Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and an honour to be with you here today in Muscat for the 6th General Assembly of AICTO, the Arab ICT Organization.
Since its foundation, AICTO has worked tirelessly to develop ICTs throughout the Arab region and to provide the necessary mechanisms to support cooperation and complementarity between AICTO members. You have also done excellent work in promoting and enriching common policies and strategies to develop vital technological domains.
As a regional organization, you have also been very effective at bringing together the best ideas and initiatives from across the Arab world – just as we, at ITU, work hard to leverage the benefits of our own federative structure.
AICTO has been successful in encouraging Arab and foreign ICT investment in the Arab region. It has worked effectively to coordinate regulators’ efforts while at the same time reinforcing the private sector role.
One of the reasons this approach has been so successful is that you are able to leverage the benefits – just as we do, at ITU – of having both Member States and Associate Members, including regulators, operators, service providers, hardware manufacturers, software developers and other players in the greater ICT sector.
This allows you to take a holistic, balanced, approach to ICT development in the region, knowing that you hear the voices of all stakeholders, and understand the interests of each one.
This is essential, because ICTs have become such an integral part of the lives of each and every one of us, in ways that we could not even have imagined when the decision to create AICTO was made almost a decade ago.
As we are all aware, ICTs can help generate jobs, and drive growth, productivity and long-term economic competitiveness. They are without question the most powerful tool we have for achieving social and economic progress on a global scale. And they are key in helping us to accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Those of you who know me well, will know that I am passionate about ITU’s core mandate, to Connect the World.
And I am delighted that during my first four-year term as ITU Secretary-General, we saw so much progress in that regard – so that there are now over five billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide.
Even in many of the world’s poorest countries, household mobile cellular penetration in rural areas now exceeds 50%.
This is a most extraordinary triumph, and something we should all be proud of.
Ladies and gentlemen,
During my second four-term as ITU Secretary-General, which started just two weeks ago, I want to see the same sort of progress made globally in terms of access to the Internet as we have just seen in terms of mobile telephony.
We have made tremendous progress, in that there are already some two billion people now online. But we should not forget that this leaves close to five billion people who remain unconnected to the wealth of information and opportunity offered by the Internet.
Across the Arab world – as for other global, regional and local groupings of countries – the answer must lie in the accelerated development of broadband networks and infrastructure, and in the applications and services which are made available over them.
As we here today know better than most, this will depend on the right policy and regulatory environment being in place, and on effective regulation.
Let me therefore extend an invitation to you here and now to attend the ‘Connect Arab States Summit’, which will be held from 28 to 30 November 2011 in Doha, Qatar.
The Summit will build on the successful ITU Connect events held in Rwanda in 2007 and Belarus in 2009, and will be organized in partnership with various organizations from the region and from around the world.
We need to continue to work together to expand and fully-leverage the power of broadband-enabled ICT networks and services for development – and I am counting on AICTO’s continuing support in this regard.
I look forward very much to seeing you at Connect Arab States – but first I will be looking forward to participating in AICTO’s Forum, which starts this evening here in Muscat. See you all there!