International Telecommunication Union

Acronym: ITU, UIT

Established: 1865

Address: Place des Nations, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.itu.int

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

ITU is the United Nations specialised agency for information and communications technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 member states and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, research institutes, and international organisations. Established nearly 160 years ago in 1865, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communications infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, intelligent transport systems, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based Earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, internet, cable television and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. For more information, visit www.itu.int.

See also: Africa’s participation in the International Telecommunication Union

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Digital activities

Some of ITU’s key areas of action include radiocommunication services (such as satellite services, and fixed/mobile and broadcasting services), developing telecommunications networks (including future networks), standardisation of various areas and media related to telecommunications, and ensuring access to bridge the digital divide and addressing challenges in ICT accessibility. ITU’s work supports emerging technologies in fields such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), Intelligent Transport Systems, disaster management, agriculture, smart sustainable cities, and the internet of things (IoT); access and digital inclusion; the accessibility of ICTs to persons with disabilities; digital health; ICTs and climate change; cybersecurity; gender equality; and child online protection, among others.  These and many more ICT topics are covered both within the framework of radiocommunication, standardisation, and development work, through various projects, initiatives, and studies carried out by the organisation.

Digital policy issues

Telecommunication infrastructure

Information and communication infrastructure development is one of ITU’s priority areas. The organisation seeks to assist member states, sector members, associates, and academia in the implementation and development of broadband networks, wired (e.g. cable) and wireless technologies, international mobile telecommunications (IMT), satellite communications, the IoT, and smart grids, including next-generation networks, as well as in the provision of telecommunications networks in rural areas.

ITU’s International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) have as an overall aim the facilitation of global interconnection and interoperability of telecommunication facilities. Through the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), ITU is involved in the global management of the radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, used for telecommunications services, in line with the Radio Regulations.

The international standards developed by ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) enable the interconnection and interoperability of ICT networks, devices, and services worldwide. It has 11 technical standardisation committees called Study Groups (SGs), with mandates covering a wide range of digital technologies:

The work on standards is complemented by short-term exploration/incubation ITU-T Focus Groups (FGs) whose deliverables guide the ITU-T SGs in new areas of standardisation work:

Collaboration among various standards bodies is a high priority of ITU-T. Various platforms were established to support coordination and collaboration on various topics, for example:

The Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) establishes an enabling environment and provides evidence-based policy-making through ICT indicators and regulatory and economic metrics, and implements a host of telecommunications/ICT projects.

In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, ITU-D launched the Global Network Resiliency Platform (REG4COVID) to address the strain experienced by telecommunication networks, which are vital to the health and safety of people. The platform pools experiences and innovative policy and regulatory measures.

Discussions involving the World Bank, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), and the World Economic Forum identified how to bring together communities to support ITU membership in their response to COVID-19. The Speedboat Initiative issued a COVID-19 Crisis Response:

Digital Development Joint Action Plan and Call for Action to better leverage digital technologies and infrastructure in support of citizens, governments, and businesses during the pandemic.

Connect2Recover provides country-specific support to reinforce digital infrastructures – using telework, e-commerce, remote learning, and telemedicine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support recovery and preparedness for potential future pandemics. ITU worked with the Government of Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on this initiative. ITU/WHO Focus Group on AI for Health worked on a standardised assessment framework for the evaluation of AI-based methods for health, diagnosis, triage, or treatment decisions and in early 2020 it created an Ad-hoc Group on Digital Technologies for COVID-19 Health Emergencies (AHG-DT4HE) to review the role of AI (and other digital technologies) in combatting COVID-19 throughout an epidemic’s life cycle; it also delivered guidance on digital technologies for COVID health emergency. The Group also developed AI guidance specifically for health on ethics, regulatory considerations, clinical evaluation, and data quality and continues work with ITU, WHO, and WIPO on the Global Initiative on AI for Health.

The impact statement for the Telecommunications Development Bureau’s (BDT) thematic priority on Network and Digital Infrastructure is ‘Reliable connectivity to everyone’.

ITU-D SG1 also focuses on various aspects related to telecommunications infrastructure, in particular, Question 1/1 on ‘Strategies and policies for the deployment of broadband in developing countries’;   Question   2/1 on ‘Strategies, policies, regulations, and methods of migration and adoption of digital broadcasting and implementation of new services’; Question 4/1 on ‘Economic aspects of national telecommunications/ICTs’; Question 5/1 on ‘Telecommunications/ICTs for rural and remote areas’; Question 6/1 on ‘Consumer information, protection and rights’; and Question 5/2 on ‘Adoption of telecommunications/ICTs and improving digital skills’.

5G

ITU plays a key role in managing the radio spectrum and developing international standards for 5G networks, devices, and services, within the framework of the so-called IMT-2020 activities. ITU-R SGs together with the mobile broadband industry and a wide range of stakeholders established the 5G standards.

