ITU

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Regional Development Forum (RDF) & WTDC 14 Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) for Africa

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RDF Closing Remarks by Mr. Brahima Sanou, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT)

Honorable Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am addressing you at the end of what was a lively Forum. I want to thank all the participants for making this event so special for me. Whenever I go to a region where stakeholders are passionate about working together, share a common vision, and are open to new ideas, I feel rejuvenated and inspired. This is how I feel right now rejuvenated and inspired!

Forums of this nature are about bringing together people with multi-disciplinary backgrounds, and providing a platform for sharing experiences and for debating ways of ensuring sustainable futures for the ordinary people. I am pleased to say that this RDF has just done that.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Matters of knowledge building for development through forums such as this one are critical as they open doors for organizations to work together collaboratively to advance knowledge. If we are successful in doing so, the knowledge age society in which knowledge and innovation thrive, would no doubt become reality.

In the 21st century, coordinated efforts are needed as no single organization could single-handedly develop society, particularly those in our field of competency - ICTs. Equally important, is the fact that no individual, no community, and no nation should be left out of the information society. Universal Access for equal opportunity for all should be our guiding principle. This region is already doing very well in terms of the ICT Sector. Africa has witnessed remarkable growth in terms of mobile-cellular uptake. Mobile-broadband services have shown strong growth and are helping to address the region's needs for high-speed Internet access.

The private sector is very active across the region. The regulatory regime is quite impressive too. All these factors point to the fact that aspirations expressed in this forum are possible, attainable, and achievable. Of course, like in any other region, challenges are to be expected.

A decade ago, the loudest message was to develop infrastructure in order to provide and improve access. Africa responded. Over the last five years, additional international submarine cables were deployed on the East and Western coasts. This increased the options for international high speed connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world, thereby reducing the costs of international bandwidth through the availability of competitive offers. The challenge now is to ensure these cable landing stations are further connected to domestic broadband networks and in a competitive manner.

While broadband infrastructure development remains a priority today, we are also focusing on making sure that ICTs are used as a delivery vehicle for health, education, banking, and business. But again, this has to happen in a safe environment. Securing the information highway remains a big challenge for us all. This is why I have prioritized cybersecurity. We are working hard to support countries across the globe in their efforts to establish Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRTs).

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me give you some assurances. As Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, I have in place mechanisms to provide support as you work towards the establishment of a Knowledge Society. My team is at an advanced stage in mapping existing infrastructure across the globe. This is with the aim of identifying gaps to be filled. The outcome of that work is vital for both policy makers and the private sector. In the same line, we are also providing technical support to countries in the design of broadband plans.

For those who were with us at the Global Symposium for Regulators 2013 in Warsaw, Poland and at the FTRA-2013 in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, you must have seen the commitment of regulators in keeping pace with technology and their desire to continue to create a level playing field.

I know and I am committed to strengthening capacity building efforts of countries. I also believe in partnership building. For there to be a truly all-inclusive Knowledge Society, the public and private sectors must work together closely. Academia and industry must closely cooperate. ITU is fortunate in that respect. We are the only United Nations Organization with a membership comprising both Member States, and Private Sector. To add sugar to that, we now also have a vibrant Academia as part of our membership.

I therefore, would like to thank all the speakers and participants for such exciting exchange of ideas. You can count on my support in ensuring that this region continues to make progress not only in the area of ICTs but in poverty alleviation and economic growth. Your valuable ideas coming out of today's Forum will be submitted to the Regional Preparatory Meeting that will start tomorrow morning. I count on the Chairman of the RDF to present the final report for two reasons:

· to benefit those who did not participate and equally important; and

· to ensure that the report becomes part of an input to the preparatory process towards the next World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2014.

I thank you.