It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Yerevan today and it is a tremendous honour for me to have been made an Honorary Doctor of this fine institution.
It is also a particular pleasure to be speaking to you here in Russian, as it brings back many happy memories of my own university studies in Moscow and Leningrad, and of my participation in the ITU’s very successful Connect CIS event which took place in Minsk last November.
This is a vibrant and thriving region, and Armenia itself has witnessed spectacular growth in information and communication technologies – and especially in mobile cellular communications.
In the five years to the beginning of 2009, mobile cellular subscriptions in Armenia grew at over 90% annually, to reach 100% mobile teledensity by the beginning of last year – giving Armenia the third highest penetration in the whole CIS region, behind only Russia and Ukraine.
With Armenia ranked second in the world in terms of the number of IT certifications received per capita, behind only the USA (according to the Brainbench Global Skills IQ Report for 2006), this comes as no surprise.
And last year, even as recession hit the economy, the nation’s major ICT companies generated revenues of over 400 million US dollars – showing that once again, ICTs are part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
The next big leap forward for Armenia and for the CIS region will be broadband, which has become vital for social and economic progress in the 21st century.
High-speed, always-on, broadband access is an increasingly critical platform for business activity of all kinds, as well as for the delivery of services ranging from e-health, e-education and e-government, to entertainment and interpersonal interaction.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, Armenia still has relatively low internet penetration and only a tiny number of broadband subscribers.
Some might see this as a challenge, but I see it as a tremendous opportunity for Armenia – perhaps the greatest opportunity it has ever known in terms of kick-starting tremendous social and economic progress.
I am therefore delighted to see that Armenia has recently embarked on a comprehensive national broadband strategy, which will see network rollout starting later this year.
The new network – which I understand will comprise a mix of fibre-optic, wireless and satellite technologies – should see Armenia leap ahead, as it benefits from world-class ICT infrastructure, and moves further towards creating a true knowledge economy.
Armenia has set out ambitious targets, and I am confident they will be met. You have everything it takes: political will, tremendous energy, and great reserves of human brainpower – especially in institutions such as this one!
And I think even the most optimistic amongst you will be amazed by what you will achieve during the next decade.
Partly this is because research consistently shows that investment in any sort of ICTs has a direct positive effect on GDP growth – and higher-end technologies, such as broadband networks, have been shown to deliver the greatest benefits.
So, for example, while a 10% increase in mobile teledensity seems to increase GDP by some 0.7 percentage points, the same increase in broadband penetration can boost GDP by an average of 1.3%.
Broadband networks also deliver benefits across society as a whole, of course, with improvements in services and reductions in costs – particularly in sectors such as healthcare, education, energy and transport.
Indeed, recent estimates show that in most developed countries, cost savings of just 0.5% to 1.5% over ten years, in these four key sectors alone, can justify the entire cost of building national point-to-point, fibre optic networks.
This is why ITU has launched its ‘Build on Broadband’ initiative, and why we are proud to be playing a key role in the ‘UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development’ – with President Kagame of Rwanda as Chair, and myself and Irina Bukova, Director General of UNESCO, as co-chairs.
Broadband brings the world’s riches within reach of all the world’s people. But it also opens up new opportunities for wrong-doers, and in particular cybercriminals.
Last year, cybercriminals stole up to a trillion dollars worth of intellectual property from businesses worldwide, and many millions of individuals had their privacy violated, suffered identity theft and had their hard-earned savings stolen from them.
Governments constantly face cyberattacks – and terrorists increasingly rely not just on their weapons, but on the power of cyberspace technologies like GPS and VoIP to sow destruction.
As a result, the next major war will probably begin, not on the ground, but in cyberspace.
Given the scale of the threat – and the phenomenal harm that can be caused by even a single cyber attack – we cannot rely on ad hoc solutions or hope to survive by strengthening our defences only after attacks have occurred.
No – we must work together, to ensure a coordinated response.
This is why ITU is playing a lead role in coordinating global efforts in this area, and why we launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda in 2007.
The GCA is now in its operational phase, with a physical home in Malaysia at the headquarters of IMPACT – the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats – and I encourage all ITU Members to take advantage of these facilities.
We are also increasingly seeing children being targeted online by all manner of wrong-doers, including paedophiles.
As a result we also launched – within the framework of the GCA – the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, which has been established by ITU and other stakeholders as an international collaborative network for action to promote the online protection of children worldwide.
In collaboration with UN agencies and other organizations, we published four sets of guidelines last October, for parents, guardians and educators; policy makers; industry; and children themselves. These guidelines are available in the six UN languages and I encourage you to take advantage of the hard work which has gone into producing them.
Cybersecurity is a global issue, which can only be solved with global solutions. So one of the most important actions we must take to enhance security in cyberspace is to increase cooperation and coordination at the global level.
Existing frameworks, while good, are not in fact global. The best example is the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, which has been ratified by only 26 countries. The nature of the convention makes it hard for other countries to join.
ITU therefore offers to host international discussion – identifying aspects we can agree on (there are many); recognizing that there are many different viewpoints; and working with all stakeholders, from government, industry and civil society.
And I look forward to seeing Armenia playing an important role in these discussions – and indeed in all of ITU’s activities.