The activities include the organisation of intergovernmental and multistakeholder dialogues, and the development and implementation of standards and regulations to ensure that 5G networks are secure, interoperable, and operate without interference.

ITU-T is playing a similar convening role for the technologies and architectures of non-radio elements of 5G systems. For example, ITU standards address 5G transport, with Passive Optical Network (PON), Carrier Ethernet, and Optical Transport Network (OTN), among the technologies standardised by ITU-T expected to support 5G systems. ITU  standards for 5G  networking address topics including network virtualisation, network orchestration and management, and fixed-mobile convergence. ITU standards also address ML for 5G and future networks, the environmental requirements of 5G, security and trust in 5G, and the assessment of 5G quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE).

Satellite

ITU-R manages the coordination, notification, and recording of frequency assignments for space systems, including their associated earth stations. Its main role is to process and publish data and carry out the examination of frequency assignment notices submitted by administrations towards their eventual recording in the Master International Frequency Register.

ITU-R also develops and manages space-related assignment or allotment plans and provides mechanisms for the development of new satellite services by determining how to optimise the use of available and suitable orbital resources.

Currently, the rapid pace of satellite innovation is driving an increase in the deployment of non-geostationary satellite systems (NGSO). With the availability of launch vehicles capable of supporting multiple satellite launches, mega-constellations consisting of hundreds to thousands of spacecraft are becoming a popular solution for global telecommunications.

To this end, during the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19), ITU established regulatory procedures for the deployment of NGSO systems, including mega-constellations in low Earth orbit.

Regarding climate change, satellite data today is an indispensable input for weather prediction models and forecast systems used to produce safety warnings and other information in support of public and private decision-making.

ITU develops international standards contributing to the environmental sustainability of the ICT sector, as well as other industry sectors applying ICTs assembling technologies to increase efficiency and innovate their service offer. The latest ITU standards in this domain address sustainable power-feeding solutions for IMT-2020/5G networks, energy-efficient data centres capitalising on big data and AI, and smart energy management for telecom base stations.

Geneva Internet Platform

Acronym: GIP

Established: 2014

Address: 7bis, Avenue de la Paix, CH-1202 Geneva

Website: https://www.giplatform.org/

Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations

The Geneva Internet Plaform (GIP) is a Swiss initiative operated by DiploFoundation that strives to engage digital actors, foster digital governance, and monitor digital policies.

It aims to provide a neutral and inclusive space for digital policy debates, strengthen the participation of small and developing countries in Geneva-based digital policy processes, support activities of Geneva-based Internet governance (IG) and ICT institutions and initiatives, facilitate research for an evidence-based, multidisciplinary digital policy, bridge various policy silos, and provide tools and methods for in situ and online engagement that could be used by other policy spaces in International Geneva and worldwide. The GIP’s activities are implemented based on three pillars: a physical platform in Geneva, an online platform and observatory, and a dialogue lab.

International Labour Organization

Acronym: ILO

Established: 1919

Address: 4 route des Morillons, 1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland

Website: https://www.ilo.org/

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The ILO is the United Nations agency for the world of work. It was founded on the conviction that universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice.

The ILO brings together governments, employers, and workers from its 187 member states in a human-centred approach to the future of work based on decent employment creation, rights at work, social protection, and social dialogue.

The ILO’s tripartite membership drafts, adopts, and monitors the implementation of international labour standards on key world of work issues – ILO Conventions and Recommendations.

The ILO undertakes research and data collection across the range of world of work topics. It publishes flagship reports and a wide range of publications and working papers. Its globally renowned set of statistical databases is maintained and updated with nationally sourced labour market data.

The ILO manages a wide range of development cooperation projects in all regions of the world. Realised in partnership with donor countries and organisations, these projects aim to create the conditions for delivery of the ILO’s decent work agenda.

Three initiatives are central to the ILO’s current work: the establishment of a global coalition to promote social justice, advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions, and its four priority action programmes. The latter focuses on the transition from the informal to the formal economy, just transitions towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies, decent work in supply chains, and decent work in crises and post-crisis situations.

Digital activities

As the ILO covers the full scope of the world of work, digital issues are present across the organisation’s work. The ILO addresses digitalisation through a wide range of topics including digital labour platforms, digital skills knowledge, employability, artificial intelligence (AI), automation and data governance – and more broadly, the future of work. The ILO also tracks the effects of digitalisation on specific work sectors, for instance, the postal and telecommunication services sector.

Digital policy issues

Automation and artificial intelligence

The ILO is paying close attention to how automation and AI  are changing the labour markets and the ways we work. We have examined the impacts of automation in many publications, for instance, Robotics and Reshoring, Automation and its Employment Effects: A Literature Review of Automotive and Garment Sectors, and the research brief, Who Moves and Who Stays? A number of recent studies have focused on the labour impacts of generative AI and the growing use of AI in specific sectors. Examples include the working papers, Generative AI and Jobs: A Global Analysis of Potential Effects on Job Quantity and Quality and Artificial Intelligence in Human Resource Management: A Challenge for the Human-centred Agenda? AI has been the topic of recent editions of the ILO’s Future of Work Podcast series. 

