Access Alert: WTPF-26 to address broad range of technology issues

Access Alert: WTPF-26 to address broad range of technology issues

Among all the ITU abbreviations for conferences and events with binding or advisory powers, WTPF (World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum) is one of the more unusual, even for ITU regulars. Unlike other ITU Conferences or Assemblies, it does not have a regular frequency; it is organised at the discretion of ITU member states, with the theme determined by the ITU Council. Each forum produces outcome documents known as Opinions, which, similar to ITU Resolutions, help advance the policy agendas of various stakeholders.

Since their inception in 1996, WTPFs have been convened to address significant topics of the day. The 1996 forum focused on LEO constellations and GMPCS. In 1998, ITU members discussed the liberalisation of telecommunications and the impact of the World Trade Organization. Internet governance took centre stage in 2013, while the Sustainable Development Goals were the main focus for the most recent WTPF, held online in 2021.

A cornucopia of policy areas

Earlier in June, the ITU Council decided that the next WTPF will be held in 2026 with the theme of ‘Accelerating an Inclusive, Sustainable, Resilient, and Innovative Digital Future’. This theme will be applied to five different policy areas to discuss opportunities, challenges, and policies:

  • Bridging digital divides, particularly those related to gender, age, skills, and connectivity.
  • Green digital transformation: Climate change and environmental sustainability.
  • Resilience of telecommunication/ICTs.
  • Space connectivity.
  • Strengthening ICT-centric innovation ecosystems and entrepreneurship.

With each of these policy areas deserving of its own policy forum, WTPF-26 will cover the greatest ever range of topics compared to previous WTPFs. This gives stakeholders a wide scope to spotlight topics on which they would like to see attention focused in the final output documents.

Precursor to Plenipot?

Given that the highest decision-making organ of the ITU, the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP), will be held later in 2026, WTPF will be an important staging post before that significant debate, with the WTPF Opinions serving as informal reference documents for ITU member states, indicating potential compromises for PP-26 on contentious issues. Stakeholders who do not take this WTPF seriously might find themselves at PP-26 with the outcomes already decided.

If you are interested in understanding more about the ITU or other multilateral processes in the digital sector or need on-the-ground engagement support, please contact Gökhan Tok at [email protected] or Matthew McDermott at [email protected].

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