Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and an honour to be with you here in Nouméa today for the Opening Plenary of the 15th Annual General Meeting of the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association. ITU is proud once again to be standing beside you at this important annual event.
Since its foundation, PITA has worked tirelessly to further ICT development across the Pacific islands and to develop the necessary mechanisms to support cooperation and complementarity between PITA members. You have also done excellent work in promoting and enriching common policies and strategies to develop vital technological domains.
As a regional organization, you have also been very effective at bringing together the best ideas and initiatives from across the Pacific – just as we, at ITU, work hard to leverage the benefits of our own federative structure.
PITA has been successful in encouraging local and foreign ICT investment in Pacific islands. It has worked effectively to coordinate regulators’ efforts while at the same time reinforcing the private sector role.
One of the reasons this approach has been so successful is that you are able to leverage the benefits – just as we do, at ITU – of having both government and private sector membership, including government ministries, regulators, operators, service providers and other players in the greater ICT sector.
This allows you to take a holistic, balanced, approach to ICT development in the region, knowing that you hear the voices of all stakeholders, and understand the interests of each one.
This is essential, because ICTs have become such an integral part of the lives of each and every one of us, in ways that we could not even have imagined when the decision to create PITA was made more than 15 years ago.
As we are all aware, ICTs can help generate jobs, and drive growth, productivity and long-term economic competitiveness. They are without question 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.
Those of you who know me well, will know that I am passionate about ITU’s core mandate, to Connect the World.
And I am delighted that during my first four-year term as ITU Secretary-General, we saw so much progress in that regard – so that there are now over five billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide.
Even in many of the world’s poorest countries, household mobile cellular penetration in rural areas now exceeds 50%.
This is a most extraordinary triumph, and something we should all be proud of.
Ladies and gentlemen,
During my second four-term as ITU Secretary-General, which started at the beginning of this year, I want to see the same sort of progress made globally in terms of access to the Internet as we have just seen in terms of mobile telephony.
We have made tremendous progress, in that there are already some two billion people now online. But we should not forget that this leaves close to five billion people who remain unconnected to the wealth of information and opportunity offered by the Internet. The great majority of them, of course, live in the developing world.
Across the Pacific region – as for other global, regional and local groupings of countries – the answer must lie in the accelerated development of broadband networks and infrastructure, and in the applications and services which are made available over them.
As we here today know better than most, this will depend on the right policy and regulatory environment being in place, and on effective regulation.
We need to continue to work together to expand and fully-leverage the power of broadband-enabled ICT networks and services for development – and I am counting on PITA’s continuing support in this regard.
Over the past few years, ITU and PITA have successfully collaborated on a number of activities in the Pacific region, including the co-organization of events, and the participation and contribution to each party’s activities.
Most recently – just last month in fact – we organized the ITU PITA Asia Pacific Centres of Excellence training workshop on developing human resource management skills for telecom organisations in the Pacific. The event was held in Nadi, Fiji, and was a great success.
This would therefore seem to me to be the perfect opportunity to encourage PITA to further embrace ITU’s work, and to join ITU as a Sector Member, allowing you to play an even greater role in ICT development within the region and around the world.
This morning, at the Special ICT Ministerial Forum, I mentioned two other issues of particular relevance to this region – number misuse and international mobile roaming.
I would like to highlight them once again, and remind you that Richard Hill, who works in ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector, is here in Nouméa this week; he is the ITU expert on number misuse and will also be presenting the work of ITU Study Group 3 on international mobile roaming. There is also a dedicated ICB4PAC workshop here in Nouméa on international mobile roaming this week.
In closing, I would also like to remind you about the ITU Telecom 2011 and the WCIT 2012 events.
ITU Telecom 2011 is the 40th anniversary edition and will be taking place in Geneva from 24 to 27 October. It 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, and will be a first-rate occasion to pursue the discussions and debates which are taking place here in Nouméa.
As I also mentioned this morning, at the end of next year we 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.
I am greatly encouraged by the work which takes place at organizations like PITA, and let me just say once more how much we at ITU appreciate your efforts.