Regulators have endorsed a set of guidelines to maximise the benefits of transformative information and communication technologies (ICTs) at the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR-24) in Kampala.

The “GSR-24 Best Practice Guidelines” agreed by ICT regulators include a series of considerations for balancing innovation with regulation to create a positive impact on societies and economies from emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

“With one-third of humanity still offline and women and other vulnerable groups on the wrong side of the globe’s digital divides, GSR-24 and the Best Practice Guidelines highlight the innovation, trust, and inclusivity that we need in the policy and regulatory environment,” says ITU secretary-general Doreen Bogdan-Martin. “With change being the only certainty facing regulators and policymakers, we must work together to pursue regulatory approaches to leverage transformative technologies such as AI, promote the space economy, encourage innovation, and support climate action and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN Agency for Digital Technologies – the symposium brought together over 600 participants including Ministers, Heads of Regulatory Authorities, industry executives and academics to discuss pressing regulatory issues.

“We are excited that the GSR provides a platform where all thought leaders, regulators, industry players and other key ICT stakeholders converge to dialogue and set the policy and regulatory agenda that will guide the global digital industry over the near future,” says Dr Chris Baryomunsi, Uganda’s minister for ICT and national guidance. “Best practice now calls for a co-ordinated and collaborative approach that is inclusive of all relevant stakeholders – if we are to achieve the impact that we all desire. We commit to align our national policies and regulatory frameworks around the well-thought-out Best Practice Guidelines that will encourage investment, innovation, and growth in the ICT sector.”

Regulators at GSR-24 noted that equal, global access to existing digital services would help countries leverage transformative technologies.

AI, for example, could help network operators conduct better planning and prevent fraud, but it also raises challenges associated with privacy, bias, job displacement, and the reliability of information.

“At GSR-24, we discussed core policy and regulatory issues to maximise the potential of digital technologies to improve lives. We addressed key topics, including new developments in the field of generative AI and robotics, building an inclusive, safe, and sustainable space economy, and required interventions in addressing climate change challenges,” says Dr Cosmas Luckyson Zavazava, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.

“We brought the global community of regulators together to strengthen our collective capacity to navigate the fast-changing technology landscape and drive sustainable and inclusive digital transformation. We heard from young innovators and entrepreneurs and adopted action-oriented Best Practice Guidelines to help us chart the course of transformative technologies for positive impact.”

“As we navigate the transformative landscape of digital technologies, the importance of impactful regulation cannot be overstated,” says George William Nyombi Thembo, chair of GSR-24 and executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). “Our shared learnings and collaborative efforts are crucial in shaping a regulatory environment that not only fosters innovation but also ensures that the benefits of technological advancements are widely shared.

“By recognising the interdependencies with other sectors, we can create a cohesive framework that supports sustainable development, economic growth, and inclusivity. Together, we have the power to turn technology into a force for positive change, illuminating pathways to a brighter, more connected future.”

Prior to the opening of GSR-24, the Regional Regulatory Associations (RA) and Digital Regulation Network (DRN) meeting shared experiences and knowledge as well as areas for collaboration. The meeting also featured the achievements of the successful first year of the DRN, focusing on capacity building, thought leadership, and regulatory experimentation and innovation. Key activities presented include knowledge sharing through the ITU Academy, the broadband mapping project, capacity building activities, contributions to ITU-D Study Groups, RA participation in interactive workshops and engaging on twinning experiences to learn from other Regional Regulatory Associations.

Also ahead of GSR-24, the Industry Advisory Group on Development Issues and Private Sector Chief Regulatory Officers (IAGDI-CRO) convened industry and private sector thought leaders to share experiences and proposals with regulators to address the complex regulatory and business landscape of digital ecosystems. Topics discussed included digital infrastructure development, implementation of regulatory ”sandboxes,”, strategies to enable high-speed connectivity, regulation of the future, including new domains such as AI, and technologies for the future. These discussions were reflected in an Outcome Statement presented at the GSR-24 closing ceremony.

A session of Network of Women (NoW) in ITU’s Telecommunication Development Sector at GSR-24 explored mechanisms for greater participation of women in ICT-related fields and address the leadership gender gap in the ICT sector.