Ladies and gentlemen,
What a great pleasure it is to be here in Port of Spain for the 2010 ICT Business and Innovation Symposium.
This is a hugely vibrant and dynamic region in terms of ICT development, with some of the highest mobile cellular teledensities in the world.
Here in Trinidad and Tobago, for example, penetration passed 150% early this year – meaning that there are now on average rather more than three mobile phones for every two inhabitants. If growth continues at these rates, people will soon run out of pockets for their phones!
There is still some way to go, however, especially when we look at the next important ICT development, which of course is the Internet, and notably broadband.
While tremendous progress has been made – with Internet penetration surpassing 36% here in Trinidad and Tobago by the beginning of 2010 – it is now time to see if we cannot replicate the mobile miracle for broadband.
This Symposium will help point the way forward, and will offer potential roadmaps towards achieving universal and affordable access to broadband across the region. And it is absolutely clear, here, that business and innovation will be key drivers.
I often remind people that the greatest and most abundant natural resource we have – and the Caribbean is of course no exception – is human brainpower.
It is therefore time to harness that abundant natural resource and put it to good work in helping to connect everyone across the region to the kind of advanced ICT applications and services which will make the world a better place for all.
Let me therefore ask each and every one of you to think creatively and constructively over the next couple of days about how ‘ICT Business and Innovation’ can achieve that goal.
ICTs can help us address every single one of the most pressing issues of our time – from disaster detection, prediction, and monitoring, to climate change itself; from delivering better healthcare, to optimizing energy supplies; from building smarter cities, to creating more caring communities.
This is particularly important in this region, which is especially prone to natural disasters and emergencies.
We cannot prevent these disasters and emergencies, but by harnessing the power of ICTs we can certainly get better at forecasting and monitoring them, and mitigating their effects when they do occur.
Over 90% of disasters – notwithstanding recent earthquakes in this region – are weather-related, and driven by climate-change, so we can use satellite services, for example, for disaster prediction, detection, alerting and relief. And as satellite services become smarter and more sophisticated, we will save more lives each time a disaster occurs.
At ITU, we work hard to respond quickly to disasters when they occur, and we provided rapid support and emergency communications services in Haiti and Chile earlier this year.
We continue to be alert to global, regional and local events as they occur, as well as working in the background to ensure that radiocommunications and satellite services are best-equipped to be of use when they are needed.
In closing, therefore, let me encourage you in your good work here, and I look forward to hearing more from you over the next two days.