Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am greatly honoured by this opportunity to be with you today in the spectacular city of Quito, for the opening of the fourth International Congress on Telecommunication, Information Technologies and Communication.
It is no exaggeration to say that information and communication technologies – ICTs – are fast revolutionizing every aspect of the world in which we live.
Here in Latin America, quite exceptional progress has been shown in ICT development, particularly in mobile cellular communications. Indeed, a number of countries in the region – including Ecuador of course – now have mobile penetrations comfortably exceeding 100%.
Over the past decade or so we have successfully brought basic communications within reach of most of the world’s people. The challenge now is to repeat this mobile miracle for the Internet, and in particular for broadband.
Broadband needs to reach everyone, in all nations, because it is absolutely key to furthering social and economic development in the 21st century, and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We live in an extraordinary era, where a combination of fixed, wireless and satellite technologies have given us the power to reach every corner of every country, regardless of geography or topography.
We have the technical means to bring advanced ICTs to all the world’s people – and I am pleased to see that in Latin America, as in other regions, we find that:
- Governments are ready to allocate resources to bring everybody into the Information Society;
- Companies are willing to invest where benefits can be obtained, and are also willing to contribute to enabling universal access; and
- Citizens continue to demonstrate a remarkable appetite for ICTs in every form, even at times of economic downturn.
At ITU, we are prepared and eager to work to help fulfil everyone’s fundamental right to communicate, and their desire to play a meaningful role in the information and knowledge society.
Two things need to happen, however, before everyone can have access to the vast benefits of broadband.
First, it needs to become much more affordable.
Among the data we publish at ITU is what we call an “ICT Price Basket” – and this reveals the huge gaps that still exist between the haves and the have-nots, particularly where broadband is concerned.
In the 31 countries at the top of the broadband list – those where broadband is most affordable – a fixed broadband subscription costs less than 1% of average monthly income.
But at the other end of the scale, for people who live in the 32 countries where broadband is least affordable – most of them UN-designated Least Developed Countries – a fixed broadband subscription costs over half of average monthly income.
We must do everything in our power to reduce this glaring inequality, and make broadband affordable for all.
Second, we need to bring broadband to the top of all national development agendas.
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. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and myself serve as co-vice-chairs.
We also have over 50 Broadband Commissioners, who are all top-level leaders in their field, representing governments, industry, academia and international agencies.
They have defined a vision for accelerating the deployment of broadband networks worldwide, with the aim of improving the delivery of services across a huge range of social and business sectors, and accelerating progress towards the MDGs.
The Commission presented its first report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in September last year, ahead of the MDG Summit in New York. This first report includes top-level recommendations designed to serve as a global blueprint for rapid broadband development worldwide – and I am pleased to see that the message is spreading rapidly around the world.
Our second, much more detailed, report, ‘Broadband: a Platform for Progress’, was launched at the Paris meeting of the Broadband Commission just one month ago.
The report analyses the challenges and opportunities in deploying broadband. It takes into account local needs, financing constraints and technical hurdles. And it makes practical proposals on routes towards deployment of ubiquitous high-speed networks at affordable prices in every country, at every stage of development.
I strongly encourage you to download the report, which is available for free in the Outcomes section of the Commission’s website, at www.broadbandcommission.org
Another aspect of the Commission’s work which I think is very important has been the setting up of eight Working Groups, each looking at a specific focus area – including climate change; public-private partnerships; health; LDCs; youth; multilingualism; education; and science.
I myself am proud to chair the Broadband Commission Working Group on Youth. We held our first meeting in Geneva in the middle of May to see not only how young people could benefit from broadband, but also how they could themselves deliver benefits to the wider community. As one of the speakers said so appropriately: “Young people are not just the future; they are the present, too.”
The next Broadband Commission meeting, along with a Broadband Leadership Summit, will be held in Geneva in October, to coincide with the 40th anniversary edition of ITU Telecom World.
ITU Telecom World 2011 will bring together world leaders at the highest level along with top executives from many of the world’s most powerful ICT players.
Let me therefore urge you to note the dates in your diaries – 24 to 27 October – and encourage you to come to Geneva and to play your part in the debates and discussions which will help shape the future of the ICT sector.
Ladies and gentlemen,
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.
Broadband access to the Internet holds the promise of making the best of knowledge that can be shared instantaneously across the globe. Broadband networks offer the possibility of unleashing the full potential of individuals and communities everywhere – in Latin America and across the world.
Those who 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.
So I encourage each and every one of you to make this decade the decade where the benefits of a broadband world reach every person in Latin America.