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World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

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

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) : WSISI+10 High Level Event
High Level dialogue on WSIS and the Post-2015 Development Agenda : Panelist Remarks

12 June 2014, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Since 2003 and 2005, the WSIS process has been an important instrument driving ICT development in support of the global development agenda – and I am confident that it will continue to do so in the processes defining the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

ICTs have served as an important catalyst for accelerating progress towards the achievement of the MDGs – and ICTs are key enablers for integrating and achieving the three pillars of sustainable development: social inclusion, economic growth, and environmental sustainability. ICTs therefore need to be at the centre of every national and international agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The critical nature of ICTs as a development imperative for LDCs in particular was established in 2011, by the Istanbul Plan of Action (IPoA), which recognizes ICT networks as an infrastructure priority on a par with water, electricity and transport.

IPoA calls on the LDCs to 'significantly increase access to telecommunication services and strive to provide 100 per cent access to the internet by 2020'.

The importance of ICTs generally, and broadband networks in particular, were also acknowledged in the Outcome Document of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), noting that 'it is essential to work towards improved access to information and communications technology, especially broadband networks and services, and bridge the digital divide, recognizing the contribution of international cooperation in this regard'.

We have with us today the distinguished Minister of Rwanda, whose President, His Excellency Paul Kagame, is a true visionary and believer of ICTs as transformational and enabling tools – inspiring not just his nation, but an entire continent, to embrace ICTs as a driver of growth and development.

Distinguished colleagues,

Let me take this opportunity to commend Member States and all stakeholders who have been providing inputs to the Post 2015 Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals processes – including all of you here today as key WSIS stakeholders, who have been supporting ICTs for sustainable development from the very start.

The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, the OWG, has a truly historical undertaking, tasked with devising the blueprint for the post-2015 development framework – and I am confident that the implementation of the outcome document will help to create more equitable, resilient, prosperous and sustainable societies.

A few weeks ago I was able to participate in the High-level event on 'Contributions of North-South, South-South, Triangular Cooperation, and ICT for Development to the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda' in New York.

At the event I was pleased to see that the many and varied potential uses for ICTs for development were highlighted, including, among others:

 Creating new and decent forms of employment;

I am therefore very pleased to have with us John Davies from Intel – who is also of course a prominent member of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development – and I am looking forward to hearing his message today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Access to reliable and affordable technology and communications infrastructure is essential both for social equity and for economic productivity.

To this end, as many of you know well, ITU, together with UNESCO and its partners, through the Broadband Commission, has advocated for the development of national broadband strategies and the integration of ICTs into programmes and projects for achieving the future SDGs.

As I have said before, ICTs clearly have a significant role as an enabler in all of the focal areas identified by the Open Working Group. They can help in levelling the playing field, and they can help in allowing countries to leap-frog ahead in their development efforts.

This is very encouraging indeed – and we do hope that these messages will find their way into the final outcome document.

Distinguished colleagues,

The Information Society Technologies Advisory Group (ISTAG) Report of 2006 on 'Shaping Europe's Future through ICTs' stated that ICTs are 'the "constitutive technology" of the first half of this century, much like electricity or combustion engines have been in the past. ICT does not just enable us to do new things; it shapes how we do them. It transforms, enriches and becomes an integral part of almost everything we do'. This of course includes how we deliver development outcomes in the digital era.

The lack of ICT networks and existing digital divides – including North/South and urban/rural divides – remain key challenges.

It is therefore paramount that we continue to fully leverage the benefits of ICTs in the international policy agenda.

We missed the revolutionary potential of ICTs for development in the MDG era, and we cannot afford to make this omission again.

It is therefore through your commitment, and recommended inputs of ICTs as key enablers and corresponding goals / targets, that ICTs will have the prominent role they deserve in the future SDGs and the post-2015 UN development framework.

Let us strive for ICTs to become an integral part of our development toolkit – with the potential to accelerate and make real, inclusive and lasting improvements to the lives of all people worldwide.

And let me take this opportunity to encourage all of us, through the WSIS process – a truly multi-stakeholder process – to continue putting ICTs at the service of sustainable development for all.

Thank you.