ITU

Committed to connecting the world

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

​World Telecommunication Development Conference 
Opening Ceremony

30 March 2014, Dubai, UAE


عربي

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here in Dubai today. Let me offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to the United Arab Emirates for all its efforts in the excellent organization and facilities for this conference. I would like to express my thanks to the local authorities of Dubai for their very kind hospitality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I think we are all well aware of the importance of this sixth WTDC, and I am encouraged to see such a high level of participation.

What we decide and define here over the next two weeks will shape not just the future of ICT development over the next four years, but the future shape of the very world we live in.

In today’s fast-moving ICT sector, four years is a very long time. To see how long that really is, let’s look back to 2010, when we last held the WTDC, in Hyderabad, India.

Since then the ICT landscape has changed in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

We have seen the number of fixed-line subscriptions continue to fall, and there are now around 82 million fewer fixed-line subscriptions than there were at the beginning of 2010.

This fall in fixed lines has been massively more than compensated for by mobile growth over the same period – with net additions of almost 2.2 billion mobile cellular subscriptions since the beginning of 2010.

And the great news for this Conference is that almost all of this growth has been in the developing world, which accounted for 90% of the net additions – very close to two billion new mobile cellular subscriptions have been added in the past four years.

The same pattern is true of the growth in internet users, where 817 million of the one billion new internet users over the past four years have come from the developing world.

We have also seen social media continue to skyrocket. When we met in Hyderabad, four years ago, there were around 30 million users of Twitter, and 400 million users of Facebook. Today hundreds of millions of tweets are sent every day, and Facebook has over 1.2 billion users.

Does that mean our job is finished?

Of course not!

And that’s why we’re all here.

While over three quarters of people in the developed world now have access to the internet, more than two thirds of people in the developing world still do not.

In the developed world, fixed and mobile broadband penetration rates at the beginning of 2014 stood at 27.2% and 74.8% respectively. In the developing world, they stood at 6.1% and 19.8%.

Distinguished delegates,

These are powerful numbers, but they also demonstrate the extraordinary opportunities that lie ahead.

ICTs – and in particular broadband networks – offer perhaps the greatest opportunity we have ever had to make rapid and profound advances in global social and economic development.

This is of tremendous and timely importance, as we approach the cusp between the MDGs next year, and the beginning of the post-2015 development process.

And this of course is why ‘Broadband for Sustainable Development’ has been chosen as the theme for WTDC this year.

Like you, I am convinced that by extending access to broadband, countries will quickly accelerate sustainable social and economic progress.

By delivering efficiencies across so many areas – from education and healthcare to transportation, water and energy – broadband networks can quickly pay for themselves, creating a virtuous circle of investment, productivity and human development.

To help world leaders see the ways that broadband can accelerate the achievement of the MDGs, ITU and UNESCO launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, just a few weeks before we last met, in Hyderabad.

In this context, and in the context of this Conference, it is especially gratifying to see broadband access growing so rapidly in the developing world – with penetration in the developing world in terms of mobile broadband growing an incredible 50% between the beginning of 2013 and the beginning of 2014.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am an optimist, and I have tremendous faith that the public and private sectors will work together to invest in, and to roll-out, the necessary infrastructure.

They did this so well in the creation of mobile cellular networks in the developing world, and I expect to see the pattern continued for broadband.

I am also convinced that in partnership, they will also help create the necessary services that people need, and that we will quickly see enriched content developed and created that will start off a virtuous circle in stimulating demand.

As this happens, we will rapidly see broadband reach the remotest corners of our planet.

We must make sure that we do not just bring broadband to the people, but that we do so responsibly. That we preserve cyberpeace and deliver cybersecurity in a world that is always connected, and always online.

Distinguished delegates,

The output from this Conference will be fed into the ITU Strategic Plan which will be endorsed by the ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference in Korea in October.

And I hope that many of you will be there to help shape our future as an organization – and to make sure we adopt a sound strategic and financial plan for the next four years.

So over the next two weeks, let’s dream big!

Let’s be bold!

Let’s work together to develop the programmes and projects that will ensure ICTs really do deliver a better quality of life – for all the world’s people!

Thank you.