Excellencies, Ministers, Members of Parliament,
Distinguished colleagues from civil society, the private sector and inter-governmental organizations,
Colleagues of the UN system,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you this morning to open the WSIS Forum 2011.
I would like to start by thanking Juan Somavia, and ILO, for extending your hospitality to ITU and allowing us to hold the WSIS Forum in such well-appointed premises. My thanks to my other colleagues from the UN also present: Mr Supachai, Secretary-General of UNCTAD and Ambassador Karklins, Assistant Director-General for UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector (who is also well known as chairman of WSIS Second Phase Prepcom).
I would also like to give very special thanks to the United Arab Emirates as a strategic partner of the WSIS Forum for their financial contribution, which has enabled us to significantly enhance features of the Forum this year. We also greatly appreciate the contribution of Oman, in sponsoring workshops, and of Mexico, for making our session multilingual.
Let me welcome you all, on behalf of ITU – including more than 20 ministers, 150 members of parliament who are here today, and other honourable guests.
More than 1,000 stakeholders have registered to this meeting, and other participants are following us remotely.
It is tremendous to see that administrations are dedicating significant efforts towards implementation of the WSIS outcomes, and that the WSIS process remains on top of their agendas.
This is the 6th meeting since the Tunis Summit, and I believe that we are doing better each year in implementing the task assigned to us in organizing an annual meeting of Action Line Facilitators.
I think we are all very much aware of how close we are to the 2015 deadline for meeting the WSIS targets and the MDGs, and that there is still much to be achieved.
But we have made extraordinary progress, notably in terms of connectivity, the enabling environment, and cybersecurity.
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%.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The next major step must be to repeat the mobile miracle for broadband access to the Internet.
Broadband needs to reach all people, in all nations, as it is absolutely key to furthering social and economic development in the 21st century.
This is why we launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development at the WSIS Forum last year, with UNESCO.
The Broadband Commission delivered an initial report to Ban Ki-moon in New York, last September, just ahead of the 2010 MDG Summit. It continues its work this year through thematically-focused working groups, which will report to the Broadband Leadership Summit here in Geneva in October, as part of the new, action-focused ITU Telecom World 2011 event.
Although there are still far too few people globally with access to broadband – especially in the developing world – good progress is being made both in bringing down the cost and in rolling out the broadband infrastructure which will help further development goals.
Broadband prices globally have fallen by over 50% in the past two years. With the arrival of new submarine cables, the rolling out of new mobile networks, and the continuing growth of competition in most of the world’s marketplaces, I am convinced that we shall see further steep price falls in the near future.
And we must recognize how important this is, with broadband access still unaffordable to all but the wealthiest few in many of the world’s least developed countries.
We have been actively working to promote the benefits of public private and multi-stakeholder partnerships, notably through our ITU Connect the World series of events, and I would draw your attention to the Connect Arab States event which will be taking place in Doha, Qatar, at the end of November this year.
With increased connectivity, of course, comes the growing issue of global public confidence and security in the use of ICTs, an issue of great prominence at WSIS itself.
ITU’s concrete response was to launch the Global Cybersecurity Agenda in 2007, as a global framework for international cooperation.
More recently, we are 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.
Already close to 130 countries are now formally part of the ITU-IMPACT operational deployment, and I would encourage all remaining Member States and UN bodies to join this global endeavour, so that they too may benefit from the services and capabilities provided.
I think we can therefore be proud of what has been achieved, and with all honesty can say that we are well on the road towards creating an open and inclusive information society.
This week’s meetings will not just help us fulfil the mandate given to us by WSIS and in particular the Tunis Agenda, but will also help us to create a better future for all the world’s people. Our first meeting of the UNGIS open consultation will be an important step towards shaping an inclusive process for review.