The ITU, a link in the chain of the information society

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is a specialised agency of the UN and a key actor in the global development of telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICTs). It promotes progress in telecommunications and seeks solutions to bridge the digital divide between developed and less developed countries.

Founded in 1865, the ITU is the oldest intergovernmental organisation in the field of technical cooperation. The ITU’s global membership includes 193 member states and more than 900 non-governmental members (non-governmental organisations, equipment manufacturers, universities, etc.).

Importance for Switzerland

As host state, Switzerland has always been actively involved in the Geneva-based ITU. The ITU focuses on ensuring global interoperability of the telecommunications infrastructure and its standardisation and regulation, as well as a functioning and equitable worldwide distribution of radio and satellite frequencies. Furthermore, the ITU is committed to promoting a functioning and affordable telecommunications infrastructure, technical security and the promotion of women in technical professions. The ITU is a driving force among UN agencies in empowering women in the digital world.

The ITU considers its work on 5G, the internet of things and artificial intelligence as a contribution to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) more quickly thanks to new technologies. The ITU therefore plays an essential role in strengthening Geneva as a centre of global digital policy.

In addition, the ITU initiated and organised the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005. At these two summits, the international community reached an initial agreement on basic principles and objectives of the use of new information and communication technologies for sustainable development. The ITU is also the most important driver for the implementation of the WSIS results, e.g. through its annual organisation of the WSIS Forum. Switzerland hosted and led the negotiations in 2003 and is still an important supporter of the WSIS-follow-up.

Since 2017, the ITU, in collaboration with over 30 other institutions, has been organising the AI for Good Summit in Geneva. Discussions at this summit focus on the practical applications of AI in all areas of life such as health, climate, etc.

OFCOM’s role

OFCOM’s International Relations Service (IR) represents the values and interests of Switzerland and International Geneva in the governing bodies of the ITU (in particular, the Plenipotentiary Conference and the Administrative Council). In this capacity, OFCOM’s IR service works closely with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

OFCOM participates in the activities of the ITU’s three major sectors:

·       The ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) ensures the rational, equitable, efficient and economic use of the radio frequency spectrum by all radio services, including those using the orbit of geostationary satellites.

·       The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) is divided into technical Study Groups in which experts from around the world develop international technical standards.

·       The ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) promotes international cooperation and solidarity to provide technical assistance in developing countries to establish and develop telecommunications facilities and networks or ICTs.

OFCOM ensures that players in the Swiss telecommunications and ICT market are involved and can participate as far as possible in the activities of the ITU.

Specialist staff
Last modification 29.10.2021

Top of page