ITU

Committed to connecting the world

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

2011 Telecommunications Forum

A New Era in Telecommunications: Prospects for Latin America

Wednesday 27 April 2011, Buenos Aires, Argentina


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Excellencies,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning,
 
I am greatly honoured by this opportunity to be with you today in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.
 
We have very much appreciated Argentina’s increased participation in ITU’s work. Over the past years, this country has hosted Study Group meetings, workshops and symposiums – many of them back to back with CITEL meetings – as well as the 2009 Kaleidoscope Conference in Mar del Plata. I very much hope this level of activity will continue and even increase over the coming years. We aim to have more events in Argentina and are extremely grateful for your proactivity.
 
Latin American countries have shown strong growth rates in terms of access and connectivity. Many of them have reached mobile penetrations now exceeding 100%. However, we all know that these figures do not mean that the whole of the population has proper access, and that a big challenge remains in rural and even many underserved urban areas.
 
We are witnessing how Argentina is dealing with such a challenge through initiatives like ‘Argentina Conectada’, a programme announced by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner last October.
 
Within that framework, we have signed an Agreement with the Secretary of Communications to provide broadband internet connections to a minimum of 3,000 schools in a period of two years, as well as to develop Community Knowledge Centers (Núcleos de Acceso al Conocimiento – NACs). I would like to express my appreciation for the renewed trust of the Secretary, as well as the readiness of ITU to continue supporting Argentina’s development in increasing connectivity.
 
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) set the target of connecting all primary, secondary and post-secondary schools to ICTs by the year 2015.
 
To cope with that task, ITU is implementing the ‘Connect a School, Connect a Community’ initiative based on the understanding that connected schools can serve as community ICT centres for everybody, including disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. We have undertaken the commitment to work at the grassroots level in order to expand the abilities of those groups to access new opportunities through ICTs. 
 
In Santiago de Chile, at the beginning of April, we launched a joint ‘Global Telecentre Women’s Digital Literacy Campaign’ with Telecentre.org, which aims to train one million telecentre women to become digitally literate by the end of next year. Those telecentres committing to participate will be supplied with free ITU toolkits and software suitable for telecentres that have been developed in collaboration with third parties.
 
I am eager to visit INVAP facilities in Bariloche tomorrow in order to see how the Argentinean geostationary satellite is being built. Satellites provide invaluable solutions, particularly in hard to-reach rural areas and for essential backhaul capacity needed by other operators. We will closely pay attention to the whole process until its launch.
 
The success of this project will confirm that developing countries have the knowledge and the tools to participate on an equal footing with developed countries in sophisticated technological markets. We hope that ARSAT, which is playing a leading part in this project and is a Sector Member of the ITU Development Sector, will be soon sharing its experience with the rest of the ITU family.
 
Distinguished colleagues,
 
Next year will be a crucial year in terms of the future of global telecommunications, with the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) taking place in November 2012.
 
At WCIT, ITU’s Member States will examine, discuss and revise the International Telecommunication Regulations, with the purpose of reaching new levels of economic and social development by means of efficient use of ICTs.
 
We expect countries of this region to participate actively in those discussions, in order to be assured that benefits will be shared in an equitable way, and will cover its needs.
 
There are a number of issues that have been addressed by this region to the attention of ITU during the World Telecommunication Development Conference last year in India.
 
That is the case, for example, of emergency communications. ICTs play a crucial role in every instance of emergencies and ITU is ready to provide assistance at all phases of disaster management. We provided communications equipment to Haiti and Chile immediately after the earthquakes that affected those countries last year, in order to help their administrations mitigate the effects.
 
Furthermore, both ITU’s Standardization and Radiocommunication Sectors are working on this issue – in developing specific standards in the case of the former, and identifying spectrum resources to be allocated to deal with emergency communications in the latter.
 
We are also organizing, with CITEL, a Workshop in Emergency Communications that will take place back to back with next PCC I Meeting next August in Mar del Plata, in order to share experiences and best practices.
 
As you can see, we are not just helping to bring disaster relief and the rehabilitation of telecommunications networks, but we are also working to improve disaster preparedness, including early warnings.
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
Cybersecurity was another important aspect touched upon during the WTDC and the Plenipotentiary Conference last year, and it was also a major area of concern highlighted at WSIS. Our concrete response was to launch the Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) – a global framework for international cooperation aimed at enhancing global public confidence and security in the use of ICTs.
 
