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Radio: The universal medium that leaves no one behind

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In the age of new communication technologies and social media, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recently announced the designation of new FM frequencies to expand radio’s reach in Africa. 

To better understand this decision, and on the occasion of World Radio Day on 13 February, which is being celebrated under the theme “Radio and Trust”, UN News spoke to the ITU‘s Director of Radiocommunication, Mario Maniewicz, who began by explaining the medium’s importance in Africa.

This interview was conducted in French and has been edited and adapted for publication.

Mario Maniewicz: In Africa, Radio broadcasting still reigns supreme over other forms of mass media channels. Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium. This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard.

Besides this, radio helps listeners feel less isolated and more connected to their community. In times of emergency and disaster, radio broadcasting is one of the most powerful and effective ways of delivering early warnings. Timely, relevant, and practical information supports effective response measures and saves lives. For people directly affected, it comes as a vital form of humanitarian assistance. As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, radio has kept people connected and entertained, ensured continuity in learning, helped fight misinformation, and disseminated critical health information.

The ITU recently announced the identification of new FM frequencies for Africa. What is the significance?

Mario Maniewicz: Over the years we have seen a steady increase in demand for quality radio broadcasting in Africa. This increase also means there is pressure on the available radio frequencies and especially for FM radio broadcasting. Over the last two years, ITU in collaboration with the African Telecommunications Union and radiocommunication experts have been working on a project to identify new frequencies that would facilitate the expansion of FM radio broadcasting services across the continent.

We have been able to identify over 18,000 frequency assignments that can now be used for FM Broadcasting in Africa without causing or receiving harmful interference. The success of this project helps to secure the long-term sustainability of African radio broadcasting and paves the way for the introduction of digital sound broadcasting in Africa.

There have been a lot of changes in the media landscape in recent years. Where does the ITU think radio is headed?

Mario Maniewicz: This year marks 127 years since the first radio transmission was made by Guglielmo Marconi in 1895 on the Isle of Wight, which led eventually to the signing of the International Radiotelegraph Convention in 1906. Throughout this period, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has played a central role in advancing the medium worldwide, establishing and updating international regulations on the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. These regulations also prescribe how radio equipment and systems must operate to ensure reliable coexistence among radio services of different administrations and to enable the most efficient utilization of today’s increasingly crowded airwaves.

So, radio is still going strong and at ITU we will continue to serve as the steward of global airwaves, ensuring we can connect safely, sustainably, and innovatively for centuries to come. Accessible and affordable, radio can reach practically everyone, everywhere. Its loyal listeners include people in big cities, those in small towns and villages, those in rural communities, and even those in the most isolated places on the planet.

Part of people’s trust in radio is due to its low cost and ubiquitous nature. Radio remains affordable and can be listened to everywhere, even when electricity or internet connectivity are not reliable. Radio is thereby one of the most popular means of communication, used by an overwhelming majority of people. In my view, radio leaves no one behind.

Do you see traditional radio broadcasting by frequency becoming obsolete and somehow leaving people behind?

Mario Maniewicz: I think there will always be a place for over-the-air radio. Even though more and more people are connecting with other digital platforms, or online, there are still people who are either not connected, or they don’t have electricity, or they are in remote places where these technologies are not easily accessible, or they lack the economic means to use this other platform. 

So, I think that broadcast radio is always going to be popular, starting with the fact that it’s completely free.  It’s the only one of all these platforms that is completely free.  For the others, you have to pay for connectivity, you have to pay for special equipment, but here it’s not.  So, I think there will always be a place for it, maybe not in developed countries, or in big cities, but in developing countries, in rural areas, more isolated, where people don’t have very high standards of living, it will always be the most widespread means.

You mentioned the trust that people have in radio, which is the theme for this year’s World Radio Day.  You also said that it is a platform for democracy.  Can you come back to this relationship of trust that people have towards radio?

Mario Maniewicz: Absolutely.  We are in a world where fake news is spread everywhere and causes damage to everyone, but the platforms par excellence for this kind of thing are social networks. Because with social networks, there is no individual responsibility. People can post what they want without being responsible for what they post.

On the other hand, with radio, there is always a person responsible for the radio programme that we are listening to.  So, if you know that you are listening to a serious station, you know that the possibility of bouncing around, of new forms and is very low, or nil, or non-existent. So that’s why I think that broadcast radio is more reliable for people than other online platforms.

