Ladies and gentlemen,
It is truly a tremendous pleasure to be here with you this morning, and I would like to say a special thank-you for the invitation to act as co-vice-chair of this high-level Commission.
It is a great privilege and an honour, both for me, and for ITU.
As the UN agency with special responsibility for information and communication technologies, ICTs, we have been delighted with the progress that has been made in ICT development over the past two decades.
In particular we have seen the quite extraordinary proliferation of mobile cellular telephony – so that today there are over five billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, and even in rural areas of some developing countries we now see household penetration above fifty per cent. That means more than half of the households in rural areas have a mobile phone.
With ICTs in the hands of billions of people around the world, we have achieved our primary aim of bringing all the world’s people within reach of communications technology – along with all the social and economic benefits that ICTs deliver.
We have also taken a crucial step forward in terms of potentially-improved healthcare globally, both in developing and developed countries.
Technologies already widely-available – and of course ordinary mobile phones are the key example here – will play a vital role, I am sure, in the delivery of basic health services, especially to rural and remote communities.
The UN has already clearly-recognized the role of ICTs in helping to achieve the MDGs, and MDG 8 itself was put in place to help ensure that ICTs are used to accelerate progress.
ICTs will also play an absolutely vital role in the work of this commission, as mobile phones are one of the best tools we have for the vital data collection which will allow us to measure and monitor progress in women’s and children’s health.
Right across the health sector, ICTs are part of the solution, but we must now address the challenge of doing for the Internet – and especially for broadband – what we have already done for mobile.
Broadband will leverage the power of telemedicine.
It will improve the productivity of the health system.
And it will enable better remote diagnosis, better monitoring, and better transmission of heath information.
As we meet today to find better ways to track resources dedicated to women’s and children’s health, and to use these resources more efficiently, it is clear that we must leverage the power of ICTs.