ITU and the GSM Association today agreed to strengthen co-operation towards improved access to mobile phone services aimed especially at bridging the digital divide in least developed and developing countries.  


A Memorandum of Understanding was concluded by the secretary-general of ITU, Dr Hamadoun Touré, and Tom Phillips, chief government & regulatory affairs officer of the GSMA, during the meeting of the Global Symposium for Regulators currently taking place in Dubai.
The agreement focuses on fostering the development of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in least developed and developing countries. It stems from the overall objective of implementing the action lines of the World Summit on the Information Society, Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005, and the World Telecommunication Development Conference, Doha 2006.
"I am very pleased to announce this agreement with the GSM Association and I look forward to the collaboration in developing wireless access to connect the unconnected," says Touré.
"ITU is the leading United Nations agency specialising in ICT-related issues and represents a global forum for its 191 member states and more than 600 sector members. GSMA represents a strong voice of the mobile industry and they are making real contributions towards increasing worldwide mobile penetration, including access in rural.
The GSMA's Phillips adds: "Mobile operators have long known the value of government policies that support private investment. Through this new relationship, operators hope to create a dialogue that will cut through today’s hurdles and bottlenecks, creating new investment opportunities and integrating our members’ commercial agenda closely with that of government."
The GSM Association is a partner of ITU’s Connect the World initiative, a global multi-stakeholder effort that encourages new projects and partnerships to bridge the digital divide.
ITU and the GSM Association will focus on three specific issues:
* Supporting developing market projects for low cost access to ICT in underserved areas: The GSM Association has established a development fund to invest in sustainable projects that seek to extend access to and the value of mobile services in the developing world. Building on these efforts in the context of ITU’s Connect the World initiative, attention will focus on identifying ICT development projects where the contributions of industry and governments can be leveraged to "connect the unconnected", especially through low-cost solutions as well as the innovative use of mobile technology and connectivity in least developed and developing countries.
* Industry and government co-operation: Facilitating closer dialogue between industry and governments by building partnerships aimed at solving problems and facilitating future planning and investment, with special emphasis on developing an enabling policy and regulatory environment as well as innovative approaches for the use of universal service funds to expand access to ICTs in rural and remote communities.
* Global industry benchmarking: Co-ordinating and enhancing research and statistical databases with a view to improving decision-making by compiling comprehensive shared resource of key industry performance indicators and benchmarks.