e-health: Committee 4 approves new Resolution

e-health, the use of ICTs in healthcare, has been a strong feature of this Assembly. The extensive discussion in GSS and a dedicated side event complement the Committee 4 agreement on a new Resolution on e-health.

Pending final WTSA-12 Plenary approval, Information and communication technology applications and standards for improved access to e-health services instructs the Director of TSB, Malcolm Johnson, to collaborate with Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, to prioritize and coordinate work on e-health in the years to come.

The Resolution will act as the catalyst for the initiation of new work in various ITU-T Study Groups, in particular SG16 (multimedia), SG11 (protocols) and SG17 (security), as well as increased interaction with WHO and other organizations addressing ICT healthcare standards. ITU-T’s Focus Group on the machine-to-machine service layer (FG M2M) was established in January 2012 and initially addresses healthcare services enabled by M2M, e.g., remote patient monitoring and ambient assisted living.

Security standards for e-health communications, services, databases, records handling, identification and authentication were among the priorities identified at Tuesday’s e-health side event and are reflected in the proposed Resolution.

ITU’s Technology Watch report on e-health standards and interoperability by Dr Laura DeNardis (American University, Washington, DC) gives an insight into some of the latest trends in e-health and explains how standards facilitate the adoption of related services.


Telecommunications crucial when disaster strikes

Debris Field

Hurricane Sandy aftermath, November 2012, Union Beach, New Jersey, United States of America. Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA

Recent events have clearly demonstrated the need for telecommunications networks to be resilient to natural and human-induced disasters, as they are critical to rescue efforts and restoring normality in the wake of disasters.

The third and last side event – 23 November, 18h00, Room E – will review aspects of network resilience and telecoms infrastructure recovery following disasters and how these requirements can be reflected in ICT standardization. In addition, the panel will showcase ICTs supporting disaster relief for individuals (e.g., to enable victims to notify next of kin) and disaster relief guidance (e.g., to guide those affected to evacuation shelters or hospitals).

Opening remarks will be delivered by Mr Hideo Fuseda, Director, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan. Mr Noriyuki Araki, Chairman of ITU-T Focus Group on disaster relief systems, network resiliency and recovery, will share experiences from the Great East Japan Earthquake and introduce recent R&D activities on technologies for network resilience and recovery. Mr Leo Lehmann, a Focus Group Vice-chairman, will give an overview of related work in ITU and other organizations.

The next official meeting of the Focus Group on disaster relief systems, network resiliency and recovery will take place 11-13 December 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey, kindly co-hosted by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority, Turkey, and Istanbul Technical University. A workshop on disaster relief will take place on the first day (11 December), and both the workshop and the Focus Group meeting will be free of charge and open to non-members of ITU.

Details are available on the Focus Group website.

USD 5,000 for your innovative app

ICT Innovation App ChallengeA cash prize of USD 5,000 is offered to the winner of a new ITU Application Challenge seeking to uncover apps extending the reach of mobile health, mobile money, e-learning, e-government and intelligent transport systems.

The ICT Innovation Application Challenge was launched tonight at the ICT Innovations side event. The challenge aims to promote sustainable, equitable economic growth in emerging economies by unearthing apps targeting the social and economic inclusion of traditionally underserved communities.

More at http://www.itu.int/go/challenges/ictinnovation.

ICT innovation side event

The second of the three WTSA side events will take place at 18h00 on Thursday 22 November in Room E, here at the Dubai World Trade Center.

Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, will open the event and four invited speakers will share their experience on ICT Innovations in emerging economies.

Ajay MishraAjay Ranjan Mishra is the Chairman of ITU-T Focus Group bridging the gap: from innovation to standards and will moderate the side event. He will also give a talk about the objectives of the Focus Group, and  on the progress made so far.

Until recently, Ajay has worked with Nokia and Nokia Siemens Networks in roles such as Global Head of Industry Environment, Global Head of Business Development (Emerging Markets) and Global Head of Services Innovation Management.

Ramy AhmedRamy Ahmed, the second panelist, is a Senior Manager for the Digital Services Policies at the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Egypt. He has over 10 years of experience in telecommunications regulations and management, especially in the area of market modeling and services planning. He is the technical lead of the market modeling and investment feasibility assessment done in the recently announced Egyptian national broadband plan, eMisr, which proposes different strategic directives to meet Egypt’s broadband innovation and service needs.

Rahmy’s talk From Innovations to Collaborative Standardization will focus on how developing countries could play a more important role in standardization through the establishment of ICT ecosystems that foster innovation.

Deepak RamachandranDeepak Ramachandran is Co-founder & CTO of SourceN, a global provider of online community-building and technology consulting services. Deepak brings to the table over 20 years of engineering experience in the Web and Mobile arena. At SourceN, he guides and leads the Technical Architects and Technical Project Managers during the software design and development phases.

Karma BhutiaAlso with SourceN, Karma Bhutia is a Seasoned Entrepreneur, Co-founder & Managing Partner. He has around 17+ years experience in the IT industry primarily in banking, trade finance, telecoms, logistics, etc.

Deepak and Karma will talk about The Citizen Initiative System – a participatory view of e-Governance.

