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