Ladies and gentlemen,
This is a tremendously vibrant and dynamic region, and I am delighted to have witnessed the incredibly rapid uptake of ICTs across the Caribbean and Latin America over the past few years.
I am also very pleased to see that the Caribbean countries – through the CARICOM Secretariat – have developed a Regional Digital Development Strategy for ICT development in the Caribbean.
One key aspect of this is the need to have the Caribbean as a single ICT space, and I know this has been voiced by a number of countries in the region. This would allow roaming costs between countries to disappear and would bring cheaper communications to people across the region.
This is a good example of the benefits of ICT harmonization in the Caribbean, and I am pleased to note that significant benefits are already being derived from the ITU / European Commission Project on the ‘Harmonization of ICT Policies, Legislation and Regulatory Procedures in the Caribbean’, HIPCAR.
The second phase of HIPCAR is currently under negotiation, and I am confident that it will deliver further benefits to the region.
ITU is pleased to work with countries across the region on this and other important issues, and I encourage you to come to us with ideas and proposals.
As the United Nations specialized agency for ICTs, with a unique blend of public and private sector membership, we have an unrivalled understanding of the issues facing all of the stakeholders, including regulators, operators and consumers, and we would be happy to place our expertise at your disposal.
And let me reassure you that ITU will continue working closely through the coming years with all ICT stakeholders in the Caribbean region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Many of us were present for last year’s fifth ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference, which took place in Hyderabad, India.
The WTDC reviewed the numerous programmes and initiatives of ITU’s Development Sector and set our development agenda for the four years ahead.
For me, one of the most important things about the conference was the fact that it marked the culmination of a series of regional preparatory meetings in each region of the world, which enabled us to properly assess the progress achieved and the tasks still facing us.
The meeting held in this region took place in Colombia, in September 2009, identified a number of key priorities for the Americas. These included increased access to broadband; security of communications networks; public safety and emergency communications; and an enabling policy environment; among many others – and I was glad to address some of these key issues yesterday at the opening of the CANTO Conference.
And next year I am looking forward very much to the ITU Connect Americas Summit, which will be formally announced very soon, and which will take place over three days in Panama. This will be the fourth ITU Connect event, building on the success of the Connect Africa event in 2007 and the Connect CIS event in 2009, as well as the Connect Arab States event, which will be held next spring.
By bringing together key global and regional players in the sector, the Connect Americas Summit will be a multi-stakeholder partnership opportunity aimed at generating the human, financial and technical resources needed to support ICT growth, which is widely recognized as the engine of future economic prosperity and sustainable development.
The Summit will be effective in helping to bridge major gaps in ICT infrastructure across the Americas region, with the aim of supporting affordable connectivity and applications and services to stimulate economic and social development, employment and development throughout the region.
Before we open up to discussions, I would like to highlight one particular ITU initiative which aims to help increase connectivity in under-served areas.
The initiative is called ‘Connect a School, Connect a Community’, and is based on the understanding that connected schools can serve as community ICT centres for everybody, including disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
Through Connect a School, Connect a Community, we are working with a range of partners to identify and compile best practices on polices, regulation, applications and services – as well as practical experiences to be shared with interested countries through the development of an online Toolkit and related capacity-building activities.
We hope that the project will act as a ‘one-stop shop’, bringing together all best practices systematically, and holistically addressing all of the inter-related layers of the school connectivity ecosystem, in collaboration with government agencies, the private sector, other UN agencies, and regional and international organizations.
We have undertaken the commitment to work at the grassroots level in order to expand the abilities of under-served groups to access new opportunities through ICTs – and I am pleased to say that we are hoping to see this initiative implemented here, in Suriname, with the help and coordination of the regulator, TAS.
And finally, before closing, I would like to remind you all that the forthcoming ITU Telecom World 2011 event – which marks the 40th anniversary of ITU Telecom – will be taking place in October in Geneva.
The event will bring together world leaders at the highest level along with top executives from many of the world’s most powerful ICT players, and will also be featuring a Broadband Leadership Summit this year.
So let me urge you to note the dates in your diaries – the event runs from 24 to 27 October. Let me encourage you to come to Geneva and play your part in the debates and discussions which will help shape the future of the ICT sector. And let me encourage the Caribbean region to collectively establish a Pavilion at the event.