Access to data

The ILO has long been a leading resource for policymakers, researchers, and other users of data on the labour markets and all aspects of the world of work. ILOSTAT (a portal to its comprehensive labour statistics) and the ILO Knowledge Portal (offering access to country information and data on labour laws, standards, policies, and statistics) make real-time data available to users around the world. The World Employment and Social Outlook Data Finder provides customised datasets on request for measures such as the global labour force, unemployment, and employment by sector. The ILO also has a Development Cooperation Dashboard with data on labour-related policy areas and on the organisation’s field projects, funding, and expenditures. All materials published by the ILO are collected and freely available in Labordoc, the organisation’s digital repository. The ILO’s new Research Repository allows users to easily access our knowledge products by topic and author.

Future of work

The future of work has been a key unifying digital issue in the ILO’s activities for many years. In 2015, the ILO Director-General presented a report to the International Labour Conference that proposed a special initiative on the future of work. Since that time, much of the research the ILO has undertaken and many of the reports we have published have fallen under this rubric. In 2019, the ILO established the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work as part of our Future of Work Initiative. The Commission was composed of representatives from government, civil society, academia, and business and worker representatives.

The Commission published a landmark report, Work for a Brighter Future, that called for a human-centred agenda for the future of work and explored the impacts of technological progress in the fields of AI and robotics and on issues such as the gender labour gap and the automation of work. That same year, the ILO issued the ILO Centenary Declaration, which advocated ‘full and productive employment and decent work’ in the context of the digital transformation of work, including platform work. Examining the future of work in its myriad implications remains a primary focus for the organisation to this day.

Sustainable development

The ILO is playing a pivotal role in advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, most specifically specifically sustainable development goal (SDG) 8 (decent work and economic growth). The ILO is one of the main actors supporting the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions initiative, the UN system’s collective response for addressing the multiple challenges that threaten to erase development progress. The Global Accelerator aims to direct investments to help create at least 400 million decent jobs, primarily in the green, digital, and care economies, and to extend social protection coverage to the over 4 billion people currently excluded. The ILO has also created the Decent Work for Sustainable Development (DW4SD) Resource Platform,  which maps the interplay between sustainable development and decent work. The platform provides guidance and working resources to ILO staff, development partners, UN country teams, and other stakeholders. A recent ILO report, Transformative Change and SDG 8, outlines an integrated policy approach that countries can follow to achieve SDG 8.

Capacity development

Capacity development is another digital-related issue at the core of the ILO’s activities. As part of our skills, knowledge, and employability initiatives, the ILO helps governments develop education and training systems to take advantage of new educational technologies and give greater attention to digital skills. We support enterprises and employers to make investments to expand education and training programmes, and workers to proactively upgrade their skills or acquire new ones.

Examples of many resources the ILO has produced are Digital Employment Diagnostic Guidelines, Digitalization of National TVET and Skills Systems and Digitalise Your Business: Digital Strategies for Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. These and many more resources are available from the ILO’s Skills and Lifelong Learning knowledge-sharing platform.

Together with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ILO developed the SKILL-UP programme, which assists developing countries in building capacity and improving their digital skills systems, as well as the Skills Innovation Facility. The Facility focuses on identifying and testing innovative ideas and solutions to address current and future skills challenges. In addition, the ILO’s Skills Innovation Network provides a platform for innovators to collaborate and share experiences on developing innovations for skills development.

The ILO also has a Help Desk for Business on International Labour Standards that provides assistance to businesses on how to align their business operations with labour standards.

Privacy and data protection

In regard to privacy and data protection, the ILO has published a set of principles on the protection of workers’ personal data, which explores trends, principles, and good practices related to the protection of personal data.

The International Training Centre, established by the ILO, provides online courses on a variety of labour issues. The ILO also organises webinars and uses a number of social media accounts. The following digital tools are also available:

Information on conferences and events is available on the ILO events page.

Digital tools

Digital labour platforms and telework

A key focus of ILO research is the effects of digitalisation on labour market evolution and new forms of work. The organisation has been closely tracking the implications of digital labour platforms digital and remote work (e.g. teleworking). The ILO has published some essential references on these new subjects including the World Employment and Social Outlook report on digital labour platforms and the report, Working from Home, published during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most other ILO studies also reflect digital issues. For example, recent Global Employment Trends for Youth reports cover inequalities in youth labour markets arising from digital transformation, as well as investment in young people’s skills,

Social media channels

Facebook @ILO

Flickr @ilopictures

Instagram @iloinfo

LinkedIn @/international-labour-organization-ilo

TikTok @ilo

X @ilo

YouTube @ilotv

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