Ladies and gentlemen
ITU is the specialized United Nations agency responsible for information and communication technologies, or ICT. Your discussions this week in the UN Strategic Leadership Programme are therefore of special interest to us at ITU, as you will examine the ways ICTs are affecting societies everywhere and how we can best use these technologies in our work.
I regret that I can’t be with you in person as ITU is holding a major event at this time in Hyderabad, India — the World Telecommunication Development Conference — where experts and policy makers are looking at concrete strategies to bring the benefits of ICTs to communities around the world.
Founded in 1865, soon after the telegraph was invented, ITU is the oldest organization in the United Nations family. But, in a very real sense, it remains young at heart. In the rapidly changing world of technology, ITU remains at the cutting edge of progress and leads the way to the future.
One of our main tasks has been to make sure that the world’s networks and equipment can operate with each other, everywhere, to smoothly to carry your phone calls. ITU statistics indicate that by the end of the year, there will be five billion subscriptions to mobile phones. FIVE BILLION — that’s equal to about three-quarters of the world population.
Also functioning on the telecommunications platform, the Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate and created unprecedented opportunities for positive change. Still in its infancy, it is destined to grow phenomenally in the coming years. The Internet is the driving force of the world economy today and is a boundless source of information and knowledge, empowering people to achieve their development aspirations.
Indeed, ICTs are the great enablers of modern society, helping people communicate across distances and across cultural divides, facilitating trade and commerce, and providing access to critical resources, such as healthcare and education.
In order to ensure that connectivity becomes the conduit for content, we are focusing now on encouraging the universal rollout of broadband. Access to high-speed broadband is the key to realizing the full potential of converged services and applications and to deliver content and essential services such as e-health, e-education, e-commerce and e-government. Broadband must be recognized as basic national infrastructure, and in order to achieve the goals of a knowledge-based information society, firm measures need to be taken to make this access both equitable and affordable.
One of the biggest challenges facing us today is climate change. It’s an area in which ICTs provide many solutions, by improving energy efficiency in all industrial sectors, for instance, or using smart technologies to green our cities and means of transport. Of course, ICT themselves use energy, and standards produced at ITU aim to reduce this as much as possible. All of us in the United Nations system should advocate the use of ICTs to promote energy savings.
New technologies can bring other challenges, too. Cybersecurity, for example, is often in the news. The more the Internet is used, the more valuable it is — but also, the more strongly we have to guard against attacks on critical infrastructure. In order to build confidence in the use of cyberspace, we have initiated a global cybersecurity agenda to collaborate with governments and industry in order to develop an international framework.
Unusually for a United Nations agency, we not only have 191 Member States within ITU; our membership also includes more than 700 private companies and other organizations. This provides a unique platform for all stakeholders to work together and arrive at decisions within a framework of consensus. This is essential as ITU develops standards so that networks and equipment can operate with each other, everywhere and that radio-frequencies are managed in a way that these technologies can do their job.
As ICTs bring us closer together, our United Nations family must also act as one. ITU is committed to connecting the world. And I ask you to join us in this effort so that we may together build a more peaceful, harmonious and prosperous global village.
I invite all of you Leaders, as you debate and discuss this week and then afterwards, to look at the ways that ICTs can change your lives, your organization, and the world over.
In closing, ICTs have a clear role to play in:
I look forward to hearing about your deliberations and I hope to have an opportunity to meet with you face to face in the future.
I wish you lots of success in your Programme.
I would like to thank the United Nations System Staff College for having inviting me to address you.