Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great pleasure to be with you today here in Havana to open Cuba’s 14th International Convention and Fair, Informática 2011.
This event reflects the growing importance of information and communication technologies – ICTs – in the world we live in today, and perhaps this is a good moment to take stock of what has already been achieved.
ICTs really have changed the world, and made it a better place for all. Here in Cuba, I have seen how eager people are to use mobile phones to stay in touch and improve their work, and to connect to one another using email.
Across the globe, ICTs have helped to improve farming practices and have assisted entrepreneurs large and small. They have helped o promote equality for women. They have helped prevent AIDS and other communicable diseases. And they have helped to foster environmental protection.
ICT-based systems and services – such as electronic commerce, distance learning, telemedicine and e-government – are improving the quality of life for countless people around the world.
ICTs help reduce poverty and empower people through reducing transaction costs; integrating local and regional markets; and increasing the potential value of human capital.
Over the past decade, the spread of ICTs has been really quite extraordinary, especially where mobile cellular telephony is concerned. So that we now find ourselves living in a world with well over five billion mobile cellular subscriptions. Even in rural areas of some developing countries, we now see household penetration above fifty per cent.
Here in Cuba, there has been tremendous progress of late, with a combined annual mobile growth rate of over 50% over the past decade – with recent rapid growth being driven by the lifting of restrictions on mobile phone use, as well as by sharp falls in both activation costs and calling rates.
When I was here at the 13th Informática event, just two years ago, there were 330,000 mobile subscriptions. Today there are well over a million; a number that is forecast to swell to some 2.4 million by 2015.
Personally, judging by growth patterns around the world – and especially in the developing world and emerging markets – I would not be at all surprised to see that number as an underestimate.
I am also delighted to see that Cuba’s Internet connectivity is about to receive a huge boost, with the scheduled arrival this month of the Alba-1 submarine cable from Venezuela.
This will propel Cuba into the broadband era, by moving from slow and expensive satellite links to ultra-fast broadband. The new cable, which should be in operation by the summer, has a capacity of 640 gigabits per second – compared to today’s satellite capacity of just 380 megabits per second.
In the first instance, this will enable state enterprises to work more efficiently, allowing different departments to communicate more effectively, and to deliver improved services to the people of Cuba.
It will massively speed up connection speeds in the information technology clubs, post offices and research centres where most computers are found today.
And it will provide dramatically increased capacity on Cuba’s phone network, especially for international calls.
Let me therefore use this opportunity to reiterate ITU’s support for Cuba, and for important awareness-raising events such as this convention.
I myself will be speaking again tomorrow morning, and will look forward to the opportunity to discuss a subject which is very close to my heart: the role of broadband in accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
ITU’s Standardization Sector is also here in Cuba at this event, and is organizing a two-day seminar on ‘ITU-T Standardization and other key ITU Activities’ tomorrow and on Wednesday.
The seminar is aimed at the broadest possible audience from the ICT sector – including administrations and public institutions, operating companies, service providers, vendors, manufacturers, regulators, test laboratories and other organizations from developing countries and civil society – and I can strongly recommend your attendance.
It will be an unrivalled opportunity for ITU to present the activities undertaken after the 2008 World Standardization Assembly as well as some of the main results of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held last October in Guadalajara, Mexico, with special reference to the needs of the Americas region.
The seminar will address key issues such as conformance, interoperability, capacity-building, accessibility, and test centres in the region, as well as looking at the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), and costs / pricing for international Internet connectivity – a subject of particular relevance here in Cuba.
Also present in Cuba this week will be the newly-elected Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau, François Rancy, who will be speaking at the Second Symposium of Regulators, which is taking place at the end of the week under the auspices of Informática 2011.
Mr Rancy will be discussing ‘ITU's role in promoting social development through advances in ICT’.
And again, I encourage you to attend what will be a very illuminating presentation, with an overview of the benefits of ICTs in the context of social and economic development, and a description of ITU’s work in supporting government initiatives, particularly in relation to the management of spectrum and orbital resources.
In closing, therefore, ladies and gentlemen, let me thank you once again for your invitation to this convention, and let me wish you well for the week ahead.