Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao​

2015 Launch Meeting : Opening Remarks

26 September 2015, New York, USA

Distinguished commissioners,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I offer you a very warm welcome to the Yale Club, and would like to thank each and every one of you for joining us here today.

This is a very exciting time for us, and for the UN, and UN Member States at large. Coinciding with the UN Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, we are gathered here today to launch the new Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

And on behalf of us all, I'd especially like to welcome the new Commissioners here today, bringing all their ideas, insights, resources and energy to the cause of 'Broadband for All'.

Over the past five years, thanks to the efforts of many of you here today, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development has done an excellent job, and made a major impact on national policy-making.

We know the Commission made a major impact because, over the course of its lifetime, there was a 50% increase in the number of countries with Broadband Plans. The number of countries with a National Plan went from under a hundred countries to 148 countries today with some form of National Broadband Plan or ICT strategy.

We've had rather more mixed success at the international level with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) themselves – although the SDGs recognize the potential of global interconnectedness and ICTs to accelerate human progress, and the vital role of ICTs is acknowledged in four Goals, broadband itself is not explicitly mentioned per se, due in part to the complexities and compromises involved in negotiating international consensus.

Nevertheless, there is still plenty of good work ahead of us to prove that broadband can provide answers to some of today's most pressing problems – indeed, that is why we are here today for the launch of the new Commission.

We need to prove that broadband is not just a "nice-to-have" addition to our everyday lives – it is a "must-have" building block for our economies and our societies. We must go from seeing ICTs as a useful gadget to seeing them as powerful enablers for improving people's everyday lives.

We need to move from neat economic studies and academic evidence about the potential contribution of broadband infrastructure to our economies. We need concrete proof of the very real difference that broadband can make in ordinary people's lives, to make the case that everyone should have access to these extraordinary technologies that can transform lives for the better.

And the video we saw at the beginning of the meeting summarised very well the case for broadband as a transformative technology.

And I count on your continuing passion, participation and involvement in spreading this message and giving more people opportunities to educate themselves, gain new skills, access jobs and new markets.

Empowering people to make the most of their opportunities offers answers to some of today's most pressing problems – including migration, social conflict and climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I'd like to ask you all to keep your remarks brief and interactive, so we can hear from everyone here.

The first Session this morning, chaired by His Excellency Minister Dr. Fred Matiang'I, Minister of Information & Communication Technology of the Government of Kenya, will cover the important developments going on right now at the UN level. This is a pivotal time for the UN, and humanity as a whole, as UN Member States and the international community unite to agree the next set of development goals.

The second Session this morning, chaired by Mr. Sunil Mittal (Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises), will lend itself to the priorities and concerns of industry in trying to roll out broadband networks to the next billion users, as well as the last billion users.

Today's debate will provide us with an opportunity to hear what the vital issues are, to which access to broadband networks and services provides much-needed solutions – and I welcome all your ideas and insights in this respect.

I now pass the floor back to Dr. Carlos Jarque in his capacity as co-Chair of this Meeting, so we can move into the substantive work programme of the meeting, we shall first be seeing a short video prepared by the Broadband Commission Secretariat summarizing the impact of broadband for the SDGs.

Thank you very much.