Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be with you here today in Moroni for the “ICT Consumers’ Forum”.
We are honoured by the presence of H.E. Mr Hodhoaer Inzouddine, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in charge of promoting ICTS, as well as Mr Ibrahim Mze Mohamed, The Director of the Comoros ICT Regulatory Authority, ANRTIC.
This forum comes at a particularly appropriate time, with ICTs at the top of the global agenda – and as Secretary-General of ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for ICTs, I wholeheartedly applaud such initiatives.
ICTs help us fulfil our mandate to ‘Connect the World’. They also help to generate jobs, and are key in driving growth, productivity and long-term economic competitiveness. ICTs are 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.
Here in Comoros, mobile cellular penetration has grown from under 10% in 2007 to well over 20% today, and I am confident that we will see further rapid progress under the good custodianship of the young Comoros regulator, ANRTIC.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to quote briefly from the Policy Statement which Comoros made at the ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference in Mexico last October:
“Today, the booming ICT / telecommunications sector makes the world go round.
Statistics clearly show that access to both telephony and the Internet have increased significantly in recent years. Nonetheless we must recognize that while ICTs are the backbone of the economy – including education, health, trade, and everyday life – significant populations still do not benefit from this development dynamic.
Different countries have different levels of abilities and skills. Let me therefore appeal urgently to you all so that we can take full advantage of solidarity, international cooperation and partnership.”
Your call – and the call of other nations in your situation – was clearly heard at the Plenipotentiary Conference, and I was personally very pleased to see a resolution passed in Guadalajara on ‘Special measures to assist Small Island Developing States and Landlocked Developing Countries’.
Comoros is the first Small Island Developing State in this region that I have visited during my second term, and it is a privilege to be here.
As many of you will know, ITU has been working hard, both to ensure the participation of Comoros in ITU’s work, and to deliver assistance to Comoros in terms of ICT development.
Each year we have awarded several fellowships to enable Comoros to contribute to ITU’s work, and as a result Comoros has participated effectively in many different seminars and workshops organized by ITU.
Since 2005, we have also been working closely with Comoros in terms of technical and policy assistance, notably during the restructuring of the ICT sector and the creation of the regulatory agency.
Comoros has also benefitted directly from ITU’s Special Programme for LDCs in recent years, and will do so again in 2011.
Over the past decade, at the request of the Comoros administration, ITU has also facilitated bilateral discussions between Comoros and the other
administration concerned to address topics of common interest.
I think we are all aware of the next great challenge facing the global ICT sector. I am referring of course to the need to bring the benefits of the online world to all the world’s people, wherever they live and whatever their means.
During my second term as ITU Secretary-General, I want to see the same sort of progress made globally in terms of access to the Internet as we have recently seen in terms of mobile telephony.
Good progress has been made, with more than two billion people now online, but we must now bring access to the places where it can be of most benefit. Places like Comoros, and other developing countries, especially in this region.
This is a challenge, of course, but more than that, it is an incredible opportunity for the end-users of ICTs.
It is an opportunity to leapfrog ahead and benefit from the newest and smartest technologies.
It is an opportunity to take advantage of the wealth of human capital and the immense brainpower in places like Comoros.
And it is an opportunity to see the local development of applications and services that will be best-suited to the particular needs of each individual country and region.
I am sure that nobody here today would disagree that this will depend on the right policy and regulatory environment being in place, and on effective regulation.
As with all ICTs, access to the Internet is greatly increased when it becomes more affordable, and as we all know, affordability is dramatically improved when competitive forces are brought to bear, and when there are clear incentives to increase capacity.
This issue was addressed by the ‘Broadband Commission for Digital Development’, which was launched by ITU in partnership with UNESCO last year.
Let me quote from the Broadband Commission’s September report to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, delivered to him in person just ahead of the MDG Summit in New York:
“Governments may also choose to encourage commercial infrastructure-sharing and the greater availability of frequency bands to allow operators to deliver broadband services (wireline or wireless) more effectively, and to promote the utilization of new and emerging technologies, such as smart grids.
Governments also need to create the regulatory incentives to move towards next generation mobile broadband (IMT-Advanced / 4G).”
This will be one of the hot issues being debated at ITU Telecom World’s 40th anniversary edition in Geneva later this year, which will bring together world leaders at the highest level along with top executives from many of the world’s most powerful players in the ICT sector.
Let me therefore urge you to note the dates in your diaries – 24 to 27 October – and encourage you to come to Geneva and to play your part in the debates and discussions which will help shape the future of our sector.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Future historians will look back on the early part of the 21st century as the period when humanity was given a huge social and economic boost through the global availability and application of ICTs.
They will see how tools and technologies which were available only to rich people in the industrialized world became available to all the world’s people over a remarkably short space of time – just a couple of decades.
The spread of technology into the hands of consumers and end-users is being driven in no small part by increasingly effective regulation and sound regulatory frameworks.
For end-users, this delivers consumer protection and helps to make ICT access affordable for all.
It is also beneficial for the ICT industry, where good regulation delivers predictability and stability, and reduces risk – encouraging investment in ICT infrastructure and rewarding competitive and innovative business models.
As we pursue our discussions at this forum, we need to bear in mind the increasing complexity, growing divergence, and rapidly changing ICT environment.
None of us today live in the rather simple, analogue world; instead, we all inhabit the complex digital world:
where the boundaries between infrastructure and content have converged and all but disappeared;
where cybersecurity has become an issue for all players;
where ICT applications and services now go far beyond the ICT sector alone;
and where the only true constant is change.
So let’s work together to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities the digital world offers each and every one of us!