ESCAP News In Brief: June 13, 2014

Latest news updates from ESCAP.

Central-Asian countries back policy measures to improve ICT in the region

Specific policy measures to improve telecommunications connectivity across Central Asia were identified at a high-level regional roundtable convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the World Bank on 3 June in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Despite the best efforts of governments, international organizations and the private sector to bring the benefits of broadband Internet to all, the Central Asia region remains hampered by a persistent digital divide. Broadband infrastructure is typically concentrated in urban markets which are commercially viable for telecom operators, while rural markets are often neglected. This has resulted in wide disparities across the region in terms of Internet transit prices and the affordability of consumer broadband services.

Given these challenges, delegates in Almaty recognized the importance of coordinating the planning and deployment of infrastructure across the ICT, transport and energy sectors. For example, using the right-of-way of existing transport networks to deploy optical fiber would save costs, speed deployment and enhance cross-border connectivity. Delegates recommended leveraging the existing connectivity offered by the intergovernmental agreements for the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway, including provisions that would encourage the synchronized deployment of ICT and transport infrastructure.

Delegates also looked at practical ways to attract greater public and private sector investments to Central Asia by utilizing a mix of policy and regulatory reforms, targeted investments and public-private partnerships. These recommendations will feed into the fourth session of the ESCAP Committee on ICT, from 14-16 October in Bangkok, Thailand. The Committee also intends to establish a working group to develop the principles and norms for an Asian Information Superhighway that provides seamless connectivity across the continent, including Central Asia.