Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you this morning in the ancient city of Baku, on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
It seems to me that this is a most appropriate venue for discussions on knowledge-based development and innovative entrepreneurship.
Because Azerbaijan has very much shown the lead in ICT development, and has done a good job of converting ‘black gold into human capital’ – as President Aliyev has often said.
Azerbaijan’s ICT sector has expanded more than five-fold over the past eight years, and mobile cellular penetration is now over 100%.
Perhaps even more importantly, Azerbaijan has put broadband at the centre of its ICT development strategy, and has made very impressive steps indeed towards making broadband affordable for all.
Why is this so important?
Because broadband – and I know this opinion is shared by Minister Abbasov – is the best tool we have for accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals and delivering sustainable social and economic progress in the 21st century.
This is why ITU, in conjunction with UNESCO, set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development last year, and we are delighted that Minister Abbasov agreed to be one of our distinguished Broadband Commissioners.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Any discussion of knowledge-based development and innovative entrepreneurship must of course focus on the role that will be played by young people in creating a bright future for all the world’s people.
I was fortunate, earlier this year, to chair the Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Youth, which was particularly relevant and timely, given that 2011 is the United Nations Year of Youth.
During the first meeting of the Working Group on Youth – and at subsequent meetings, in New York and in Kigali – I saw a sea of possibilities when I looked around at the smart young people assembled together.
I knew that with their combined talents and enthusiasm there would be no obstacle we could not overcome.
As any parent knows, education represents the best way for their children to get ahead and create a better life for themselves.
But in the modern world, education doesn’t amount to much if it doesn’t include access to and expertise in ICTs.
Access to broadband networks implies access to information, which is a crucial factor in any young person’s development.
If you are connected, it no longer matters if you are geographically or socially isolated; you are still connected to the information society.
While young people stand to benefit enormously from ubiquitous broadband, the world also stands to benefit hugely from young people’s ideas, inspirations and innovations.
Already, at work and at home, we are seeing young digital natives coaching their elder digital immigrants – and I am convinced that it young people who will be creating the dynamic future of broadband applications and services.
Young Internet giants like Facebook, Google, Skype and Yahoo were not created by old people, but by young and enthusiastic entrepreneurs – as indeed were slightly older technology giants like Apple and Microsoft in their day.
Last month, in Geneva, at the 40th anniversary celebration of ITU Telecom World, I heard a delegate say that he saw no reason at all –with ubiquitous connectivity – why the next global corporations shouldn’t be created by young people in rural and remote environments.
We also heard from India’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Kapil Sibal, who told us about India’s 35 dollar laptop, and what a difference that was going to make not just in India but across the world.
We are entering the most extraordinary time in humanity’s existence, and I believe that the future is extraordinarily bright – perhaps brighter than it has ever been, especially for those living in the developing world, and most especially in rural and remote regions.
We need to bring the benefits of the broadband revolution to everyone – wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.
This will only happen if broadband becomes affordable, for all people, everywhere.
This is why we placed so much emphasis at the Broadband Leadership Summit in Geneva last month on setting an affordability target for access to broadband services in all countries.
Our goal – with the Broadband Commission – is to see broadband services cost under 5% of monthly income in every country in the world, by 2015.
It is particularly pleasing to note, here in Baku, that one of the most dramatic changes in the world, recently, in terms of affordability, happened right here, in Azerbaijan, which registered one of the biggest increases in affordability in ITU’s report ‘Measuring the Information Society 2011’.
By 2010, access to entry-level broadband services in Azerbaijan cost just over 3% of average monthly income, bringing it well within the targets set by the Broadband Commission – and well within the reach of most households here.
Let me encourage all other countries to follow this example – and to help empower knowledge-based development and innovative entrepreneurship.