The forum was joined by speakers and officials from local telecom operators, government organisations and other stakeholders from neighbouring countries, the International Telecom Union (ITU), the ICT sector, industries and relevant stakeholders from the public and private sectors . ICT is an important tool for social and economic integration in the region, where it gradually becomes part of the day to day life of the Lao people, said Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Dr Thansamay Kommasith. MPT’s vision is to further develop ICT to create better connections and to ensure coverage for 90 percent of total villages in the country by 2020.
It asserts that broadband has a very important role to play in transforming Laos from a land-locked to a land-linked country through ICT. The MPT will continue to push forward ICT development and call for collaboration with all stakeholders in the vision to build a strong economy at the centre of development, Dr Thansamay commented. The ministry has also has been working on legal frameworks and some infrastructure in collaboration with stakeholders to realise the government’s vision and to enable ICT as a tool where broadband is also part of policies.
In recent years, there has been a digital divide in ICT development in the Asia-Pacific region and there is great variation in connectivity across the region. The Republic of Korea and Singapore are world leaders with broadband penetration of 95 percent but in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Bangladesh less than 10 percent of the population has access to broadband, according to Vice President of Huawei Southern-East Asia Region, Jin Yuzhi. Nevertheless, according to the Asean ICT Master Plan 2020, Asean has put a lot of efforts through collaboration and projects for the region to work towards a digitally-enabled, inclusive, secure and sustainable Asean community which includes driving towards the digital economy.
“Broadband should be part of the Lao national development strategy.
The government should encourage telecom investment and infrastructure development like a national broadband network, wired and wireless broadband, data centres and other network development,” Jin said. During the forum, speakers from many countries in the region agreed on the need to accelerate national broadband rollout to enable the digital economy. At the forum, participants also witnessed the handover of the Lao National ICT Development Plan 2016-2020 White Paper from Huawei to the MPT.
The Lao National ICT Development Plan White Paper could offer policy guidance to the ICT industry in Laos, according to Huawei.
Leaders of regulatory agencies from the ITU, MPT, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China, Lao Telecom, Sky Telecom and AIS of Thailand discussed the development of broadband in their countries and presented the challenges they have faced and solutions they have developed.