Ladies and gentlemen,
It is real pleasure and a great honour to join you for the ‘Forum Opening Conversation’ at ITU Telecom World 2012.
Yesterday, at the opening of the Leadership Summit, we discussed the three important strands which together comprised the concept of ‘Forging the Future’ – which are the nature of communications in the future; funding the future; and protecting the future.
This future – the future of communications in an industry undergoing dramatic transformation – will be the central topic on the agenda over the coming days here in Dubai.
I think we all recognize that the future is full of tremendous opportunities and exciting challenges.
One of the greatest opportunities – perhaps the greatest opportunity for improvement that humankind has ever been offered – is broadband.
Broadband is already vitally important today; and it will be even more so tomorrow.
I was interested to see a survey published in the UK just last week, which found that home-buyers there now consider a broadband connection to be one of the key decision factors in buying a house in modern Britain – and was considered more important than off-street parking or access to local amenities.
The survey also reported that 19% of UK home-buyers now arranged to have their broadband connection installed ahead of connecting gas or television.
Because broadband is not just about surfing the web; or staying in touch with family and friends; or being a key enabler of almost all 21st century jobs; or being the principal conduit for entertainment; or even a key channel for education, or access to government services.
No – broadband is all of these things, and so much more!
This is why ITU set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development with UNESCO two years ago, which advocates for increased broadband rollout globally, to help accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, the MDGs.
A year ago, we held the Broadband Leadership Summit in conjunction with the ITU Telecom World 2011 event in Geneva, which was the 40th anniversary edition of Telecom.
At the Summit, the Broadband Commission established four targets to measure progress, covering policy, affordability, and uptake, to be achieved by 2015 in line with the MDGs.
These targets were reported on for the first time in the ‘State of Broadband’ report which was launched at the Broadband Commission’s most recent meeting in New York just three weeks ago – and we were pleased to note that exceptional progress has been made.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Concerning policy, by 2011, out of a total of 144 developing countries, 127 had established a national broadband plan, included broadband in their UAS definitions, or both.
The next target concerns affordability – because this is perhaps the single biggest barrier to broadband access.
The Broadband Commission established an initial target of entry-level broadband services amounting to less than 5% of average monthly income in developing countries.
To put this in perspective, back in 2008, there were only 21 developing countries where broadband cost less than 5% of average monthly income – and there were many countries where it cost more than 100% of average income.
Quite extraordinary progress has been made recently, however, and by 2010, there were 35 developing countries where broadband cost less than 5% of monthly income – and that number shot up to reach 48 developing countries by the beginning of this year.
What has driven this tremendous progress?
We believe it is a combination of two things: the incredibly rapid spread and uptake of mobile broadband, and a whole swathe of innovative new business models.
These include pre-paid broadband, of course, which seems set to be as successful for broadband, in terms of increased access, as pre-paid mobile was for the mobile telephony market in the early years of the last decade.
Concerning the uptake targets, we are already just over half-way to meeting the target of 40% of homes in developing countries with Internet access by 2015, and we are also just over half way to having 60% of the world’s people online by 2015.
In the developing world, we are slightly less than half way to the target of 50% by 2015 – but we should note that the great majority of growth in Internet users today is coming from the developing world, so there is good reason to remain optimistic.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is clearly no longer any doubt that in the 21st century broadband rollout and uptake is absolutely crucial for sustainable social and economic development.
So I welcome this opportunity to discuss the future with you in what is surely an ideal forum for debate and innovative ideas.
And I would ask you this, as we move forward:
- Let’s not just look at the progress which has been made so far, but let’s look at what still needs to be done to create an equitable global information society.
There is so much potential for positive change.
So let’s seize that opportunity and make the world a better place for all.