Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me immense pleasure to be here in India on the occasion of the 7th NTA ICT World Communication Awards, hosted by the Communication, Multimedia And Infrastructure Association of India, with the support of the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization and the Government of India as well as several industry associations.
These awards have been running since 2007, and play a very important role in recognizing the contributions made right across the ICT sector towards nation-building and enabling governmental policies in extending the benefits of communications technologies to every man, woman and child in this great country.
The CMAI, with 48,500 members and 54 MOU partners across the globe, is the largest ICT Association in India, and covers the entire spectrum of the ICT sector – including fixed and mobile operators; manufacturers; ISPs and broadband operators; infrastructure and telecom service providers; and businesses which drive applications, innovation, education, healthcare and so much more.
I am very pleased to be able to report that CMAI and ITU APT paid special attention to Girls in ICT Day on 25 April. This day is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday in April to empower and encourage girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs, and I am especially happy to see several initiatives in India in this direction.
Indeed, CMAI, as part of its CSR activities, has a special focus for the promotion of ICT amongst girls. It also has MOUs with several Universities and Colleges where scholarships and assistance are provided, and there is a special scheme for girls and women for free training in ICT in rural areas.
CMAI also extends its support through participation in delegations abroad for ICT conferences and exhibitions by subsidizing costs for girls.
Let me therefore urge CMAI and all the delegates here present to continue to work to empower girls through ICT – and to make Girls in ICT Day a permanent feature every year, not just here in the capital but also across the various states and provinces. ITU would be very happy to support such initiatives.
These 7th NTA ICT World Communication Awards will identify and recognize outstanding contributions to the field of communications, ICTs, multimedia and infrastructure, offering well-deserved congratulations to companies which have shown outstanding research, development and innovations in the ICT sector.
As we have seen from past awards, this process does more than simply recognizing great work already done; it also provides encouragement and impetus to players right across the sector to continue working towards building a robust ICT sector, and improving the lives of citizens right across India.
I am very happy to be sharing the presentation of the awards today with so many highly-placed individuals from the government and from the private sector.
It is also a great pleasure to see so many delegates in the audience today. I was here in New Delhi for last year’s awards, and I am delighted to see once again that they continue to be organized on such an impressive scale.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Over the past twenty years or so, we have seen an extraordinary transition from a world where most people did not have access to even basic telecommunications, to a world where we have over 6.4 billion active mobile cellular subscriptions and where more than 2.5 billion people use the Internet.
The key to this extraordinary communications miracle has of course been mobile, which has conquered the globe and brought ICTs within reach of virtually all of the world’s people – in an incredibly short space of time.
India itself is one of the largest and fastest-growing ICT markets in the world, with over 900 million active mobile cellular subscriptions and mobile penetration approaching 75% by the beginning of this year.
This is a quite extraordinary achievement, when you think that just ten years ago, at the beginning of 2003, there were only 13 million mobile cellular subscriptions in the whole of India!
One of the reasons for India’s success, of course, is that it can boast some of the most affordable tariffs in the world for voice calls and text messages.
This unique affordability has created huge opportunities for social and economic development right across the country, and has provided the framework for India’s long-term sustainable development.
This is true for people in every walk of life, including those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.
India’s incredible ICT success story has been driven in large part by the pro-competitive regulatory and policy initiatives undertaken by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the TRAI, and the Department of Telecom, DOT.
It is now clearly time to do for broadband what has already been done for mobile, and I am pleased to note that India has been making active steps in this regard – notably with the National Broadband Plan, with the National Telecommunication Policy 2012 (and in particular ‘Vision Broadband on Demand’), and with Convergence Licensing and a technology-neutral spectrum policy.
The importance of bringing everyone online is one of the main reasons why ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development three years ago.
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.
Just a few weeks ago, the most recent meeting of the Commission, in Mexico City, endorsed a new advocacy target, to achieve gender equality in access to broadband by 2020 – and I am confident that India will be one of the first countries to achieve the target, and will harness the power of broadband to empower women and girls.
These annual awards also play an important part in raising awareness and improving access – because in recognizing important feats in the ICT sector they also help companies formulate the way forward for the Indian ICT sector.
India has been at the forefront of the ICT revolution for some time, and I have no doubt about the proactive role India is playing to shape the ICT policies in the region, and indeed across the world.
Before I close, I would like to mention this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, WTISD, which will be celebrated in Geneva and around the world on 17 May.
The theme of this year’s WTISD, ‘ICTs and improving road safety’, draws attention to the power of ICTs to help reduce the estimated 1.3 million traffic-related deaths and up to 50 million road-related injuries that occur every year.
Here in India, the rate of traffic-related fatalities is around 11 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is better than USA, at 12.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, and much better than the global average of 20.8.
That said, India still has a rate of 315 fatalities per 100,000 vehicles, and – with its very large population – has the highest absolute number of fatalities in the world, accounting for around one in ten of all traffic-related deaths globally every year.
Let me therefore urge CMAI, and all the delegates here present, to work to leverage the power of ICTs to bring down the numbers, and to make India’s roads safer through the power of technology.
At ITU, we have been leading worldwide efforts in developing state-of-the-art ICT standards for Intelligent Transport Systems and driver safety, and I hope that this year’s WTISD events will help to raise awareness of this important issue.
For today, I am delighted to be a part of the 2013 NTA ICT World Communication Awards, which I am sure will have a long-lasting impact on ICT development and international telecom policies – both here in India and around the world.