ITU is proud to have forged a strong and highly supportive relationship with IMPACT – the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats. As the world’s first comprehensive alliance against cyberthreats, IMPACT is the key organization fulfilling ITU’s cybersecurity mandate in an operational sense, providing our 192 Member States with access to expertise, facilities and resources to effectively address cyberthreats, as well as assisting UN bodies in protecting their ICT infrastructures. 
 
Some 108 countries are now part of the ITU-IMPACT operational deployment, and I would encourage you to join this global endeavour, so that you too may benefit from the services and capabilities provided.
 
In parallel, we are also considering issues of child online safety. Protecting children online is a global challenge. This is why, at the High-Level Segment of ITU Council 2008, we launched the Child Online Protection initiative, COP, as a multi-stakeholder coalition under ITU’s GCA framework. 
 
Since then, ITU has been offering a platform for global cooperation where different constituencies can share their views and best practices. I would like to refer to the global COP Guidelines, for children, parents, industry and policy-makers, which were developed by a multi-stakeholder group of COP partners, as one example. Moreover, with our new patron, President Chinchilla of Costa Rica, our COP initiative is now working to transform the COP guidelines into concrete activities which will deliver significant national benefits, such as the development of national strategies on child online protection, the establishment of national hotlines, or the development of interoperable standards and related recommendations to protect children online. 
 
Starting with Costa Rica, we are focusing on Latin American countries’ activities in this important area. I would like to call upon countries of the region and all interested stakeholders to work together with ITU in making the online experience for children in Argentina and worldwide, a more secure and a safer one.
 
Distinguished colleagues,
 
Another relevant issue identified by the region is the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. In this sense, we know that Argentina is working with all the countries that have already adopted the ISDB-T International standard on speeding the transition. The ITU, where this standard was approved, is ready to support a smooth transition through the identification of appropriate mechanisms of conversion; the elaboration of comprehensive guidelines; and the training of human resources; among other activities.
 
Identifying ways to reduce the cost of Internet access and interconnection will play an important role in ensuring that we achieve fully-inclusive access to services. We have already mentioned that one of the biggest challenges in the Latin American countries is to bring affordable access to underserved areas. We know that some countries in the region have started conversations to join forces and find new approaches to lower these costs.
 
As an organization which is unique in the United Nations system in having both Member States and sector membership, ITU is a tremendous believer in the power of partnership. In this sense, the need to establish national and regional IXPs it was identified at the WTDC as a way to get this result. The ITU is ready to cooperate in bringing all stakeholders together in order to implement it.
 
This is a crucial time for the industry.
 
Today, we find ourselves in an era of transition, seeking to cope with the many challenges of a new digital world. The Internet is touching upon nearly every facet of our lives. Wireless and satellite communications have given us the power to reach every corner of our countries regardless of geography or topography. 
 
We have the technical means today to bring information and knowledge to every person around the world. It means we are not far from bringing the same opportunities to every citizen within our territories. It is a matter of managing resources – as simple and as difficult as that will be.
 
The good news for this region is that:
  • Governments are ready to allocate resources to bring everybody into the Information Society;
  • Companies are willing to invest where benefits can be obtained but also to contribute to grant universal access where the economical equation is not favourable; and
  • ITU is prepared and eager to work together to fulfill everyone’s fundamental right to communicate.
Let me close therefore by saying once again how crucial broadband will be in every country and every region of the world in the 21st century.
 
Those that recognize this will forge ahead and create vibrant, smart and economically powerful societies, where the benefits of ICTs are shared by all people, whatever their individual social or economic circumstances.
 
This is why ITU, in conjunction with UNESCO, launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development last year – to encourage governments to implement national broadband plans and increase access to broadband applications and services.
 
The Commission is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso. We also have over 50 Commissioners from the highest walks of life across the public and private sectors.
 
We have already been very successful in raising broadband as a vital issue of global concern at the highest political levels – including at the 2010 MDG Summit, which was held in New York last September.
 
And I encourage each and every one of you to make this the decade where the benefits of a broadband world reach every person in Latin America.
 
Thank you.