I mentioned democracy because, normally, radio stations give space to everyone to express themselves, to all political colours and to all actors of the community.  So, it is a universal tool to communicate and to express themselves to the rest of the population…I think the difference is that radio is more transparent.  

Thank you very much Mr. Maniewicz.  Do you have a final message on World Radio Day?

Mario Maniewicz: Well, my message is precisely to take advantage of this means, of this medium, which is the universal medium par excellence and to defend this means, this medium.  Because it is always under attack by new technologies.  Not because they compete — that’s not a problem — but because the availability of radio waves for radio is being increasingly contested by other services. 

 So, I think it is important for governments and regulators in countries to defend the airwaves that are assigned to radio broadcasting, either analogue or digital.  And it is precisely by going to digital radio that we save spectrum and therefore we can free up more spectrum without killing radio. 

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Global CEOs Commit to Collective Action on Cyber Resilience

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For the first time, leading oil and gas stakeholders are calling for industry to come together to stop harmful cyberattacks.

The action is in response to major security breaches in the past two years that have highlighted the vulnerability of critical infrastructure. At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022, 18 companies have come together to take a Cyber Resilience Pledge, in recognition of the fact that much more collective preparedness is needed.

The pledge aims to mobilize global commitment towards strengthening cyber resilience across industry ecosystems. Organizations endorsing the pledge commit to collaborating and taking collective action on cyber resilience. Launched with the support of organizations engaged in the World Economic Forum’s Cyber Resilience in Oil and Gas initiative, the pledge seeks to empower organizations to take concrete steps to enhance cyber resilience across their industry.

The organizations that have taken the pledge are: Aker ASA, Aker BP, Aramco, Check Point Software Technologies, Claroty, Cognite, Dragos, Ecopetrol, Eni, EnQuest, Galp, Global Resilience Federation, Maire Tecnimont, Occidental Petroleum, OT-ISAC, Petronas, Repsol and Suncor.

“First endorsed by key CEOs in the oil and gas value chain, the Cyber Resilience Pledge is a landmark step as it signals recognition of the complexities of building a cyber-resilient industry ecosystem and a commitment towards collective action to achieve it,” said Alexander Klimburg, Head, Centre for Cybersecurity, World Economic Forum. “The World Economic Forum Centre for Cybersecurity is proud to have led this effort in conjunction with our partners. We look forward to scaling the pledge to other industries in the future.”

The pledge promotes a shift towards a resilience-by-design culture, ecosystem-wide, cyber-resilience plans and greater collaboration between players.

“As the world deepens its digital footprint, cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated,” said Amin H. Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco. “But one company, working alone, is effectively like locking the front gate while leaving the back door wide open.” Companies must work together if they want to truly protect the critical energy infrastructure that billions of people around the world depend on.

Cyberattacks on the Colonial Pipeline in the United States in May 2021 and on European oil facilities in February 2022 forced the facilities to operate at limited capacity, causing huge economy and society-wide disruptions.

Common, industry-wide, cyber-resilience practices are essential, said Robert M. Lee, CEO and Co-Founder of Dragos. “As our world becomes more digitally connected it is imperative, especially for our industrial and operational technology, to ensure our infrastructure’s secure and safe operation.”

“The oil and gas industry is going through a digital revolution that has been a catalyst to the energy transition and sustainability. Cyber resilience is key in this revolution, as staying ahead of vulnerabilities is fundamental to our business. The pledge is a step further by developing a collective effort to embed cyber-resilience and a cyber-risk aware culture across the energy industry,” said Felipe Bayón, CEO of Ecopetrol.

“The pledge advances Galp’s commitment to joint action on managing cyber risks and protecting cybersecurity of critical energy infrastructure, by creating awareness and a unified stance on cyber resilience in the global energy sector,” said Andy Brown, CEO of Galp.

“Petronas upholds the safety of its people, assets and the environment as our utmost priority, including reinforcing better cyber security and safety practices. Petronas is committed to and fully supports the World Economic Forum’s Cyber Resilience Pledge and its principles in safeguarding our ability to deliver energy responsibly and securely,” said Tengku Muhammad Taufik, CEO of Petronas. “In this respect, we believe that addressing the risks and enhancing cyber resilience is critical as the oil and gas industry embraces greater digitalization to capture valuable opportunities in this digital era.”

