some issues had been covered in a previous presentation. He explained the purposes of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The highest decision-making body of the ITU was the Plenipotentiary Conference. Agreements were binding on members and had to be ratified by the respective governments. Conferences were held every four years. An Executive Council met more regularly. There were three sectors, namely Radio Communications, Development and Standardisation. The next conference of the Radio Communications Development sector was due to take place in 2012. Topics on the agenda included the allocation of different frequencies within the radio frequency spectrum. There would be a lot of negotiation due to possible interference with neighbouring countries. Finally there was a General Secretariat, which was an elected structure.

Mr Paterson gave an outline of the role of the Plenipotentiary Conference. South Africa was on the Executive Council. At the conference in 2006, Africa was represented by thirteen seats of the 46 elected members to the Executive Council, more than any other continent. The Executive was 25% of the membership.

Mr Paterson said that several of the countries had still not ratified the treaty by the time the 2010 conference had been held. One of the key issues dealt with in 2006 in Antalya, Turkey, was international telecommunication regulations. The last work on this topic was in 1998, before the widespread use of cellphones. One state argued at Antalya against updating the treaty. A world conference on international telecommunications had been called for 2012 to address this aspect.

Mr Paterson said that another major area for discussion was internet governance. The internet did not belong to any one country or bloc. It remained in private sector hands. There was a general move to increase the control of the ITU over the internet. The ITU was a democratic organisation and developing countries could hold considerable sway. The next issue was cyber security. People were becoming more reliant on integrated communication and technology (ICT). It was important to guarantee more protection to users. There was a move to strengthen the regional presence of the ITU. The effectiveness of regional offices was to be investigated. At the 2010 conference in
Guadalajara, Mexico, the recommendations of the investigators were adopted.

Mr Paterson said that the outcomes of the world summit on the information society were discussed. A resolution was passed on the status of Palestine. They were given a slightly higher status and were given speaking rights, after the last member had spoken, and could co-sponsor resolutions.

Mr Paterson said that South Africa was elected as a member of the Executive Council. An African was elected as General Secretary, and was re-elected at the 2010 conference. The last aspect of the Antalya conference was an increase in subscriptions, but this was reduced in 2010.

Mr Paterson said that there were 191 member states. At Guadalajara in 2010, most of these countries were represented. The plenipotentiary conference guided the decision making of the ITU. Each  region had a development plan. The ITU had a key role in providing international connectivity and the management of the electromagnetic spectrum. The international communications structure was the largest man-made structure in the world. It was important for the ITU to manage it properly.  The ITU also provided emergency assistance.

Mr Paterson then outlined the focus of the Guadalajara conference in 2010. The current internet protocol was IPV4. There were now so many users that few new addresses were available. A new protocol, IPV6, was being introduced. The debate on broadband had moved on. It was no longer simply a matter of access to telecommunications services. The debate should now be about the universal access to broadband. So many services were now internet-based, and those without access would be denied opportunities. The focus of cyber security was in protecting children using on line services. New viruses could threaten whole national networks. International telecommunications regulations were revisited in 2010. An agenda had now been confirmed for the 2012 world conference on international telecommunications. Broadcasting digital migration remained an issue. The target date for South Africa was 2015 as the ITU could not guarantee access to analogue technology after that date. The deadline had since been extended. Internet governance and the effect on the environment were also under discussion.

Mr Gift Buthelezi, DOC Deputy Director-General (DDG): International and Trade, said that South Africa was focussing on the development of rural networks. Internet cafés should be established in the rural areas. He felt that children should have an e-mail address from birth to facilitate communication with government. A broadband policy had been developed with an emphasis on the creation of jobs. Information should be available on the internet to assist with marketing decisions. People were worried about the number of banking scams being perpetrated over the internet. This matter was being discussed by the Security Cluster and the DOC had developed a policy. Internet pornography and hacking practices which could hamstring whole countries were also issues of concern.

Mr Buthelezi said that it was very important for South Africa to participate in the ITU. Telecommunication was the way the world was going and it was crucial that the country should be part of the process. South Africa was seen as the hope of Africa and other countries looked to this country to provide leadership.

Mr H Groenewald (DA, North West) wanted to know how many people would represent South Africa at the Communications conference. He found it scary that computer hackers could cause so much chaos by penetrating systems. He asked what protective measures could be put in place.

Mr D Montshitsi (ANC, Gauteng) was also perturbed by the number of internet crimes being committed. He asked what time span was concerned with the ‘419’ scam.

Mr M Sibande (ANC, Mpumalanga) said that the global world was already looking to move to digital systems. He asked what role South Africa was playing. The DOC had said that one of their roles, despite itself being a developing country, was to provide technical assistance in the migration to digital systems in the region. South Africa had been a member of the ITU from about 1981, but was expelled before being re-admitted in 1992. He asked who determined which countries were allowed to be represented, citing Palestine as a contentious issue. The DOC delegation had spoken about rural development. There were still problems in Mpumalanga. There were difficulties with radio stations in Mozambique interfering with local stations close to the border. There were also problems with television signals. People felt that some areas were still being treated as ‘homelands’.

The Chairperson said that critical issues had been raised at the previous meeting. She suggested that some form of workshop be arranged to inform the Members.
Mr Paterson could not remember how many people had attended the previous radio conference. Most of the people would be technical specialists briefed to deal with specific issues. Other players were people like the Civil Aviation Authority, South African Weather Services and other government and private bodies. The conference was as big as the Plenipotentiary Conference. The last meeting had lasted five weeks not including a regional conference held for a week before the main conference. The DOC would not exclude any person who could add value to the delegation, but the DOC would take the lead.

