Monday, November 19, 2007

UPDATE: ITU not planning a 'boring' show for Bangkok

A while back I was critical of last year's ITU Telecom event in Hong Kong (and a lot of trade shows generally), provocatively labelling them as "boring". Well, in the ITU's defence, they've decided to do something about it (and admit they were getting a bit stale). Needless to say, one good strategy is to confront your critics and give them the lowdown on your plans for improvement. That resulted in me meeting ITU Telecom executive manager Fernando Lagrana in the Bangkok airport Novotel, on a four-hour stopover, for an update on their "exciting" plans for ITU Telecom Asia in Thailand next year. Here's the lowdown as first published in Commsday last week.

The ITU Telecom Asia event scheduled for Bangkok next year could get a significant boost with the addition of a high-level government-industry summit similar to the recent Connect Africa meeting being considered, ITU Telecom executive manager Fernando Lagrana has revealed exclusively to CommsDay.

A “Connect Asia” Summit would likely be held back-to-back with ITU Telecom Asia and a decision will be made before the end of the year and even as early as this week, he said. ITU deputy secretary-general Zhao Houlin is in Bangkok on Friday for the opening of the annual Bangkok International ICT Expo.

Lagrana pointed to the success of Connect Africa, held at the end of last month in Kigali, Rwanda, where US$55 billion was committed by government and businesses over five years to improve the broadband infrastructure across Africa. He said similar expectations could be held for a Connect Asia summit.

The idea of holding a high-level summit to coincide with ITU Telecom Asia was one of a number of ideas for revamping the event when it is held in Bangkok in September 2008. Other changes being proposed will include more interactive forum sessions that are less geared towards major sponsors, and the addition of a “theme” to the programme – with possibilities including emergency telecommunications, social responsibility and cyber security – in addition to the more “generalist” exhibition.

Lagrana said that more open and informal forum sessions, using a professional moderator from the BBC, were first trialled last month at Connect Africa with great success. Of the seven sessions held, only one used a traditional format of a speaker delivering a speech from a podium, and according to Lagrana the open sessions were better received.

As a result, the ITU will adopt the more interactive formats for future events starting with ITU Telecom Africa to be held in Cairo next May. The forum committee will also reject presentations that are deemed too commercial. However, he said in addition to the regular forum there will be a parallel sponsored section where vendors could deliver their commercial messages.

The format changes stem from a new organising team, with 80 percent of the forum committee changed along with changes at the management level since last year’s ITU Telecom World in Hong Kong.

The forum committee has also been studying other successful event formats and is co-operating with groups including the World Economic Forum that will lead to a forum that is “more substance and less status”, according to Lagrana. Other groups are also being invited to set up sessions that extend the reach into other “communities” involved in the industry.

Patrapee Chinachoti, president of the Trade Exhibition Association of Thailand and one of the key people in bringing ITU Telecom Asia to Bangkok, told CommsDay that the event would also utilise Thailand’s position as a key hub in Indochina to bring in delegations from neighbouring countries.

“From the Thai side we want to show that we are ready to organise an international show and attract more regional events to the country,” he said, adding that a government-level delegation will most likely visit neighbours such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and invite them to highlight their future infrastructure plans to an international audience. – Geoff Long

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