The Forum will continue to promote the pledge across multiple industry ecosystems with the objective of facilitating the implementation of the cyber resilience principles.

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New Initiative to Build An Equitable, Interoperable and Safe Metaverse

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The World Economic Forum announced today a new initiative, Defining and Building the Metaverse. The initiative brings together key stakeholders to build an economically viable, interoperable, safe and inclusive metaverse. Research suggests that the metaverse is expected to grow into an $800 billion market by 2024.

At this early stage, the metaverse can develop in many ways, depending on research, innovation, investment and policy. The new initiative convenes more than 60 leading technology and other sector companies alongside experts, academics and civil society to accelerate the development of governance and policy frameworks for the metaverse and strengthen economic and social value creation opportunities.

The initiative will focus on two key areas. The first area of focus is the governance of the metaverse, how the technologies and environments of the metaverse can be developed in safe, secure, interoperable and inclusive ways. The second will focus on value creation and identify the incentives and risks that businesses, individuals and society will encounter as the metaverse comes to life. The initiative will also outline how value chains may be disrupted, industries may be transformed, new assets could be created and rights protected.

“The Defining and Building the Metaverse initiative provides the industry with an essential toolkit for ethically and responsibly building the metaverse. This will help ensure that we can fully harness this vital medium for social and economic interconnectivity in an inclusive, ethical and transformative manner,” said Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.

Stakeholder views

“The metaverse is at an early stage in its development. Done well, the metaverse could be a positive force for inclusion and equity, bridging some of the divides that exist in today’s physical and digital spaces. That’s why the Defining and Building the Metaverse initiative will be so valuable. It mustn’t be shaped by tech companies on their own. It needs to be developed openly with a spirit of cooperation between the private sector, lawmakers, civil society, academia and the people who will use these technologies. This effort must be undertaken in the best interests of people and society, not technology companies,” said Nick Clegg, President of Global Affairs, Meta Platforms, Inc.

“The metaverse is the next inevitable step in the evolution of the internet but will require comprehensive collaboration between all ecosystem stakeholders to make it an open, safe and secure environment. As such, this Forum initiative is a robust start to addressing the key technology and policy fundamentals to enable the metaverse to fulfil its boundless potential,” said Cher Wang, Founder and Chairwoman, HTC Corporation.

“While the metaverse is in its nascent stage, we believe it has the potential to deliver enhanced connections for everyone. As an industry it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure this new paradigm is developed in a way that is accessible for everyone, puts the needs of people first, enhances human connection and is developed securely with trust built in by design. It is for this reason that we are proud to participate in this cross-industry collaborative body that will define the standards for the metaverse,” said Brad Smith, President and Vice-Chair, Microsoft Corporation.

As part of Sony Group, our goal is to get closer to people, and Sony Interactive Entertainment approaches the Metaverse with the mission to further imagine the ‘best place to play.’ We envision a virtual world that will captivate our fans, excite global creators, and bridge these two vast communities in bold new ways. Now, with an anticipated growing community of users engaging within the Metaverse, governance is a critical and shared responsibility of all its participants. An accessible, safe, and inclusive Metaverse will require new ways of thinking and democratization as well as strong commitments from all involved,” said Stephanie Burns, SVP, General Counsel, Sony Interactive Entertainment.

“At Magic Leap, we are excited about how technologies like augmented reality will transform the way we live and work, especially in growing fields like healthcare, manufacturing and the public sector. To realize the potential of these technologies, a thoughtful framework for regulation that protects users and facilitates future innovation is required, supported by all stakeholders, including businesses, consumers, government, NGOs and academia,” said Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap, Inc.

“As a company that has inspired and developed generations of kids through physical play, we are uniquely positioned to help develop kids in the digital worlds of tomorrow. As the metaverse evolves, it is reshaping how people meet, play, work, learn and interact in a virtual world. To us, the priority is to help create a world in which we can give kids all the benefits of the metaverse – one with immersive experiences, creativity and self-expression at its core – in a way that is also safe, protects their rights and promotes their well-being,” said Julia Goldin, Chief Product and Marketing Officer, The LEGO Group.

“The rapid advancement and adoption of the metaverse will create unforeseen complexities in terms of governance, ethics, social and industrial effects. Thus, the need for collective intelligence to anticipate, analyse, design, experiment on and constantly revise governance measures and frameworks will be crucial. It will be an honour for us from CJ Group to make contributions along with dedicated and leading colleagues from around the world to the World Economic Forum’s metaverse initiative,” said Dr. Cha Inhyok, Chief Executive Officer, CJ Olive Networks & Group Chief Digital Officer, CJ Corporation.

