Ladies and gentlemen,
I have been asked to contribute to this conversation by saying a few words about ‘ICT as an equalizer’.
As I said in my welcome remarks a little earlier this afternoon, ICTs are the best tool we have for advancing human progress – and this is not least because of their potential to create a level playing field.
If we all have access to the same information and the same resources online, then we all have the potential not just to compete in the global market place, but to make a difference where it most counts – locally.
How then can we leverage the opportunities being opened up by initiatives such as Beyond Money?
Personally, I can see great merit in Recipco’s proposal to develop ‘Commercial Trading Centres’ in selected towns in developing countries, as a way of creating a more inclusive economy for smaller businesses in emerging markets.
I am pleased to see that these new centres will be modelled in line with Multipurpose Community Telecentres, MCTs, which have been developed and supported by organizations such as ITU and UNESCO since the mid-1990s.
These telecentres often have multiple roles within the community, but at their core, they are public centres providing access to ICTs, opening the doors to a much wider world and the greater benefits which come from being connected to the rest of humanity.
Indeed, I was interested to see a post online just two weeks ago on the eLearning Africa website, which said that:
- “Despite often struggling with viability and sustainability, MCTs are, nevertheless, the real hub of transformation of African culture and economy.”
- “This is especially the case in rural areas, where they serve as vital centres of ecosystems and loci of social and economic innovation, creating a productive dynamic of wealth and knowledge between rural and urban communities.”
- “In Africa, more than anywhere else, access to ICTs gives rise to home grown solutions, which transform companies and fuel entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth.”
Recipco’s Commercial Trading Centres aim to have Internet-enabled computers which can be used to conduct trade over the Recipco Capacity Exchange.
They will be staffed by local women who will facilitate the posting and identification of trade opportunities, overcoming any literacy challenges.
As we have seen elsewhere – and notably in major projects in Bangladesh and Vietnam – the empowerment of local women as business-people is not just good for them, but good for the whole of the community.
Recipco’s Commercial Trading Centres will create a virtuous circle, by increasing regional and global trade, thereby increasing the utilization of telecom capacity in developing countries, driving up revenue for local operators, and stimulating economic development.
These local telecentres will contribute to ITU’s ‘Connect the World’ initiative, which aims to mobilize human, financial and technical resources to create increased connectivity in targeted regions by 2015.
They will also further the goals of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which I mentioned earlier.
In the absence of a telecoms capacity exchange, ITU has for some time been working on the creation of a database detailing the flow of traffic on the world's major communications networks, although progress has been hampered by the unavailability of complete data.
We have however been very successful, through the work of our development sector, in gathering data on key indicators – such as mobile phone penetration and broadband access and usage – from around the world, and we regularly publish this in a number of formats, including via the ITU’s ‘Broadband Atlas’ online, and via the Google Public Data Explorer.
We also publish an annual report entitled ‘Measuring the Information Society’ which ranks countries not just according to penetration levels but also in terms of access and affordability, which of course are key criteria in ensuring that everyone gets online.
Clear statistical information and analysis helps companies to make the right investment decisions, in demonstrating where the best growth potential is to be found, for example.
With the advent of Recipco, there should be enhanced visibility on the availability of surplus capacity, and the possibility of meeting unmet demand through the mechanism of real-time transactions.
This will benefit all players, and could even lead towards new and innovative sources of telecom infrastructure financing – perhaps through programmes based on Recipco trading units.
In closing therefore, let me congratulate Recipco on the telecoms capacity exchange concept, and let me encourage the ongoing expansion of telecentres.