Broadband Commission For Digital Development : Opening Remarks
23 March 2014, Dublin, Ireland
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me offer you a very warm welcome to Dublin – it is a real pleasure and a great honour to have so many of you here with us today, in this fine city.
I would like to thank Denis O’Brien, in particular, for his kind invitation, and for hosting this ninth meeting of the Broadband Commission. Your generous Irish hospitality this weekend has been absolutely tremendous!
We have been welcomed with open arms and I have been reminded time and again in the past days of the truth behind the local saying: ‘there are no strangers in Ireland; only friends you haven’t yet met’.
Before we move ahead, let me also thank President Kagame for his unwavering support of the Commission – and also for the hosting of the Transform Africa Summit in Rwanda last October, which was held to take stock of the progress to date, and to set the agenda for the coming years.
The Summit was attended by seven African Heads of State, as well as 46 Ministers and over 2,000 participants.
It focused on the theme ‘The Future Delivered. Today’, encapsulating the tremendous spirit of optimism and confidence which we see right across Africa now, and which will help drive forward broadband development and rapid social and economic progress such as we have never seen before.
The principal outcome which was adopted by the Summit was the SMART Africa Manifesto and its implementation framework, the SMART Africa Alliance – both of which were subsequently endorsed by the African Heads of State at the subsequent African Union Assembly in Addis Ababa.
The Summit noted the extraordinary progress which has already been made – in large part due to solid and continued infrastructure investment. I was also therefore very pleased that we were able to have the first physical meeting of the Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Finance and Investment here in Dublin yesterday afternoon.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As usual we have a full agenda, so I will be as brief as possible as I very much want to make sure we have plenty of time for open discussions.
We start this morning with a session on ‘Broadband and the MDGs’ – looking at where we stand today, and the shape of the sustainable development agenda moving forward.
As the millennium development goal process comes to a close, we are already well-advanced in shaping the successor framework to the MDGs.
Let me therefore strongly encourage each and every one of you to make your voice heard – louder and clearer than ever – to ensure that broadband is properly recognized as a crucial element of the development process.
During the second morning session we will be looking at the ‘Changing Role of Telecom Operators and Content Providers’, and I am confident that there will be a challenging and stimulating discussion on this topic, as we have representatives from all stakeholders here in the room today.
After lunch, our third substantive session will look at ‘Challenges and Solutions for Rural Broadband’ – a subject which is close to my own heart and close to the hearts of many of us here today.
We will then have time for an open and interactive dialogue between Commissioners on the conclusions from the three main sessions today, as well as looking at key priorities for the work of the Commission going forward.
I would like to hear your suggestions for the future activities of the Commission, and of course we will need to have a discussion on the resources needed to implement these activities.
Let me remind ourselves that the goal of the Commission is to accelerate the MDGs. We have six months before our September meeting in New York.
Over these next six months let us intensify our efforts in making sure that broadband continues to drive real progress towards meeting the MDGs, and is fully recognized as an integral part of the future sustainable development framework.
We must amplify the volume of our messaging and speak out at every available opportunity.
We have done a great job – but there is still so much more that we can do. Together!
So let me conclude here by encouraging everyone to keep up the momentum, raise the volume, and shape the broadband future.
And let me hand the floor to my co-vice-chair, Irina Bokova, Director General of Unesco.
To conclude this opening session, it is always a tremendous pleasure to welcome a new Commissioner – and I am delighted to announce that the Commission has recently been joined by the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Thank you – and that concludes our opening session.