Dear ITS Colleagues:

International Telecommunications Society (ITS), Online Conference, 21-23 June 2021

Opening Remarks of ITS Chair, Stephen Schmidt



Good morning from Canada!

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, depending where you are joining from.

It is really nice to have the ITS family together again, to hear your voices, to see your smiles, and to have the opportunity to share ideas, together, across the world.

One of the really wonderful features of our larger ITS events – our conferences — is that we create them, together, as a community.

The organizers and local host provide a framework or platform, but in a very real and fundamental sense, it is all of you that populate it with content and bring it to life – as paper presenters, as panelists, as discussants and participants.

And all of you have done a really magnificent job, this year, of creating our conference.   

Thank you!


Looking at our 3-day event, by the numbers, we have:

  • 140+ participants, from 28 countries
  • About 100 papers and 1 panel session
  • And a rich range of inter-disciplinary perspectives and institutional communities (academia, government and industry) represented here.

Indeed, international reach and inter-disciplinary scholarship are two of the distinguishing strengths – and magic ingredients – of ITS.


You will hear, present and discuss papers representing a wide cross-section of current issues in technology, regulation, privacy law, public health, and more, including:

  • Reflections on the pandemic: remote learning, privacy, ethics of digital technologies, digital health, contact tracing apps
  • Reflections on connecting the world: Mobile, broadband, fibre, and 5G networks – diffusion, adoption, policies and more
  • Platforms for all: E-commerce, platform regulation, competition law, big data, artificial intelligence and more

A big thank you to our organizers, Dr. Jason Whalley, Dr. Volker Stocker, and Dr. Erik Bohlin, and our Academic Host institution, Chalmers University.  Thank you Jason, Volker, and Erik, for friendship, for your goodwill and for all the time, resources and expertise that you have invested in this event. 

 We are likewise very grateful to the Program Committee members who were instrumental in reviewing papers and in making this event possible.   Thank you.


ITS is now in its 35th year of operation, with our 1st event having taken place in Tokyo, Japan, in 1986.  And there have been very few years, over those 35 years, where we have not had one (or several) in-person events.  This year is different!  That said, notwithstanding the challenges of the pandemic, ITS remains very active and very vibrant.

Since March 2020, we have made a decisive shift to short format, online events (webinars) to complement long-format conferences like this one.  From March 2020, through to the end of this year, we will have organized about a dozen (12) webinars – so, on average, a webinar every 8 weeks.  During this same time, we have also convened two large-scale, multi-day conferences, with Chalmers University and ITS Europe.

And, finally, we continue a strong cadence of activity with our membership journal, Telecommunications Policy – which is published 10 times per year and profiles the papers from many of our conferences.  The journal is available, for free, to members of ITS.

And, it goes without saying that we all look forward to the time we can be safely together again.


I would like to leave you with a challenge:

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the fundamental importance of telecommunications networks to keeping societies connected and functioning.  In many countries, these networks have enabled the substantial continuation of work, school, shopping, socializing, worship, and access to healthcare, despite lockdown measures. Moreover, digital communications have been essential for sharing scientific and public health information between researchers, companies, governments, and the public.

The pandemic has also revealed — and even magnified — inequalities of race, gender, income, and opportunity.  This is true both within nations and across nations.   Within nations, there are classes of work – particularly high-paid, professional work – that are more amenable to online work.   Likewise, across nations, advanced service economies are, overall, more amenable to a shift to online work than economies dependent of primary sectors (like agriculture) or secondary sectors (like manufacturing) – developing economies will have a much more limited ability to shift to remote work during pandemic restrictions.  (See Dingel & Neiman, How Many Jobs Can Be Done at Home, June 2020: )

This difference, in the character of national economies and the degree to which they are amenable to online work, leads to very stark differences in outcomes for across entire populations, particularly in developing countries.

Against this backdrop, inequality itself can be seen as another form of global pandemic, and tackling it should become a global priority, including for telecom researchers, regulators, and operators. I encourage you to reflect on what insights, from this period of lockdown, can be surfaced, continued and incorporated into your scholarship to drive new directions, new insights and new urgency to close digital, social and economic divides.

In short, I am asking you to reflect on how you can make the world better and more just.

As a community, you are doing very important work.  Please keep going.     And thank you for sharing your research through ITS.


One of the great strengths of ITS is student participation in our conferences.  We want ITS to be a welcoming place for early-in-career scholars who may presenting their first paper (ever), at a conference, or their first paper in an international conference.  Student participation enriches ITS.

This year, TELUS Communications has once again sponsored a series of Student Paper Awards.  Papers self-identified, during the submission process as student authored (or student lead-authored) were subject to a review process.  We had many, many impressive papers – so all of our student authors should be proud.  Out of this group of papers, we identified four (4) award recipients.

They are (in alphabetical order):

Raphaela Andres for Raphaela Andres and Olga Slivko, The Effect of Hate Speech Regulation on German Twitter

Chulmin Lim, Examining factors affecting local IPTV users’ intention to subscribe to global OTT service through their local IPTV service

Jinyoung Nam for Jinyoung Nam and Yoonhyuk Jung, Examining fan participation in the digital media: Fans’ transcreation of webtoons.  

Tobias Steudner, The Effects of Positive Feelings and Arousal on Privacy Decision-Making

Congratulations to all!   축하합니다!

Stephen Schmidt
ITS Chair