Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and an honour to be with you here in Nouméa today for the Official Opening of the Special ICT Ministerial Forum.
I would like to start by congratulating the organizers on the success of the Inaugural Regional Meeting of Ministers for Energy, Information and Communication Technology and Transport, which concluded last Thursday here in Nouméa.
ICTs increasingly play a key role in the development of all three sectors, and hence this initiative from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, in organizing a cross-sectoral ministerial meeting, is both worthy and much appreciated.
Increasingly, we will need to address all ICT issues on a cross-sectoral basis, and this is a tremendous start.
Today marks the opening of the third Special ICT Ministerial Forum to have been actively supported by ITU in the Pacific, and although this is a recent event, I must say that already it is taking on something of an important tradition here.
The first and second of these forums were held in early 2009 and mid-2010 in Tonga, and were convened, like this meeting, by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the SPC, which has been doing excellent work in providing technical and policy advice and assistance to the 26 members of the Pacific Islands Forum.
I would like to express ITU’s sincere appreciation to the SPC, which joined ITU-D as a Sector Member last year, for its active membership in ITU, and for its good works across the Pacific.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last year’s Ministers’ Meeting in Tonga endorsed the ‘Framework for Action on ICT for Development in the Pacific’. Since then, ITU – and our Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in particular – has given priority to the pressing needs of Pacific Island Countries, particularly in the areas of capacity building, ICT applications, emergency communications and cybersecurity.
Capacity building on telecommunications/ICT policies and regulations has been done with particular emphasis on the ITU / European Commission Project on ‘Capacity Building and ICT Policy, Regulatory and Legislative Frameworks Support for Pacific Island States’ – known more briefly as ICB4PAC.
Of all the activities presented to Ministers last year, ICB4PAC was the only one to be specifically included in the Tonga Declaration, and I am pleased to see such high visibility accorded to this high-level project, which covers 15 countries across the Asia Pacific region.
ICB4PAC aims to build human and institutional capacity in the field of ICT trough a range of targeted training, education and knowledge-sharing measures, as well as developing background material for possible harmonized policies for the ICT market.
Priorities within ICB4PAC include national ICT policy; interconnection and international mobile roaming; cybersecurity; licensing; universal access; and numbering.
Concerning ICT applications, ITU has set up and supported the operation of a number of multi-purpose telecentres in Pacific Island Countries. The first ones were set up in the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Tonga. The scope of the project was then extended to provide assistance to other countries in the Pacific, including Kiribati.
In collaboration with partners, ITU is now developing telecentre toolkits which also include software and applications suitable for telecentres. It is expected that deployment of the toolkits and a regional training programme will be organized in the Pacific during the course of this year.
Turning now to Emergency Communications, I think we are all well aware of the threats in this particular region, especially following the disastrous earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan a month ago today.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that the Pacific region located within the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ – properly known as the circum-Pacific belt or the circum-Pacific seismic belt – is home to 90% of the world’s earthquakes; 80% of the world’s largest earthquakes; and over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.
Whenever disasters occur – such as recently in Japan, or after the Pacific tsunami which struck Samoa and Tonga in September 2009 – ITU provides assistance through the deployment of telecommunications equipment, including satellite phones and terminals, as well as bandwidth and airtime.
In addition to our emergency response, ITU provides assistance in expert advice and capacity building, especially for developing National Emergency Telecommunications Plans. National and international workshops are expected to take place in the Pacific from this year onwards, in collaboration with regional and international partners.
Concerning cybersecurity, our main activity in this region has concerned the Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team, PacCERT. With support from the Australian Government, ITU conducted a feasibility study and in turn developed a business plan for establishment of the PacCERT.
ITU provided seed funds to kick start operations of the PacCERT, and will continue to mobilize both internal and external resources and funding from various partners to support PacCERT operations.
Within the framework of the ongoing ICB4PAC project, ITU has also undertaken cybersecurity assessment for Pacific Island Countries, and this will be followed by training workshops and specific country assistance in policy frameworks for cybersecurity.
I would also like to make a very brief mention of two other issues which are both of global concern and of particular relevance to this region: number misuse and international mobile roaming.
Concerning the latter, my colleague Richard Hill, who works in ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector, is here in Nouméa this week to present the work of ITU Study Group 3 on international mobile roaming, and many of you will be aware that within ITU both the Standardization and Development Sectors are working on this issue. Indeed, there is also a dedicated ICB4PAC workshop here in Nouméa on international mobile roaming this week.
Richard Hill is also very much the ITU expert on number misuse, where unscrupulous operators benefit from routing calls to numbers with high-termination rates – instead of using 900 numbers, for example, which are easier to block. This is an issue of particular importance in this region, and I encourage you to take advantage of Richard’s presence here to engage with him and discuss potential solutions.
In closing, let me say a few words about two important forthcoming events – ITU Telecom 2011, and WCIT 2012.
As many of you will know, we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of ITU Telecom in Geneva later this year. The event – taking place from 24 to 27 October – 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.
It will be an excellent occasion to pursue the discussions and debates which are taking place here in Nouméa, and I look forward very much to seeing you there.
At the end of 2012, at the request of our membership, ITU will be holding the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT.
The conference will look at ways to revise the current International Telecommunications Regulations, the ITRs, which were adopted in 1988. They have served us well, but all agree that they need to reflect the significant changes that have taken place over the past 24 years.
In particular this includes the liberalization and privatization of much of the telecommunications sector, and also the increasing convergence of technologies and services, which sometimes blur the traditional distinctions between telecommunications and computer technology.
Items for discussion at WCIT also include ‘security in the use of ICTs’, ‘numbering misuse’, and ‘spam’, which are increasingly preoccupying in the modern world today.
Together, I believe that we can harness the power of ICTs to deliver social and economic benefits in every nation, and across every sector.
Let’s ensure that we use meetings such as this one to make the world a better place – for everyone, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.