Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Barcelona this afternoon for this special Qtel Group event.
As the Secretary-General of the ITU, my mission is to connect the world, and to bring the benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.
I firmly believe that if we can succeed in achieving our mission, then we will see unprecedented social and economic improvement for all, and that we will continue to make bold steps in accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals – and indeed other sustainable development goals as we move forward.
We have made the most extraordinary progress in the first twelve years of the new Millennium.
In the year 2000, around half the people in the world’s richest countries had a mobile phone and mobile penetration in Africa was under 2%.
Today there are more than six billion mobile phone subscriptions globally, and mobile penetration in Africa is well over 50%.
At the beginning of the Millennium, around 280 million people used the Internet worldwide. In not much more than a decade that figure has grown almost ten-fold to reach just over a third of the world’s population.
We still have far to go, however, because two thirds of the world’s people are still offline.
This is why ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010 – to advocate for increased broadband access and rollout globally; not just for its own sake, but to accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
The Commission is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim, President of the Carlos Slim Foundation; Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and myself have the honour to serve as co-Vice-Chairs.
We now have close to 60 Broadband Commissioners – all leaders in their field – representing governments, industry, academia and international agencies, and they are doing great work in advocating the importance of policy leadership.
And it is great to see that many of our Commissioners are here in Barcelona this week for Mobile World Congress – including of course our host at this event today, His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al Thani, the Chairman of Qtel Group.
Under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah over the past eight years, Qtel has been supporting the objectives of the Broadband Commission as the company has grown from being a single-nation operator to a Group with a presence in 17 countries spanning from North Africa to South East Asia.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Like Qtel Group, ITU firmly believes in the social and economic benefits of improved connectivity for all. And this was what the World Conference on International Communications, WCIT-12, which was held in Dubai in December, was all about.
WCIT-12 was about creating the right environment for telecommunications infrastructure investment and roll-out, and bringing the digital era within reach of the 700 million people around the world who still do not have mobile phone network coverage and the 4.5 billion people not yet online.
Thanks to WCIT-12, a healthy digital ecosystem – where everyone on the planet can participate – is now within our grasp, and all stakeholders, including governments and businesses, must do their utmost to ensure that we deliver on this promise.
ICTs bring the potential to reach out to all of humanity, and have the potential to give everyone a voice, and to be heard across the world.
Let’s make that happen, together.