Organization of American States (OAS)
Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL)
ITU/CITEL Workshop on Emergency Communications
25 May 2015
By Mr. Brahima Sanou
Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau,
International Telecommunication Union
Senior Gonzalo Ruiz Diaz, President OSIPTEL‐Peru and Chairman of CITEL PCC.I
Mr. Clovis Baptista, Executive Secretary of CITEL
Joseph Burton, Workshop Coordinator, U.S. Department of State
Mr. Bruno Ramos, ITU Regional Director for Americas
Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen
Buenos días, Good morning,
I am pleased to be with you today for the opening of this Workshop on Emergency Communications co-organized by CITEL (Inter-American Telecommunication Commission) and ITU (International Telecommunication Union).
I would like to express my gratitude to the Government of Peru and to Mr. Gonzalo Ruiz Diaz, President of OSIPTEL‐Peru for hosting this important workshop at a time we are more and more frequently reminded of our vulnerability to natural disasters.
I would to thank CITEL under the leadership of Mr. Clovis Baptista for its important contribution for co-organizing this event. I am very pleased and proud to see ITU and CITEL are working hand in hand. This should continue and be strengthened.
As you all know, natural disasters are on the rise. Damages have risen from an estimated $20 billion on average per year in the 1990s to about $100 billion per year during the period 2000 - 2010. For instance, Japan estimates the direct cost of the disaster in 2011 at $210 billion or 3.6 percent of Japan’s GDP. It is estimated that the economic cost of the Earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April 2015 could reach $5bn, which represent 25% of Nepal's GDP. This shows that natural disasters can easily destroy decades of development work and that natural disasters pose extraordinary reconstruction challenges in both developing and developed countries.
As Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, my view is that the role of ICTs is as much important in development as it is in disaster risk reduction and disaster management. This is why I launched the Smart Sustainable Development Model (SSDM) initiative in 2012. The initiative is innovative in that it links projects in two key areas that touch human lives: namely socio-economic development using ICTs and disaster mitigation efforts using the same technological tools.
In other words, when we implement ICT infrastructure projects and add ICT applications, we must ensure the mainstreaming of disaster reduction and response.
Since the beginning of the year, BDT has dispatched emergency telecommunication equipment to flood-hit Malawi, Vanuatu, to the Federated States of Micronesia and, more recently, to Nepal, which was hit by a strong earthquake on 25 April.
Earlier in the year, with the cooperation of the Government of Japan, we launched the "Movable and Deployable ICT Resource Unit" (MDRU) in the Philippines.
We have made a significant contribution in the fight against Ebola. The "Ebola-Info-Sharing" mobile application, which we launched towards the end of last year, has so far facilitated coordination among organizations responding to the crisis.
We will soon be launching a mobile application to fight the Chikungunya virus disease and Dengue fever which are important issues in the Caribbean and Pacific regions. The "Info Chikungunya and Dengue" smartphone application facilitates coordination among those involved in the prevention, control and treatment of both diseases and offers the general public access to the latest news on the disease.
In previous years we have supported capacity building in this region, with Forums on Emergency Telecommunications in Argentina in 2011, Guatemala and Colombia in 2012, and Barbados in 2013.
Last year, we sponsored the development of Emergency Telecommunication Plans for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen
The natural disasters that hit Haiti, Chile, Peru on 15 August 2007, Suriname and the Caribbean Islands are still in our collective memory.
The number of natural disaster is rising. In 2012 we had 364 natural disasters, which means almost one natural disaster per day. So, the question is no longer whether natural disasters will hit, but when and where they will hit, and what will unfortunately be the magnitude of loss of lives and economic damage.
Natural disaster risk reduction and response is a multifaceted issue. We therefore need to forge partnerships within the ICT ecosystem and beyond to include local communities, central governments, private sector, civil society, and international organizations.
I am very happy that ITU and CITEL are co-organizing this workshop and I look forward to joint actions between ITU and CITEL in emergency communications.
I wish you a very fruitful workshop.
Muchas gracias, I thank you very much.