South Asian and ASEAN coun­tries pledge support for the Asia-pa­cific In­for­ma­tion Su­per­high­way

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he con­sul­ta­tion on “The Asia-Pa­cific In­for­ma­tion Su­per­high­way (“APIS”) and Re­gional Con­nec­tiv­ity” was held from 1-2 Oc­to­ber 2014, in Paro, Bhutan among ex­perts of South Asian and ASEAN coun­tries. Co-con­vened by the United Na­tions Eco­nomic and So­cial Com­mis­sion for Asia and the Pa­cific (ES­CAP) and the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions of the Royal Gov­ern­ment of Bhutan, with the support of the Min­istry of Sci­ence, ICT and Plan­ning of the Repub­lic of Korea, the con­sul­ta­tion dis­cussed find­ings of ES­CAP study on the South and South­West Asia sub-re­gional ICT con­nec­tiv­ity, share ex­pe­ri­ence of the twelve ES­CAP mem­ber coun­tries’ on broad­band and in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tiv­ity; dis­cuss the di­rec­tion for the on-go­ing ES­CAP pre-fea­si­bil­ity study on “APIS” for the re­gion and agree on a roadmap to take for­ward the “APIS” Ini­tia­tive.

About forty ICT pol­icy mak­ers and ex­perts par­tic­i­pated from 13 ES­CAP mem­ber coun­tries1 rep­re­sent­ing ICT Min­istries/Agen­cies and Tele­com Reg­u­la­tors/ Op­er­a­tors and in­ter­na­tional/re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions for the con­sulta- tion. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with mem­ber coun­tries, such as the Repub­lic of Korea, Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion, Azer­bai­jan, the Philip­pines and Bhutan,, and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as ITU and the World Bank Group; ES­CAP has ini­ti­ated se­ries of ac­tiv­i­ties for “APIS” ini­tia­tive that aims to cre­ate seam­less broad­band in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tiv­ity by con­nect­ing each coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional back­bone net­works and in­te­grat­ing them into a co­he­sive Pan Asia-Pa­cific back­bone net­work.

The work­shop in Bhutan is the fourth one or­ga­nized by ES­CAP on the “APIS” ini­tia­tive, pre­ced­ing the ASEAN sub-re­gional con­sul­ta­tion in Manila, Philip­pines (Septem­ber 2013), Cen­tral and North Asia sub-re­gional con­sul­ta­tion in Baku, Azer­bai­jan (De­cem­ber 2013), High­level Re­gional Round­table on Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Con­nec­tiv­ity in Cen­tral Asia in Al­maty, Kaza­khstan (June 2014). Based on the man­date given to ES­CAP by the decision of the third ses­sion of the Com­mit­tee on ICT (Novem­ber 2013), and Res­o­lu­tion 69/10 of the Com­mis­sion adopted in April 2013 on “APIS” ini­tia­tive, the Bhutan con­sul­ta­tion is ex­pected not only to iden­tify con­cerns of limited de­vel­op­ment of In­ter­net back­bone and in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tiv­ity in South Asia subre­gion** but also to pro­vide support to the key out­comes ex­pected from the up­com­ing fourth ses­sion of the ES­CAP Com­mit­tee on ICT, in 14-16 Oc­to­ber 2014, namely agree­ment to es­tab­lish a work­ing group for “APIS” ini­tia­tive which will draft an in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal co­op­er­a­tion frame­work for “APIS”. The Bhutan con­sul­ta­tion is also ex­pected to support the call for an amend­ment to the Asian High­way and Trans-Asian Rail­way agree­ments that will en­cour­age co-de­ploy­ment of ICT and trans­port in­fra­struc­ture.

Un­der the frame­work of ES­CAP’s man­dates, the ES­CAP Sec­re­tariat will keep on ini­ti­at­ing “APIS” ac­tiv­i­ties, through a se­ries of in-depth fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies tar­get­ing the strate­gic sub-re­gions (ASEAN, CIS, South Asia and the Pa­cific Is­lands) and pro­vid­ing ac­cess to high speed re­li­able and af­ford­able broad­band In­ter­net, which is cur­rently less than 4 per cent. The start­ing point for the whole ini­tia­tive is the set­ting up the APIS Work­ing Group that will de­velop the prin­ci­ples and norms for “APIS”. The ES­CAP Sec­re­tariat be­lieves “APIS” ini­tia­tive will con­trib­ute to achiev­ing more univer­sal ac­cess, af­ford­able and re­li­able broad­band In­ter­net ser­vice to the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion by de­vel­op­ing seam­less, co­he­sive, af­ford­able and re­li­able in­ter­na­tional broad­band con­nec­tiv­ity.

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