Ladies and gentlemen,
As co-vice-chair of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, it is very encouraging to see the work of the Commission now beginning to take on a more practical, concrete form, with the creation of subgroups focusing on specific issues.
And what a tremendous pleasure it is to be with you here inside the Arctic Circle, in Lapland. I must confess I am very much looking forward to our lunchtime reindeer safari – and I know that there is the opportunity for a sauna later on.
I am also very pleased to see so many commissioners actively involved in this subgroup on e-Government and PPPs, and I would like to congratulate Minister Suvi Lindén and her team, on behalf of us all, for organizing this meeting – which brings together not just commissioners but also key players from the private sector.
This meeting is principally focused around three workshops, which will discuss the enabling environment, the stakeholders’ role and e-Government services for users.
As a man, I can of course only participate in one workshop myself; only Suvi Lindén has the necessary multi-tasking skills to contribute to all three!
But I am glad to see that ITU has representation in each of the workshops, with the presence here of Brahima Sanou, the newly-elected Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, as well as other high-level staff from ITU.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At ITU, we are very well-positioned to extol the virtues of public-private partnerships, as we are unique among UN-specialized agencies in having a mix of public and private sector members ourselves.
In addition to our 192 Member States, we also have around 700 members comprising the world’s leading ICT operators, equipment manufacturers, software developers, service providers, R&D organizations and local, regional and international ICT bodies.
As of 2011, we are also very pleased to be welcoming members from academia, as a result of a new resolution passed at our Plenipotentiary Conference in Mexico last October.
I don’t think this audience needs to be convinced of the benefits of PPP, but I would like to highlight one particular example in the field of education – since we are fortunate to have with us Maria Simon, Uruguay’s Deputy Minister of Education and Culture.
In Uruguay, every child has been provided with a laptop and Internet access at school – but the total expense of the government’s ‘Ceibal’ project came to just a small fraction of the national education budget, thanks to PPP.
Those ‘connected’ children in Uruguay are likely to reap tremendous educational rewards, and will also almost certainly go on to better jobs and careers than would otherwise have been the case.
Public-private partnerships can of course be designed not only for students, but also for the communities in which they live. In terms of our own work, I am proud to say that the ITU is targeting this area with our ‘Connect a School, Connect a Community’ initiative, where schools become hubs for everyone in the surrounding area, as well as pupils themselves.
This brings the benefits of broadband not just to children but also to men and women who might never have had the chance to attend school, or to complete their education – including people with disabilities.
In the second decade of the new Millennium, with more than five billion mobile cellular subscriptions and more than two billion people online, the time is ripe for a whole new wave of e-Government services to be made available through the mechanism of PPP.
I was pleased to see the background paper for this conference which stressed the need to move the emphasis towards technologies that are already in use, such as mobiles, radios and television, and which prioritized application and business model innovation over technical innovation.
I will therefore be very interested to hear the conclusions of the three workshops which will be presented tomorrow, and to see the concrete outcomes proposed for this working group.
I think we all agree that governments can do a better job of delivering services to their constituents, and that harnessing the widespread availability of technology and global connectivity will be key in meeting this goal.
We are very fortunate not just to be working in a sector that is right at the heart of everything that happens in the modern world, but in a sector that has the potential to make real and lasting improvements to the lives of all the world’s people.
A few weeks ago, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I challenged government and industry leaders to put all this connectivity – all these amazing mobile devices and incredible mobile technologies – to good use.
I asked them not just what they are doing today, but what they will be doing tomorrow to ensure that ubiquitous connectivity plays a real and tangible part in making the world a better place for all.
And I asked them what they are going to do in terms of getting the right content onto the right devices in the hands of the right people – wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances.
I am convinced that the right answers will be found, and that – contrary to the views of many pessimists – the world in 2021 will be a better, fairer, and more environmentally friendly place than the world in 2011.
If we can truly harness the power of technological outreach and ubiquitous connectivity to deliver better, more efficient and more accountable e-Government, then we can be proud of ourselves.
In October, we will be holding a Global Broadband Summit in conjunction with the ITU Telecom 40th anniversary edition in Geneva, and this will be the perfect moment to sum up the achievements which have been made by this subgroup of the Broadband Commission.
I look forward very much to seeing you there!