Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be with you here this morning.
2009 was a very busy and important year for the Telecommunication Development Sector – and 2010 promises to be no different.
Indeed, we got off to a very busy start with the terrible earthquake in Haiti six weeks ago, and I think we can all be proud that the Development Sector has been putting such serious efforts into helping with the disaster recovery there.
Apart from the tremendous amount of ongoing ITU-D work, the last year also saw the organizing and staging of six Regional Preparatory Meetings as well as the Global Symposium for Regulators and the Connect CIS Summit.
These last two events both took place last November, and it was my pleasure and privilege to attend them both in my capacity as Secretary-General of the Union.
The ITU Global Symposium for Regulators and the Global Industry Leaders Forum took place in Beirut. It stimulated a lively debate on regulatory issues and spoke of the pressing need for governments to open markets to greater competition, and to use incentives to stimulate investment in broadband networks.
As different industry sectors continue to converge I expect to see the GSR take on an even broader role in the future.
I was in Barcelona last week for the Mobile World Congress – along with the BDT Director, Sami Al-Basheer – and it was obvious there that we are going to need new rules, and indeed a new regulatory landscape, as different industry sectors continue to converge upon one another.
This has already been going on for some time, of course, with ICTs. Today, for example, can anyone say for sure where the boundaries lie between fixed, wireless and mobile networks? Or what the differences are between a voice call and a video clip and a piece of music, as they speed down the wires and across the airwaves as bits and bytes?
Increasingly, we are also going to find the need to look at completely different industries as they interact together
– such as telecoms and banking, or telecoms and health. I am expecting very interesting and lively debate on this issue across ITU in coming years, and especially in the Development Sector.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Almost straight after the GSR came the Connect CIS Summit in Minsk. This summit was attended by five Heads of State, a dozen Ministers, and numerous Deputy Ministers and industry leaders. It was a great success for the Development Sector and of course for the ITU as a whole.
One panel at Connect CIS was dedicated to ‘Building a broadband-enabled future’. It considered the potential opportunities offered by high-speed broadband networks, as well as some of the challenges associated with their deployment.
It has therefore been very encouraging to see recent studies which show that in some countries broadband networks can quickly pay for themselves – simply through the savings made in other sectors such as health, education, energy and transport.
In just these four sectors, it has been estimated that cost savings of just 0.5% to 1.5% over ten years could justify the cost of building high-speed, point-to-point fibre optic networks across whole countries.
Indeed, as I said in Barcelona last week, we will need the most powerful ICT tools available to us if we are to achieve the WSIS targets and the Millennium Development Goals.
This has been one of the driving forces behind ITU’s new ‘Build on Broadband’ initiative, and I have been very pleased to see the high priority accorded to broadband in the Development Sector. Indeed, BDT has been giving high priority to broadband rollout in all its activities.
Specific initiatives include the large-scale wireless broadband infrastructure project that came out of the Connect Africa Summit, and which is taking place in 11 African countries. Hopefully such projects will be replicated in other African countries, and in other regions too.
Members of the Advisory Group,
I hardly need to remind you about what an important year this is for ITU-D, with the quadrennial World Telecommunication Development Conference taking place in Hyderabad, India, in just three months’ time.
A tremendous amount of work has already gone into this year’s WTDC, notably with the regional preparatory meetings which took place around the world over the past year.
The outcomes of the RPMs will be taken as key priorities at the WTDC – which will itself determine the agenda for the Development Sector over the next four years.
I am confident that the work you do during this meeting – and the WTDC itself – will set new high standards for the Telecommunication Development Bureau to achieve, and that the BDT will make every effort to achieve the ambitious goals which will be set for it.