Mr Buthelezi said that South Africa was reasonably well protected in terms of cyber security. Customs control of incoming devices was good and there was good cyber security. The ZA internet domain was well managed. South Africa was the only country to have a policy on cyber security at the Guadalajara conference in 2010, and had been asked to host the working group. It was difficult to ascertain the period during which the 419 scams had taken place. The 2010 World Cup had brought with it some criminals who moved from one part of the world to another, targeting major events such as World Cups and the Olympic Games.

Mr Buthelezi said that the broadcasting digital management (BDM) was a process as daunting as the Y2K crisis. South Africa was committed to moving towards digital television. The systems would have to be tested. In the testing process new information on standards might come to light. It was necessary to revise the policy generated in 2007. The cut-off date had to be delayed to 2013. Providing set-top decoders would be a major challenge. A scheme of ownership support programme would be presented to the Committee. The manufacture of set-top boxes would revive the country's electronics industry. A summit was held during 2010. More local content would be needed to utilise the increased bandwidth that would result from the migration. An office, similar to one in England, would be established to assist with all issues involved in the migration process.

Mr Buthelezi said that the problems with radio reception in the Mozambique border area were due to interference. A quarter of Mozambique could receive South African television stations without paying licences. Universal access was important. This would have to be done primarily through community radio and television. A more comprehensive answer would be provided in due course.

Mr Sibande was not yet convinced. Some time ago a Mozambique pilot had defected to South Africa. His aircraft was not detected. There had been other problems with the control of South Africa's airspace. South Africa was also a member of Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Some Southern African countries had signed protocols without South Africa's knowledge.

Mr Groenewald asked who would be manufacturing the set-top boxes and what the price would be. He appreciated that some parts could not be manufactured in the country but local manufacturers should be used.

Mr Buthelezi said that the problems with unauthorised aircraft were actually with parking at airports rather than communications. Countries signed treaties as individual countries. Swaziland and South Africa had harmonised their standards to reduce the level of interference. Southern African Development Community (SADC) relationships were not binding. The sovereignty of individual nations was respected even though they had been warned about the possibility of interference.

Mr Buthelezi said that a separate meeting would be needed on set-top boxes. The cost was likely to be between R800 and R900. Government would subsidise R500 to R600. The standard had been determined and manufactures would bid on that basis. The South African industry would be strengthened. The successful bidder would have to convince the DOC on the benefits to the whole country in terms of manufacture, distribution, installation and maintenance. It was one of the most controversial tenders issued by government.

Adoption of Report on Final Acts
The Chairperson asked Members if they were willing to adopt the report on the Final Acts. She read a proposal that the report be adopted and be presented to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Mr Groenewald moved the proposal and Mr Sibande seconded the motion. The report read:
Report of the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises on the Final Acts of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference, Antalya, 2006, tabled in terms of section 231(2) of the Constitution, 1996, dated 23 February 2011:

The Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises, having considered the Final Acts of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference, Antalya, 2006, tabled in terms of section 231(2) of the Constitution, 1996, recommends that the Council approves the Final Acts of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference, Antalya, 2006.

Report to be considered.

Telecommunications Policy, Regulation and Management certificate
Mr Ebrahiem Hendricks, a telecommunications specialist from Telkom, introduced Prof Barendse, an expert in telecommunications, to talk about a certificate course in Telecommunications Policy, Regulation and Management that Members might be interested in attending.

Prof Andrew Barendse, Visiting Adjunct Professor: University of the Witwatersrand, said that courses were being presented by the university. There were thirty candidates on each course. Many came from other African countries. The first course was a certificate course in Telecommunications Policy, Regulation and Management. It was held over three weeks, but was presented in blocks of one week per month. An examination ended the course. There were three modules. The first was ICT Technologies and Markets. The second was International ICT trends, organisations and developments. The third module dealt with telecommunications and broadcasting policy, law and regulation. Students who obtained a certain percentage could progress to a Masters course. The goal was to produce certified regulation professionals. He was currently supervising three students doing PhD studies. Various University staff and experts from the industry presented the course.

Prof Barendse said that the university also presented workshops that would be suitable for Members. The industry was growing, but not necessarily in the right areas. Various problem areas and growth opportunities were discussed.

Prof Barendse, in his capacity as a Telkom employee, also wanted to propose a site visit to Melkbosstrand. This was an area of strategic significance as this was the landing site for one of the submarine cables. There were submarine cables on both coasts. In fact, there was an optic fibre ring around Africa. This would serve to make telecommunication more affordable. A visit to the Melkbosstrand site would give Members a good overview on the workings of the network. They could also visit the cable-laying ship and be given an overview on the technical background.

Mr Groenewald said that the advertisement for the course was good. He asked what the cost was.

Prof Barendse replied that the price of the certificate course was R20 000. There was an industry proposal that the course, transport and accommodation could be subsidised. The Portfolio Committee was attempting to have the course recognised internally which might save costs. The industry was really committed to empower Members of both Houses. He would send the Committee a written invitation.

The Chairperson was intrigued by the prospect. The Committee would discuss how to approach the invitation. She was looking forward to instructive workshops.

The meeting was adjourned.


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