Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great pleasure to be with you here this morning for the opening of this meeting of the Telecommunication Development Advisory Group, TDAG.
Many of you may have heard the sad news that our former Secretary-General, Richard Butler, passed away over the weekend, at the age of 86.
Richard Butler was Deputy Secretary-General from 1968 to 1982, and Secretary-General from 1983 to 1989. Even after leaving ITU he continued to play a very active role in ITU’s work, right up to just a few weeks ago. Indeed, he was here for RA-12 and WRC-12, earlier this year, and he will be missed by all of us.
Let us also take a moment now to remember our esteemed colleague from BDT, Ki-Kwon Kim, from Korea, who passed away on 27 May. He is much missed by his colleagues, his friends and of course his family.
Please stand and give a minute’s silence for Richard Butler and Ki-Kwon Kim.
There is a condolences book for Richard Butler outside this room until the end of the 2012 session of Council, and I invite you to take advantage of this to share your memories of this fine man. The book will be passed on to Dick’s family after Council.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The past year has been very busy and important for the Telecommunication Development Sector – and the year ahead is shaping up to be no different.
Highlighting just some of the flagship events, we had the Connect Arab States summit in Doha in March, and the Connect Americas Summit will be taking place in just a few weeks in Panama City.
These Summits serve as highly effective tools for mobilizing the human, financial and technical resources necessary to realize the vision agreed at the World Summit on the Information Society, WSIS, and the World Telecommunication Development Conference, WTDC.
Connect Arab States was a great success, bringing together over 600 key actors, including six Heads of State or Government, 27 government ministers and many senior executives of ICT companies. I have every confidence that the Connect Americas Summit next month will be just as impactful – and I would like to thank our friends from Qatar and Panama for their generosity in hosting them.
In September we will have the 10th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Meeting in Bangkok, and then in October the Global Regulators Symposium in Colombo.
And of course we will be having very important ITU-wide events in Dubai later in the year, with ITU Telecom World 2012 in October, and the World Conference on International Communications, WCIT-12, in December – which will review the International Telecommunication Regulations, the ITRs.
Between the two of these events, the Standardization Sector will be holding its four-yearly Assembly, the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly, WTSA-12, also in Dubai.
Beyond the flagship events, of course, ITU-D also works in important cross-cutting areas of the Union’s work, and makes leading contributions towards key ITU priorities including disaster and emergency communications; the Broadband Commission for Digital Development; cybersecurity and child online protection; and of course climate change and sustainability, which have been high on the agenda recently with the Rio+20 Summit.
This certainly keeps the Director, Brahima Sanou, and his team, very busily occupied – along with all the other interesting, important and productive work being conducted both here in Geneva and in the regions.
We are now mid-way through the ambitious work programme established for ITU-D by the World Telecommunication Development Conference in Hyderabad two years ago.
WTDC-10 ensured that ITU’s development work more clearly addresses the priorities of developing countries; just as the Plenipotentiary Conference in Guadalajara highlighted the importance of taking full advantage of our substantial regional presence.
The Director highlighted the importance of ITU’s regional networks at last year’s TDAG, and stressed the centrality of our regional initiatives. I am therefore particularly pleased that he has followed this up by organizing a series of Regional Development Forums over the past few months.
These have provided an excellent platform for dialogue at the regional level among policy makers, regulators, industry leaders and international and regional development agencies. The ideas and proposals resulting from these Forums will help inform the work of this group, and guide the implementation of the resolutions and decisions taken in Hyderabad.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me highlight just a few other important elements of ITU-D’s work.
Firstly, of course, there are the Study Groups. These may not have a very high media profile, but they are nonetheless doing a great deal to develop our shared knowledge base.
As we see from the number of delegates being sent to meetings, and the increasingly high quality of the contributions being submitted, our members strongly support the Study Groups’ work.
The remote participation service continues to open up new ways for experts to participate in and contribute to our work, and I would like to encourage more use of this great facility.
The Director and I share a powerful vision of the Study Groups as a knowledge-sharing platform; a means of strengthening capacity and awareness among delegates; and a producer of Reports and Guidelines to help countries innovate and advance development. Let’s take that further!
Secondly, I would like to say a few words about our work on e-health, which is progressing strongly. Just last week I signed the foreword to the ‘National e-Health Strategy Toolkit’, a flagship product produced with WHO that helps countries at every level of development respond to the health needs of their citizens.
We also continue to work with the ‘Commission on Information and Accountability for Women and Children’s Health’ – which I am privileged to co-vice-chair, with Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO – as well as supporting the Broadband Commission’s Working Group on e-health.
We also continue to give high priority to digital inclusion of people with special needs, including areas such as accessibility and the need to make sure that everyone, including people with disabilities, can access ICTs, as well as the need to help empower women and girls through ICTs – and we have recently attracted considerable media attention in this regard. This is an area the Director will be telling you more about in just a few minutes.
I am also pleased to see the efforts that are being put into partnerships – both with the great and mighty, and with small niche players. As I often say, alone we can achieve very little, but in partnership we can achieve so much.
This is perhaps a good moment to remind ourselves that ITU cannot rest on its laurels – and this is especially true where membership is concerned. Indeed, it is more important than ever that we all work very actively to attract new sector members and members from academia.
I am pleased to report that we have already had some significant successes in this regard over the past few months, with the accession of a number of universities and academic institutions into ITU’s ranks – but we can and must do more!
In closing, let me just thank you in advance for the vital role TDAG plays in assisting the Director and ITU management as they address important issues of ICT development. TDAG has done an excellent job so far, and we count on your continued support as we move forward in fulfilling our mandate to connect all the world’s people.
Thank you; thank you all. I wish you a very successful meeting.