The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR-23) took place from 5-8 June 2023 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, under the theme “Regulation for a Sustainable Digital Future”. The Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) serves as a platform for regulators to drive conversations on the impact of digital transformation on markets and societies.
This year, GSR-23 marked the 20th anniversary of the GSR Best Practice Guidelines, a set of regulatory guidelines adopted by regulators at the conclusion of each GSR. The participating regulators collectively contributed to the development of this year’s Best Practice Guidelines, aimed at promoting inclusivity and sustainability for the digital future through enhanced cross-sectoral and cross-regional collaboration.
GSR-23, hosted by Egypt’s National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA) under the auspices of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, saw a record-breaking attendance of 757 participants. Government leaders, regulators, policymakers, industry experts, and key stakeholders discussed vital ICT policy topics, such as frequency spectrum, infrastructure, space, metaverse, digital inclusion, early warning systems, and the role of digital technology across sectors.
During the symposium, the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, Dr Cosmas Zavazava, signed the following partnerships:
- A Joint Declaration between the European Mediterranean Regulators Group and the Eastern Partnership Electronic Communications Regulators Network and the International Telecommunication Union regarding Strengthened Collaboration in the Field of Mapping of Broadband Infrastructure and Services.
- A Memorandum of Understanding between the International Telecommunication Union and the European Mediterranean Regulators Group (EMERG) to establish a High-Level Framework of Cooperation in the Area of Electronic Communications.
- Launch of a new project with the Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) on Developing and Implementing E-waste Policy and Regulation for a Circular Economy.
GSR-23 witnessed the formation of notable initiatives, including:
- The Digital Regulation Network (DRN) – a convening platform to facilitate cross-sectoral collaboration, consultation, and experimentation among national, regional, and global regulators and regulatory associations. It aims to accelerate sustainable digital transformation through laid-out approaches to collaborative regulation that will include twinning.
- The newly published Collaborative Digital Regulation Country Reviews – with an authoritative analysis of national regulatory landscapes and clear, practical guidance for achieving G5 regulation and digital transformation.
Key Challenges Addressed for Regulators at GSR-23
- Spectrum – spectrum allocation, space sustainability, equitable access to spectrum, and the role of regulatory bodies in managing spectrum and orbit resources.
- Metaverse – consumer and business implications, policy considerations, necessary technological advancements, network requirements, and child online protection.
- Digital Accessibility – access to markets and technologies.
- Digital Affordability – device financing, reduction of taxes and import duties, improvement of distribution channels, recycling of devices, quality standards for pre-owned devices, and partnerships across the value chain.
- Early Warning Systems – improved regulatory approaches, standardised protocols, and global coordination to ensure the safety and security of citizens.
- Green and digital transitions – data related to GHG emissions from the ICT sector, climate data, regulation of e-waste from the ICT sector, and environmental protection.
In accordance with the adopted GSR-23 Best Practice Guidelines, participants agreed on key measures to bridge the digital divide and enable widespread connectivity and affordability. These measures include:
- Creating a competitive environment.
- Enabling widespread adoption of digital literacy and skills.
- Providing incentives for network deployment in underserved areas.
- Supporting innovative solutions for connecting the unconnected.
- Encouraging research and development on emerging technologies.
Five Predictions for Industry to Note
Based on the outcomes of GSR-23, we can outline five trajectories that frame future policy and regulatory models:
- Fast vs slow regulation: Market players expect both flexibility and predictability – hence, regulatory processes will continue to evolve at several speeds.
- Hardwired vs ‘soft-wired’ regulation: Decentralised regulatory models will likely thrive in the digital environment – sitting closer to market players and tailored to their business models and goals.
- The watchdog vs the ecosystem builder approach: Next-generation digital regulators will be both community builders and facilitators of access to inclusive digital opportunities for businesses and users. They will need to rebalance their portfolios, fulfilling several roles simultaneously.
- Sustainability vs economic growth: The traditional GDP approach is fading as sustainability and energy efficiency gain importance, driven by ESG measures and corporate social responsibility. However, the shift will be slow, widening divides and failing to reshape policy in the short term for developing and least-developed countries.
- National vs global regulation: Governments need robust legal instruments – both national and international – to navigate digital transformation efforts. A global framework may be the only way to address issues such as global digital platforms, digital currencies, privacy, ethics, transparency, and taxation. New international and regional treaties will need to set boundaries, reframe rules, and adapt them to digital markets.
Access Partnership is closely monitoring regulatory developments in the telecom/ICT sector. For more information, please contact Rati Kvantaliani at email@example.com.