Helmut SchinkDr Helmut Schink is responsible for telco standards at Nokia Siemens Network. He holds the position of Vice-chairman of ITU-T Study Group 15 (Transport and Access Networks), responsible for Innovation and Marketing. Helmut’s talk will present views on how and where innovations happen. It will discuss innovation mechanisms typically used in industry, along with a few economic aspects and factors in innovation success. Looking at telecoms networks in particular, the talk will discuss how developing countries can contribute to, benefit from, and advocate for a win-win approach to ICT development and innovation that offers attractive incentives for all stakeholders involved.

Work in Committees gets underway

Mohammed Gheyath, WTSA-12 Chairman

Mohammed Gheyath, WTSA-12 Chairman

WTSA-12’s opening session under the Chairmanship of Mohammed Gheyath (Executive Director, Policies & Programs/Information & E-Government Sector, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, UAE) saw the approval of committees’ structure and leadership.

Work was assigned to five Committees:

1)      Steering Committee (ensures the smooth execution of the work of the Assembly);

2)      Budget Control (examines the total expenditure of the Assembly and estimates the budgetary requirements of ITU-T up to the next WTSA (2016));

3)      Working methods of ITU-T;

4)      ITU-T work programme and organization; and

5)      Editorial Committee (enhances the clarity of wording used in texts arising from WTSA deliberations, such as resolutions, without altering their sense and substance).

The complete terms of reference of all Committees are reproduced in Document DT/4-E (requires a TIES account).

Delegates have started reviewing the inputs and proposals submitted by ITU’s membership in the respective committees and will report the results of these discussions to Plenary at a later stage.

Bright future for academic membership

Academia event

Wael Bazzi (American University in Dubai, UAE), Maurizio Talamo (University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy), Malcolm Johnson (Director TSB, ITU), Bilel Jamoussi (ITU), Ramjee Prasad (Aalborg University, Denmark), Toby Johnson (ITU) in WTSA-12 academia session

At an event dedicated to academia at WTSA-12, academic members of ITU-T have expressed their belief that ITU-T membership represents a valuable opportunity for academics to bring their research to life through standardization, exchange ideas with other experts,  and raise the profiles of their institutions.

Monday’s event comprised two sessions, the first led by the ITU secretariat offering an introduction to the importance of standards (read Director Malcolm Johnson’s opening remarks here), a detailed overview of the academia membership category and an outline of the many ITU-T initiatives serving academic members. ​Academic institutions can raise their profile by contributing to ITU-T standards and see the advancement and recognition of their research through the adoption of global standards. The opportunity to network with peers, ICT industry and government representatives is another major benefit enjoyed by the now 36 academic members that have joined ITU-T.

This first session concluded with an invitation to the next ITU Kaleidoscope academic conference on “Building Sustainable Communities” taking place at Kyoto University in Japan, 22-24 April 2013.

The second session heard from three representatives of ITU-T’s academic membership: the American University in Dubai, Aalborg University and the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. The message from each was that their investment in membership had already resulted in significant returns and that, as they’ve become accustomed to ITU-T’s working methods, these returns have continued to grow.

ITU-T has sought the expertise of academia to inform the development of the still very young academic membership category, and all present in Dubai committed to the same spirit of collaboration in the future.

A word with Heidi Thomas, broadcast captioner at WTSA

Heidi Thomas, broadcast captioner at WTSA-12

Heidi Thomas, broadcast captioner at WTSA-12

Behind the scenes, The Assembly met with Heidi Thomas. Heidi works for Caption First, a captioning service provider.

A realtime text stream from WTSA-12 is available at http://www.streamtext.net/player?event=CFI-WTSA.

The Assembly: Equal access is at the core of ITU’s mission. Can you briefly explain to our readers what captioning is, and how captioning services contribute to making conferences such as WTSA more accessible?

Heidi Thomas: Stenocaptioners are highly trained individuals who use a stenotype machine with a phonetic keyboard (as used by court reporters) to create captions. This machine enables them to type at speeds of up to 225 words a minute. The average person usually speaks 160 to 180 words a minute. The stenograph machines have a syllable-based system of 24 keys that spells words phonetically, the way they sound, rather than how they are actually spelled. Stenocaptioners use a keyboard with only 25 keys (there are about 100 on a standard computer keyboard) that account for just 13 consonants and 4 vowels.

The quality of these captions depends on the skill level of the stenocaptioner and the time they have been given to prepare for their task. Part of this preparation involves entering into their software’s ‘dictionary’ any unusual names or words which are likely to appear in the dialogue they will be captioning, so that these will be spelled correctly in the captions as they appear. They can also create ‘shortforms’ of certain phrases which are likely to be used, so several words can be created with a couple of keystrokes.

The display of the realtime captions is projected onto large screens for the benefit of the entire audience.  Oftentimes in large venues it is difficult to hear the speakers clearly and there may be a lot of audience and ambient room distractions. For a person with a hearing loss or for a person whose native language is not English, these distractions present a barrier to communication. Having a large display screen with the flowing text allows audience members to focus on the message rather than straining to hear and comprehend. It may also be streamed to the web simultaneously for remote participants.

The Assembly: What are the challenges faced by a realtime captioner and how do you address them in practice?

Heidi Thomas: Realtime captioners face challenges with unfamiliar/unusual terminology, acronyms, English speakers of other languages and rapid speech. Realtime captioners do large amounts of detailed research and building of databases (dictionaries) for the highest quality translation possible.

The Assembly: Heidi, thank you very much for this interesting insight, and for your contribution to making WTSA-12 accessible to all.