Dr. Hamadoun I. TouréSecretary-General, ITU
Q. What are the important issues that World Telecom & Information Society Day (WTISD-2013) will address?
A. The theme for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2013 is “ICTs and improving road safety”.ICTs play a catalytic role in creating opportunities for people in every walk of life. Today, even as we take to the streets in our vehicles, we have the tools at our fingertips to communicate across the world, navigate through dense traffic and find our way in unfamiliar terrain. At the same time we can choose from a host of entertainment options, be it music, radio, television or social media. While these technologies are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, we must ensure that we use them responsibly and with caution, especially while driving, in order to avoid accidents and injury. Road traffic safety is a global concern for public health and injury prevention. Every year, 1.3 million people die in traffic related accidents and another 20-50 million people are injured mainly in developing countries around the world. As a result, Governments and individuals suffer an estimated USD 518 billion in global economic loss. Driver distraction and road-user behaviour, such as “text messaging” and interfacing with in-vehicle navigation or communication systems while driving, are among the leading contributors to road traffic fatalities and injuries.
Q. Can you please give us as much information as you can help us to clarify this year WTISD-2013 theme “ICT’s and Improving Road Safety”?
A. My message is clear: Don’t be distracted by technology when driving, whether calling from your mobile phone, or setting the navigation system. Sending a text message or tweeting while driving is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all cost. At the same time, I call upon our Member States and industry partners to promote the use of safe interfaces and hands-free devices in vehicles and take action to eliminate technology-related distractions while driving. Along with promoting national policies to encourage the use of ICT in enhancing road safety, we must also promote the development and use of intelligent transport systems. These measures will not only help prevent traffic accidents but also improve efficiencies in traffic management as a means of combating the effects of climate change. I am pleased to say that ITU has been developing standards for safe user interfaces and communication systems in vehicles designed to optimize driving performance by eliminating unsafe technology-related distractions. ITU has also been leading worldwide efforts in developing state-of-the-art ICT standards for Intelligent Transport Systems and driver safety that utilize a combination of computers, communications, positioning and automation technologies, including in-car radars for collision avoidance. The theme for WTISD 2013 “ICTs and improving road safety” will be taken forward in the years to come in partnership with the automotive sector and with automobile associations worldwide under the banner of the F.I.A. – the International Automobile Federation – with whom we will be working closely to meet one of the most urgent global challenges of our times. I urge you to celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day this year by paying particular attention to improving road safety by harnessing the power of ICTs.
Q. What is your message for ITU Members on this year theme of WTISD-2013 “ICTs and improving road safety”.
A. I invite all Members of the Union to take practical steps to further national and domestic policies, programmes and/or educational initiatives in the use of ICTs to improve road safety, taking into account the risks associated with the unreasonable use of ICTs and driver distraction, as well as the benefits of ICTs and vehicular safety technologies, in order to improve global road safety.Accordingly, I invite Governments to promote national policies to encourage the use of ICTs in enhancing road safety by involving relevant government ministries and agencies to prioritize the implementation of policies that take into account ICT standards to enhance road safety and promote awareness among road users of safety imperatives, particularly in avoiding distractions as a result of the proliferation of integrated in-vehicle ICTs and nomadic devices, including navigational information and electronic data communications devices. ICT standards should also be leveraged to improve situational awareness of drivers by enabling roadway hazard warnings, in-vehicle signage, and other safety-related capabilities. Governments should promote awareness through public service media of the dangers of driver distraction arising from the in-vehicle use of communication, entertainment and positioning devices, especially “texting” while driving.Government agencies should promote the use of ITS to improve the safety, management and efficiency of terrestrial transport, and to reduce the environmental impact of road transportation. Adopt globally accepted standards in the ITS field to be able to provide multiple services, over multiple different platforms, while maintaining a simple-to-use interface that requires minimum intervention from the driver. Provide regulatory and financial incentives to industry for the development of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications that will help prevent accidents. Develop new ICT-related techniques and technologies that can be used to reduce collisions associated with driver distraction. Promote mechanisms that can be used to manage information flow and message formats between the driver and the automotive cockpit. Governments and industry worldwide should advocate adoption of a harmonized 79 GHz frequency band for automotive short-range high-resolution radar operations when the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 considers allocation of the band 77.5-78 GHz to radiolocation services.Governments should promote awareness of safe user interfaces and hands-free devices in vehicles and promote quality standards for in-car communications. The automotive industry should improve and enhance in-car communications, focusing on quality parameters.