Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon, welcome, and thank you for joining us at the WSIS Forum 2011 Press Conference.
Let me take this opportunity to stress the importance of the targets set at the World Summit for the Information Society in 2005, and of the WSIS process.
As you know, WSIS was the first truly global event that embraced the views and visions of a whole host of different stakeholders. The WSIS process continues in that spirit, as a highly inclusive global process that actively solicits the contributions of different players around the world.
In this way, we strive to build a practical, sustainable framework for development with everyone’s commitment and buy-in.
Why is this important?
I think most of you here today are already convinced that information and communication technologies are an indispensable piece of the global development puzzle.
ITU’s commitment to connecting the world is thus a commitment to powering social and economic development through harnessing tools that enable us to change the delivery paradigm for a whole range of essential services, from healthcare and education to energy management and environmental monitoring.
In terms of connectivity, there are now well over five billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, and more than two billion Internet users. Over 90% of the global population is covered by a mobile network, and even in rural areas of some of the world’s developing countries, household mobile penetration now surpasses 50%.
I’m particularly pleased today to be able to release new figures which show that the cost of many ICT services is falling fast, bringing them within reach of many millions of newcomers every year.
Our latest findings show that, around the world, consumers and businesses are paying an average of 18% less for entry-level ICT services than they were just two years ago.
Globally, we’re also paying 50% less for high-speed Internet connections.
Data from ITU’s ICT Price Basket also show that relative prices for mobile cellular services decreased by almost 22% from 2008 to 2010, while the cost of a fixed-line connection declined by an average of 7%.
This is all great news. But the ITU ICT Price Basket also reveals some persistent inequities.
In terms of affordability – how much a service costs in relation to average earnings – it remains a bitter truth that ICT services are much more affordable in the rich world than the developing world.
In countries with the relatively cheapest broadband prices, customers pay only the equivalent of 1% or less of average monthly income for an entry-level broadband connection.
At the other end of the scale, we see that in over 30 countries, many of which are UN-designated Least Developed Countries, the monthly price of an entry-level fixed broadband subscription corresponds to more than half average monthly income.
In 19 of those countries, a broadband connection costs more than 100% of monthly GNI per capita.
And in a handful of developing countries the monthly price of a fast Internet connection is still more than ten times average monthly income.
This is exactly the kind of inequity that the WSIS targets were designed to help redress. I think the enormous progress we have already made is testament to the success of the WSIS process. It is my hope that this year’s event, which is the biggest yet held, will continue to bring people and organizations at all levels togther, to accelerate ICT access for the greater good of all mankind.
Thank you – and let me just remind you that tomorrow is World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. I would be delighted if you would join us at ITU for the special award ceremony for this year’s special laureates: President Tarja Halonen of Finland, Dr Sam Pitroda of India, and Kristen Petersen, CEO of Inveneo.
Sarah Parkes from our communications team will be happy to provide you with more information.