Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

ICT and Urban Development Forum

15 May 2010, Ningbo, China



Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure and a privilege to be with you here in Ningbo today for the opening of this prestigious ICT and Development Forum.

In honour of the theme of Expo 2010, ‘Better City, Better Life’, ITU’s members have chosen the theme of ‘Better City, Better Life with ICTs’ for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. This is being celebrated just two days from now, in Shanghai, on Monday, which marks the 145th anniversary of the founding of ITU back in 1865.

ICTs have changed beyond recognition since 1865, of course – and the biggest changes have taken place in the past twenty years.

Cloud of words: ICTs, cities, world, millions, today, better, people, future, urban...


Back in 1990, the internet as we know it today didn’t exist. There were less than seven million fixed telephone lines in the whole of China, and just 20,000 mobile cellular subscribers.

Compare that to China today – with more than 400 million internet users, at least 350 million fixed telephone lines, and over 800 million mobile cellular subscribers.

That means there are now more mobile cellular subscribers in China alone than there were in the whole world less than a decade ago.

At the same time, the past century has been one of unprecedented urbanization around the world.

Back in 1900, 14% of the world’s people lived in an urban environment, and there were just 12 cities with a population of over one million.

By the middle of the twentieth century, 30% of the world’s inhabitants were urban, and there were 83 cities with a population of over a million.

And in 2008 the world passed a historic tipping point, with more than half of the global population living in urban environments. Over 400 cities worldwide now have a population of a million or more, and there are around 20 urban agglomerations of over ten million people.

Distinguished colleagues,

What does this mean for the future? And how will ICTs help shape that future?

I am an optimist, and I believe that we will see ICTs deliver extraordinary economic, technological and social progress – both in urban and rural areas.

We can also expect ICTs to transform the city of the future in quite unexpected ways – just as we could never have predicted how quickly people around the world would adopt mobile telephony, or the extraordinary growth of the internet.

So we can expect very clear technological advances. Such as ever smarter smartphones; flatter flat screens; voice-activated devices; cheap and super-abundant sensors and monitoring devices; massive increases in computational power; and continued convergence.

But we cannot be sure what we will do with all this new technology. As a species we are extraordinarily inventive and innovative, and I am sure that the citizens of 2030, looking back at today, will be surprised at what was achieved in the early decades of the 21st century.

Personally, I am absolutely confident that – as a result of ICTs – cities in every country in the world will become better places for those who live in them.

Here are some of the ways I think cities will improve:

I think they will be much more efficient than they are today. ICTs will deliver improvements in the way public transportation is managed, for example, and will also be able to keep passengers better informed – letting them know about delays or changes in schedules, for example.

We will also see huge improvements in energy efficiency, as natural light, wind, solar energy and rainfall are carefully harvested and used to keep cities running effectively. Green spaces will recycle their own water and help to fix excess carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere.

Cities will become safer, with fewer traffic accidents and fires, and reduced crime rates. ICTs will be used to help cars avoid one another and pedestrians or cyclists. Early warning systems will help prevent fires from breaking out or getting out of control. And better security systems – based on personal identity for instance – will make it harder to commit crimes and get away with it. Fraud will be reduced as secure electronic payments replace notes and coins.

Urban environments will become more healthy, as more frequent and remote monitoring of patients makes healthcare more a question of prevention than cure, and as ICTs play an increasing role in delivering both in-patient and out-patient care.

The delivery of education in cities will improve, with ICTs being both a key subject on curricula as well as being the key platform for transmitting ICT expertise to future generations. As we move towards fully-interactive online learning and resources, ICTs will make education more accessible, more affordable and more widespread than ever before.

I think also that cities will become cleaner and quieter than they are today, as electric, hydrogen and solar-powered vehicles take over from their petrol and diesel ancestors. Buildings will become carbon-neutral by trapping sunlight, which can be used for heating and lighting, and to  provide the power for self-cleaning too.

And last but not least, ICTs will help cities become more human. There is nothing more fundamental than our desire and need to communicate with our fellow citizens. And ICTs will continue to facilitate and expand the way we do this, and create the opportunities for us to do so – wherever we are and whenever we want.

These are just some examples of how ICTs will improve living standards for citizens in the cities of the future, and how they will make life more comfortable and agreeable for us all. In short, ICTs will deliver a better quality of life.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the UN specialized agency with responsibility for ICTs, ITU plays a key role in ICT regulation, standardization and development, and is firmly committed to connecting all the world’s people – wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances.

Across the world, cities will continue to grow and will continue to be of vital social and economic importance to nations’ futures.

So we must use every tool at our disposal – and ICTs in particular – to make cities better, and to make life better for the billions of people who live and work in urban environments.

Finally, ITU is very proud and highly appreciates the invitation of the organizer to be a co-partner with the Chinese Authority to organize this First Thematic Forum of the Expo 2010. On behalf of ITU, I wish to thank the host for all efforts they have made for the success of this Forum and I wish that you all enjoy it.

Thank you






2010年5月15日, 中国宁波 





诚然,自1865年以来,信息通信技术的发展已经历沧海桑田 – 在过去20年间,这方面的变革之巨更是前所未有。

回顾1990年,今天我们耳熟能详的互联网仍属未知事物。当时,全中国仅有不到700万条固定电话线路,蜂窝移动用户数也仅有20 000户。

反观今日中国 – 全国已有4亿互联网用户、至少3.5亿条固定电话线路和逾8亿蜂窝移动用户。








我是一名乐观主义者,我相信,信息通信技术定会带来超凡的经济、技术和社会进步 – 不仅在城市地区,也在农村地区。

我们也期待着信息通信技术以相当不期然的方式改变城市的未来 – 正如我们从未预料到全球用户会以如此之快的速度用上移动电话,或互联网的发展会如此之迅猛一样。





我认为城市可比今天更为高效。譬如,信息通信技术将改进公共交通的管理方式,并使乘客更好地掌握交通信息 – 譬如了解交通工具具体班次的延迟或变更情况。






最后也是非常重要的是,信息通信技术将使城市变得更为人性化。对人类而言,彼此间的沟通可谓最基本的欲望和需求。信息通信技术将继续促进和扩大人类的沟通方式,并为我们创造沟通的机会 – 无论何时何地。



作为联合国负责信息通信技术的专门机构,国际电联在信息通信技术监管、标准化和发展方面发挥着关键作用,并致力于将全世界人民连通起来 – 无论他们身在何地或生活环境如何。


“工欲善其事,必先利其器” – 信息通信技术便是我们要特别利用的工具之一 – 唯有如此方可让城市更美好,并让工作于城市中的数十亿人民的生活更美好。