“In these early stages of development of the metaverse, it is important to define the operating principles, standards and ways of working as we go forward. Frameworks that account for openness, interoperability and safety are fundamental to long-term sustainability and success of these shared ecosystems and communities. We look forward to contributing to the World Economic Forum’s committees for this new initiative,” said Nuala O’Connor, Senior Vice-President & Chief Counsel, Digital Citizenship, Walmart Inc.

“Animoca Brands is pleased to be a part of the inaugural metaverse initiative launched by the World Economic Forum and we look forward to a dialogue with our industry colleagues as we navigate the potential of true digital ownership in the open metaverse,” said Yat Siu, Co-founder and Chairman, Animoca Brands.

Taking active steps to form a strong foundation for metaverse development is one of the key tasks humanity has to fulfil this decade. We are proud to be part of the World Economic Forum’s metaverse group and give our insights and suggestions regarding these topics, particularly that of interoperability. We are keen to further develop decentralized ways to allow users the ability to move freely between virtual reality worlds and keep their digital identities and belongings truly theirs,” said Artur Sychov, Founder and CEO of Somnium Space.

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Growing Intra-Africa Trade through Digital Transformation of Customs and Borders

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The digital transformation of customs and borders in Africa could improve efficiencies in processes, such as administration at customs and borders, and yield trade gains on the continent of $20 billion a year. A new report by the World Economic Forum, Growing Intra-Africa Trade through Digital Transformation of customs and borders, launched today at the Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos, provides a pragmatic perspective on the non-tariff barriers in border and customs services that can be exponentially improved through digital transformation to increase intra-Africa trade.

The report, written in collaboration with Deloitte, is launched at the convening of the Forum Friends of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a multistakeholder group that supports implementation of the goals set out by AfCFTA through public-private collaborations. The group comprises Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda,; Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General, of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat; Patrice Motsepe, Founder and Executive Chairman, African Rainbow Minerals; and Jim Ovia, Chairman, Zenith Bank among others.

The AfCFTA implementation, which started in January 2021, has the potential to increase intra-African trade from its current 18% of total trade to 50% by 2030. It also has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty. However, achieving its full potential depends on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.

Kavitha Prag, Africa Lead, Enterprise Technology and Performance at Deloitte Africa, said: “The African Free Trade Area agreement can be a great catalyst for Africa’s growth and development, but its full realization hinges on the introduction of efficiencies, including the improvement of customs processes. Digital transformation of border posts and customs is thus a crucial and necessary step in the implementation of the protocol, especially for many of Africa’s landlocked countries.”

Various countries and the regional economic communities are making efforts to build better trade networks enabled by world-class logistics networks that can withstand recent supply chain shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions.

The report highlights insights from the Logistic Performance Index as well as key insights from case studies demonstrating the quantifiable value of digital reforms in countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. The paper is a call to action for more integrated digital reforms that can drive higher impact through public-private partnerships that sets the course for Africa’s post-pandemic recovery and growth.

“Even after tariffs are lowered, and simplified procedures put in place, the full benefits of the AfCFTA will not be realized unless non-tariff barriers to trade are also addressed,” said Chido Munyati, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum. “Policy-makers can make a difference by implementing digital solutions.”

The report calls on the following policy support to enable digital transformation:

– Legislative support and acceptance that embraces new practices such as e-signatures or the use of drones to monitor cargo

– Buy-in from the various agencies that enable these operations to embrace digital reforms and embed them in their processes

– Take action based on demand-driven interventions that lead to higher adoption of rates by all organizations and position intra-Africa trade as more cost- and time-competitive

– Develop skills of services agents that can maximize the potential of the digital solutions

– Better co-ordination among AfCFTA members to establish Single Customs Territories

The World Bank notes that while African exports of goods and services have seen their fastest growth in the past decade, the volumes remain low at just three per cent of global trade. The bank says boosting intra-regional trade requires improvement of physical integration, such as cross-border energy, transport and connectivity infrastructure, strengthening cooperation by harmonizing customs rules and procedures, and facilitating business integration through regional electronic settlement systems, an electronic cargo-tracking system, and easing restrictions on services trade.

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