Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to join you today at this panel.
As we all know 5 years back, at the World Summit on the Information Society, World leaders set forth a common desire and commitment to build a people-centric, inclusive and development-oriented information society where all citizens can create, access, ulitlze and share information and knowledge.
Considerable progress has been made since then, with all WSIS Stakeholders, i.e. Governments, Private Sector, Civil Society and International Organizations been working together towards achieving the WSIS goals by 2015.
In Africa a knowledge-based information society starts to be a reality today, as opportunities offered by ICTs have led to socio-economic empowerment and have enhanced human development. Availability of ICT tools have expanded the choices of individuals enabling informed decision-making and hence enhancing participation of individuals in socio-economic and political development.
African states have continued to prove their leadership in building a people-centred information society, which is a joint effort with requires cooperation and partnership among all stakeholders. Efforts have been made towards building an inclusive global information society by strengthening regional and international cooperation.
In 2007, in Rwanda, during the ITU Connect Africa Summit, stakeholders committed to more than 55 billion dollars being spent on the development of ICT infrastructure, access, enabling environment, capacity building, etc. Much funding has been already successfully been invested in the ICT sector, generating revenue, and simulating economic growth. Nevertheless more action is needed.
In this context, ITU is planning to hold a Connect Arab States Summit next year. This regional event is aimed at mobilizing resources to support a rapid, region-wide transition to broadband digital infrastructure and services. This Summit aims to attract ICT investment and boost development in the region. By bringing together key global and regional players in the sector, the Summit will help generate human, financial and technical resources needed to support ICT growth, widely recognized as the engine of future economic prosperity and sustainable development.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman
Several challenges still remain, and in particular Africa still lags behind when it comes to fixed (wired) broadband. Although subscriptions are increasing, a penetration rate of less than 1% illustrates the challenges that persist in increasing access to high-speed, high-capacity Internet access in the region.
‘The World in 2010 – ICT Facts and Figures’, published by ITU reports that by the end of 2010, Internet user penetration in Africa will reach 9.6%, far behind both the world average (30%) and the developing country average (21%).
Therefore I strongly believe that global initiatives such as the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, recently launched by ITU and UNESCO, will lead to necessary action aimed at ensuring equal opportunity to all, realizing the true potential of ICTs reaching the last mile.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman
Before I close, let me also use this occasion to share some recent developments from the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, held in Mexico, last month. I am pleased to announce that a new resolution was passed that recalls the ITU’s role in implementing the WSIS outcomes and requests further action.
It also recalls Paragraph 111 of the Tunis Agenda, which requested the United Nations General Assembly to make an overall review of the implementation of WSIS outcomes in 2015. This fact is not a coincidence. Even though 5 years seem to be long time, there is still significant work to be done in order to achieve the WSIS targets. Many countries have started to feel this urgency and openly call for action.
In this context, our Member States also instructed me to initiate consultations with the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) in order to elaborate the framework for overall review of implementation of WSIS outcomes in 2015, including the possibility of holding a high-level event in 2014 or 2015. Preparations based on the multi-stakeholder approach will need to take place and it is important that they pursue efficient and effective coordination with all stakeholders in preparing the overall review.
As the host of the WSIS Forum, and on behalf of all the organizers, I would like to invite all participants to the WSIS Forum 2011. We look forward to welcoming you at at ITU Headquarters, Geneva, from 16 to 20 May next year. And we invite all the WSIS Stakeholders in Africa to participate actively in the preparatory process.
Implementing the ECOSOC Resolution 2010/2, ITU’s WSIS Stocktaking Platform provides a window of opportunity that enables interaction, analysis and flow of information amongst WSIS Stakeholders. At present we have over 100 African projects registered in the WSIS Stocktaking database. I would like to invite you all to become part of the WSIS Stocktaking family.