Good afternoon – and good morning to those of you in the Americas, and good evening to those of you in Asia-Pacific,
I am very pleased to be able to join you on this first conference call for the Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Finance and Investment.
There is no doubt that finance and investment is an absolutely crucial issue where broadband is concerned. Indeed, it is absolutely essential – if we are to be able to unlock the full promise and potential of this transformative technology.
We saw tremendous enthusiasm for this subject at our most recent meeting, in New York last September – and I am delighted to see the creation of this new Working Group, which enjoys broad support from right across the Commission.
This comes as no surprise to me.
Just twenty years ago, investments in telecom networks were the concern of governments alone.
The changing nature of the sector – and in particular liberalization, privatization and competition – increasingly shifted the responsibility towards industry, and over the past two decades we have seen ICT networks become highly commercial enterprises.
Today, however – in particular following the credit crunch and the financial crisis – there is general agreement that the public and private sectors are going to have to work hand-in-hand together, if we are going to leverage the full benefits of broadband.
This is partly due to the sheer scale of the subject – broadband needs to become ubiquitous and affordable to all – and partly because today’s networks are already being used for so much more than merely commercial ends: they are also being used as platforms to deliver fundamental services such as education and healthcare.
I am ambitious, and I am an optimist – and I expect a lot from this Working Group.
I expect you to come up with answers to some important questions.
Questions such as:
What are – and what should be – the core investment priorities, and how should they be financed?
How can we match the long-term needs of network planning with the short-term horizons of most investments?
Who should pay? Should the industry be expected to shoulder the burden of investing billions of dollars a year – if that’s where most of the rewards end up?
Are there any promising new sources of financing that the industry can tap?
And how can we carry out better funding-gap assessments? Our recent experience at the Transform Africa Summit demonstrated the difficulties in getting accurate and meaningful data – so how can we improve that, both at the local and regional level?
There are many more questions we can ask – and many more that I hope to see answered.
But I don’t want to be prescriptive.
I want you to define the scope and purpose of this working group – and to get to grip with the issues involved – after all, you are the experts!
In closing, let me say how delighted I am that President Moreno of the Inter American Development Bank has agreed to Chair this Working Group.
Let me therefore now hand the floor to President Moreno to say a few words.