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Ulaanbaatar diary

Between 3 and 5 July 2023, the IIC held its first ever event in Mongolia, hosted in Ulaanbaatar and commissioned by the Communications Regulatory Commission of Mongolia (CRC). Our director general, LYNN ROBINSON, reflects on an eventful five days

Arriving on Sunday 2 July at the newly built airport in Ulaanbaatar, you get the overwhelming impression that Mongoliais developing its infrastructure to welcome the world. The drive from the airport reveals the vast landscape through the rain I seem to have brought with me. We’re here to discuss connectivity and the geographical challenges are clear to see.

I explore the city centre of Ulaanbaatar with a visit to Sükhbaatar Square to view the State Palace and impressive buildings and statues. Especially memorable was the Choijin Lama Temple Museum, an ancient building surrounded by new high-rise towers. A juxtaposition of old and new.

On Monday 3 July,  the IIC team of (IIC President) Chris Chapman, (Director of Programmes)  Amanda Crabbe and I were greeted by CRC Chairman Chinzorig and given a tour of the CRC’s departments spanning telecoms, broadcasting, spectrum and postal. We were  introduced to commissioners and heads of department, many of whom had fond recollections of attending IIC events in London in 2013 and Mexico City in 2018. Later that day we were entertained for dinner at Modern Nomads, a traditional Mongolian restaurant. The following week would see the Mongolian famous mid-summer Nadaam festival for families and colleagues to gather to watch the traditional sports of wrestling, archery and horse racing.

Next day’s Regulators Roundtable was an opportunity for the CRC to showcase the work they do. Excellent AV and translation were provided – always welcome at our international events. Chairman Chinzorig opened the roundtable and Chris Chapman moderated a lively discussion throughout the day. The main topics were Closing the digital divide, Consumer protection in the digital world, New tools and How do regulators best support and drive innovation? There was excellent interaction from all participants with lots of questions.  

Like many  IIC forums and roundtables, we could have extended the session long into the evening. However dinner beckoned and our host made sure we were on time for another delicious meal.

Wednesday 5 July was the  Mongolia Forum for industry and regulators. There were no empty seats as the Forum began with an opening address from Minister Uchral Nyam-Osor, followed by Chairman Chinzorig. IIC President Chris Chapman introduced Commissioner Altai Luvsan-Ochir from the CRC to give a briefing on the communications landscape, challenges and opportunities in Mongolia. There was much interest in the international presentations from, among others, Amazon, Project Kuiper, Axiata, Access Partnership and Cullen International. Contact details were enthusiastically exchanged.

Next, the president and I were up for television and radio interviews. The use of interpreters was new to both of us, but it all seems to have worked well. I closed the forum by emphasising three of the key areas that had threaded through the day – infrastructure, affordability and collaboration.  The conversation continued over the networking reception that followed, but everyone was in thrall to the ethereal sounds of the throat singing and horsehead fiddle playing to which we were treated.

The rain now interceded as major flooding in the capital meant that many CRC staff had to attend crisis management duties. The CRC team demonstrated remarkable adaptability as well warmth and generosity during our visit.

Thursday 6 July was the day for culture, beginning with  a tour of the new Chinggis Khan museum, a collection so vast and impressive that it was hard to take in. The Terelj National Park is a jewel in Mongolia’s crown. Guests went camel and horse riding and some of us managed to hold all eight kilogrammes of a magnificent golden eagle on our arm – briefly. The day concluded with a visit to the statue of Chinggis Khan, the largest equestrian statue in the world, and quite as spectacular as it sounds. It was a fitting end to a fabulous visit and hugely successful conference, hosted with warmth and professionalism by the CRC.  How long before we come back?

The Mongolia Forum was convened and organised by the IIC and hosted by CRC Mongolia. The IIC runs a programme of events for digital media and regulatory policymakers around the world. If you would like to commission the IIC to host an event, please contact our director general, Lynn Robinson, at [email protected]

Lynn Robinson

Lynn Robinson is director general of the IIC.