On 14 April 2021, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Regional Regulatory Roundtable for Europe and Africa was held within the framework of the “Broadband infrastructure, broadcasting, and spectrum management” and “Building digital economies and fostering innovation in Africa” initiatives, being part of the ITU 2021 Global Symposium for Regulators preparatory activities.
The online event was organized by the ITU Office for Europe and brought together high-level representatives of the telecom industry in Europe and Africa, namely the national regulatory authorities (NRAs), regulatory platforms (BEREC, EMERG, ATU, EACO), representatives of the private sector (GSMA, European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association) etc.
The event provided a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to actively exchange their approaches related to fostering regulatory cooperation between Europe and Africa with the objective of creating an enabling environment for the implementation of meaningful and inclusive connectivity, as well as present the progress in advancing the regulatory agenda at national and regional levels.
In order to present the Eastern Partnership Electronic Communications Regulators Network (hereinafter – EaPeReg), as well as considering the Memorandum of Understanding between ITU and EaPeReg to establish a high-level framework of cooperation in the area of information and communications technology, Mr. Oleksandr Zhyvotovsky, as EaPeReg Chair for 2021, participated in the session “Exploring Regional perspectives on Regulation4digitaltransformation: Accelerating inclusive connectivity, access and use” which was focused on a number of key issues.
Therefore, during the discussion of the main priorities of regulatory platforms’ activities, ways to coordinate work with their member states, in his speech the Chairman of the NCCIR highlighted the key EaPeReg objectives, defined in accordance with the provisions of the EaPeReg digital agenda until 2025, including, in particular: the promotion of fast, affordable and high-quality connectivity; effective competition on electronic communications markets; spectrum allocation for mobile 5G services; reduction of retail roaming charges between the EU and Eastern Partnership countries, as well as emphasized the importance of broadband mapping systems creation as well as deployment of the very high capacity and secure network infrastructure as one of the key objective of EaPeReg’s activities. The Chairman of the NCCIR emphasized the necessity of a proper regulatory framework existence in each EaP country for the broadband infrastructure development and ensuring the appropriate connectivity for the population in the region.
Furthermore, Mr. Zhyvotovsky noted an active international cooperation with a number of international and regional regulatory platforms, in particular BEREC, EMERG, REGULATEL as well as the ITU, in order to share experiences and implement initiatives aimed at improving industry regulation and ensuring consumer demands for the latest quality services.
During the discussion, within the framework of the abovementioned session, on the challenges faced by regulatory platforms in cooperation with governments/other regional entities, the Chairman of the NCCIR mentioned that digital transformation is a systemic process that requires a strategic and holistic approach to the use of ICT/digital technologies in various sectors and that is why the cooperation and coordination of all stakeholders, that in fact is reflected in the ITU “collaborative regulation” approach, are important more than ever.
Among other things, the participants of the meeting exchanged the views on investment in connectivity, emphasizing that although investment in technology and infrastructure (modernization included) is a high risk and reducing costs is a critical necessity, such investment has positive effect on competition.
Stakeholders also discussed fostering interregional collaboration between Europe and Africa, in particular, supported the countries’ position that the partnership should not be based on unilateral knowledge transfer, but based on the need to use European experience in separate African countries. Potential areas for such cooperation were suggested, namely: supporting the NRAs’ institutional capacity building to promote their independence; organization of workshops for key ministries in order to understand the state of the current regulatory environment; as well as creating conditions for involving other regulators, organizations and other groups working to implement the regulation.
The participation in the event of this level is undoubtedly important for the further development of activities, representation of EaPeReg interests at the international level and exchange of experience and views, given the relevance of the issues discussed at the round table, as well as development of partnership with other regional platforms and international organizations strengthening the position of EaPeReg.