My dear colleague Irina Bokova,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me offer you a very warm welcome to Mexico – it is a real pleasure and a great honour to have so many Commissioners and their representatives here with us today, in this fine country.
I would like to thank our Co-Chair, Carlos Slim, in particular, for his kind invitation, and for hosting this seventh meeting of the Broadband Commission.
Particularly I would like to thank him for having shared with us Aldea Village – we got tremendous inspiration from that. Aldea Digital means Digital Village, but it was a Digital City. This was a great contribution to the world and I would like to really thank Carlos Slim for putting this together.
I would like to thank all Commissioners for their efforts over the past 2.5 – 3 years, and you have done a great work, been very committed. And particularly Denis O’Brien, for being here on St Patrick’s Day.
As usual we have a full agenda, and I very much want to make sure we have time for our discussions; so I will be as brief as much as possible.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased with the progress that has been made since we last met in New York last September – and we will hear more about this during today’s meeting.
Globally, broadband continues to be at the top of the global political agenda – and nowhere was this more clear than at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12, which took place in Dubai last December.
There was universal consensus at the Conference that broadband was the future. And I am pleased to note that the new International Telecommunication Regulations – the ITRs – which came out of WCIT contain important new provisions, notably in Article 6, which will encourage investment in international telecommunication networks and which will promote competitive wholesale pricing for traffic carried.
This is one of the most important articles in the revised ITRs and I am confident that it will play a very important role in furthering broadband rollout around the world, and bringing the Internet within reach of the 4.5 billion people who are still offline.
We are among the privileged ones – the 2.5 billion who are connected today, and I am sure no one in this room forgets about the remaining two thirds of the world’s population who remain unconnected.
The revised ITRs also contain several new Resolutions, which do not require any ratification, acceptance or approval process, and are not inherently binding for Member States.
They are nonetheless important texts and will themselves help to promote improved access to ICTs to all the world’s people.
In terms of the Commission, Resolution number three is perhaps the most interesting of the five Resolutions, as it addresses the fostering of an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet. The Resolution specifically calls for greater broadband investment and expresses support for the multi-stakeholder model – and makes special mention of the Broadband Commission. To me, that is really very important.
Between now and our next meeting in September, ITU will be holding the fifth World Telecommunication/Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum, WTPF-13; that’s in Geneva, in May.
WTPF-13 has been convened by ITU’s membership to provide a global forum to examine international Internet-related public policy matters – and let me stress here that WTPF is a forum, not a treaty-making conference.
It is a unique opportunity to air the issues as they are seen among fellow experts, and the Forum will enable all stakeholders to contribute their unique perspective to the discussions and help the global community chart a common course forward.
The preparatory process for WTPF-13 has been open and inclusive. It was led by an international expert group that was open to all stakeholders, irrespective of whether or not they were members of ITU.
The expert group recently concluded its third and final meeting and approved six draft Opinions, by consensus, for further discussion at the Policy Forum in May. These opinions cover a wide range of Internet-related global policy issues of significant relevance in today’s world – and I am confident that they will serve as a good basis for fruitful high-level discussions at WTPF-13.
Just before WTPF-13, on 13 May, we will be hosting a high-level Strategic Dialogue to discuss the importance of investment in infrastructure and the changing nature of ICT regulation.
The focus will be on broadband, and I am sure that many of the issues we discuss here in Mexico will form a key part of the inputs of that Dialogue. And the reason why I am mentioning those two important events is that I would like to invite you all to join us.
Before I close, I would like to give thanks on behalf of the whole Commission to the following organizations who have made contributions for 2013: they are Qtel (which was rebranded in Barcelona two weeks ago as Ooredoo); Microsoft; Azerbaijan; Huawei; and Cisco.
Special thanks must also go to Intel, of course, for its regular annual contribution to the work of the Commission.
We are tremendously grateful for your support and your continuing faith in the importance of this Commission and its ongoing work.
On a separate note, let me also congratulate Huawei and Microsoft – both present here in the Commission – for their partnership in developing a low-cost smartphone for Africa.
Africa remains the continent with the lowest broadband penetration in the world today, and represents enormous opportunities for those willing to seize them – so let me applaud Huawei, Microsoft and others for playing their part in getting Africa online.
I can assure you that the leadership in Africa is ready – as President Kagame told you, we have convened the first Connect Africa Summit in Kigali in October 2007, and he is convening the Transform Africa Summit this year to report back and to see how we can develop strategies to move forward.
We are very grateful to President Kagame for his leadership not only in transforming Africa and making it digital, but for ensuring that the whole continent will benefit from that.
I am also grateful to President Kagame and Carlos Slim for having attended every single meeting of this Commission, no matter where it has taken place, despite their very heavy agenda – and that shows very great commitment.
And we are relaying that commitment to the rest of the world and showing everyone.
So let me conclude by encouraging everyone to keep up the momentum – and keep shaping a broadband future.