The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). In general terms, the Union focuses on three main areas of activity: radiocommunications (allocation of global radio spectrum and satellite orbits), through the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R); standardisation (development of technical standards for the interconnection of networks and technologies), through the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T); and development (working, among others, on improving access to ICTs to underserved communities worldwide), through the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D).
Some of ITU’s key areas of action include: telecommunications networks (including next generation networks and future networks), access and digital divide, accessibility to ICTs, ICTs and climate change, cybersecurity, child protection online, and gender equality. These topics are covered both within the framework of standardisation work, as well as in the context of various projects, initiatives, and studies carried out by the organisation.
In the area of cybersecurity, the Union has been mandated, within the framework of the World Summit on the Information Society, to act as facilitator for the action line C5 on ‘Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs’, and it has launched several initiatives in this regard, ranging from the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, to the Child Online Protection Initiative. The Union does considerable work on access and accessibility and this includes sharing information and raising awareness on policies, legislation, regulations and business practices that promote digital inclusion for person with disabilities, indigenous groups, women and girls, etc.
With regard to standardisation, the ITU work focuses on the development of standards defining how telecommunication networks operate and interwork. These standards, which are known as ITU-T Recommendations, cover diverse areas such as: network architecture and security, next-generation networks, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, etc.
The ITU also works in the area of policy coordination, and the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) are an example of such work. The ITRs were developed at the 1988 World Administrative Telegraph and Telephone Conference to facilitate global interconnection and the interoperability of telecommunications traffic across national borders. The amendment of the ITR during the 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai created much turbulence in global digital politics after split voting by member states.
Some of the resolutions adopted by the ITU deal with Internet technical resources, such as: Internet Protocol-based networks (Resolution 101/2014), IPv4 to IPv6 transition (Resolution 180/2014) and internationalised domain names (Resolution 133/2014). The Union has also adopted a resolution on ITU's role with regard to international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including domain names and addresses (Resolution 102/2014). In addition, the ITU Council has set up a Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues, tasked with identifying, studying and developing matters related to international Internet-related public policy issues.