31 March 2011Effective regulation of the information and telecommunications technologies (ICTs) is crucial for overall economic growth, the United Nations telecommunications agency says in a report released today, stressing that setting rules and standards creates an enabling digital environment. In its 2010-2011 report on “Trends in Telecommunications Reform”, the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) notes that a robust and complex regulatory landscape has emerged in response to the tremendous influence ICTs have on the shape and growth of other economic sectors.At the beginning of this year, for example, more than 80 per cent of markets worldwide had separate ICT regulatory agencies, bringing the total to 158 ICT regulators worldwide, up from 106 just one decade ago, according to the report.“Because ICTs touch all aspects of society, when setting sound policies and regulation, the link between ICTs and major social issues like climate change, economic growth and digital lifestyles has to be taken into account,” said Brahima Sanou, the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.“More than ever, it is vital to consider the appropriate scope of the ICT regulators’ mandate in creating an enabling digital world, a world where no citizen should be left out of the digital society,” Mr. Sanou says in a press release.The reports points out that ICT markets around the world are becoming more competitive in every respect, from international gateway services to wireless local loop and 3G. In 2010, for example, more than 93 per cent of countries worldwide allowed competition in the provision of Internet services, and 90 per cent in the provision of mobile cellular services. A further 92 per cent have competitive 3G mobile broadband markets.“ICTs are truly at the heart of everything we do,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “Technology is reshaping the lives of everyone – even those who still lack direct access themselves.”Worldwide, mobile cellular subscriptions now total more than 5.3 billion, including 940 million subscriptions to mobile broadband services – a figure which is expected to reach one billion before mid-2011, according to the report. Access to mobile networks is now available to 90 per cent of the world’s population. Eighty per cent of people in rural areas now have mobile cellular coverage.In terms of applications, at the end of last year, Facebook alone had 600 million active users, representing more than a third of Internet users worldwide. Forty per cent of active Facebook users accessed the platform through their mobile devices. The micro-blogging site Twitter now has over 200 million registered users, and 37 per cent of active Twitter users use their mobile device to “tweet”.Data also shows that two billion videos are watched every day on YouTube, while five billion photos are now hosted on Flickr.The report also stresses that broadband access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that will be crucial to every country’s economic, social, and political growth, and calls for proactive national broadband planning by every government.