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Panel Discussion on "ICT for Development – A follow up to the World Summit on the Information Society"
United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
22 May 2007

Remarks by ITU Deputy Secretary-General Mr Houlin Zhao 

Mr. President,
Excellencies,
Distinguished guests
Ladies, and gentlemen,

Let me first of all, thank you for this opportunity to address you today at this first meeting organized jointly by the Global Alliance for ICT and Development and the Commission on Science and Technology for Development.

ITU welcomes this meeting as it aims to expand the involvement of the private sector in the work of the United Nations.

ITU also supports the selected theme for this joint meeting, INNOVATION, as it is an excellent feature of our common concerns in the framework of the WSIS follow-up.

Innovation in the ICT industries has caused major changes on the international economic arena. As you know, quite a few countries that have made strong efforts to build an ICT industry have made a successful advance into the group of industrialized countries.

Innovation is one of the driving forces of the information economy. The innovation cycle is extremely fast. New products are emerging constantly with added values and new sources of revenues. Innovation is one reason why the sector continues to be so dynamic and exciting.

But this constant evolving dynamic also makes our task more challenging. Our goals in implementing the WSIS outcomes are continually progressing, particularly in terms of quality, speed, affordability of ICT access.

Of course, access to information and communication technologies continues to increase impressively - in terms of mobile subscribers, fixed telephone lines and Internet users-, but at the same time, the world is still separated by major differences in terms of ICT levels. As newer technologies emerge (such as 3 G and broadband) many countries risk falling behind. The digital divide is an evolving concept.

Innovation also raises a broad range of issues which should constitute the platform for your discussions today:

  • Which role should States play in fostering ICT innovation?
  • How to build a strong policy framework that will stimulate ICT innovation, and promote investment in small and medium enterprises without favoring specific technologies?
  • How to build, in developing countries, a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the ICT sector?
  • How to create the mechanism within industry, universities, government and civil society for encouraging and supporting innovative and entrepreneurial behavior and initiatives in the field of ICTs?
  • How can innovation in ICTs help us to address the need of the poorest?

Most importantly this theme can constitute an excellent talking point for a common mobilization of all WSIS stakeholders around the following possible actions:

  • Creating ICT innovation awareness by exchanging information on successful success stories;
  • Establishing mechanism to disseminate information on international ICT innovation activities;
  • Developing national ICT innovation funds to support the development of new ICT products, services and applications that meet the needs of developing countries;
  • Creating stronger linkages between universities, public and private sectors to support ICT research and development,
  • Harnessing research and development through the existing Centers of excellence to explore new concepts and develop new applications, in the area of rural infrastructure, ICT local application, e-commerce, e-administration etc...
  • Supporting incubators
  • Encouraging commercialization of ICT application created by small local private sectors entities etc..

ITU can offer its experience and expertise.

At ITU we have a long history in working with the private sector. Through a system of “Sector Membership”, nearly 700 private companies help to guide and strengthen ITU’s work in the field of standardization, spectrum management and development of ICTs.

ITU has traditionally provided a forum where equipment manufactures, network operators, service and application providers and others concerned with the development of ICTs can discuss together the development of new market opportunities and learn from each other’s experience. Technological change is our business.

We are also strengthening our relationships with the world of science, i.e. research institutions and institutions of higher education, specializing in telecommunications/ICTs.

Recently ITU launched a series of initiatives that open the door to further work in the area of ICT innovation in developing countries:

Through the Connect the World initiative, ITU launched with Grameen Bank a virtual, global ‘ICT Empowerment Network. It will include the development and implementation of ICT Solutions, such as devices and low cost connectivity and access solutions.
The objective is to create a vital link between ICT designers and the more than one billion people currently without access to information and communication technologies. Collaboration between participating private sector R&D teams and NGOs, community leaders and potential users will support an improved understanding of the needs of those in un-served markets. This will in turn yield practical and sustainable new solutions that meet those needs and make a difference.

Together with CISCO, ITU also established Internet Training Centres which aim to help developing countries meet their human resource requirements for skilled Internet and "new economy" professionals. With Grameen Bank we teamed up to provide eligible graduates of ITU’s Internet Training Centres with business plan mentoring and micro-credit start-up capital to launch their own ICT-related businesses such as computer repair shops, internet or mobile phone service providers, community telecentres etc.

Mr. President,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Guest,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Maintaining the momentum of a Summit will require as much energy and commitment as we spent since the impetus for the Summit on the Information Society began with a resolution adopted by the 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunication Union.

The challenge now, is to meet the targets for connectivity by 2015 to spread the benefits of ICTs.

The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society will guide the Union in the years to come. ITU is committed by playing its role as contributors to the Action Line, Facilitator of Action Line C2 and C5 as well as serving as Chair of the United Nations Group of the Information Society.

The Union is looking forward to working with all stakeholders to mobilize every effort to use ICTs to contribute to overall development and progress.

I wish you a successful meeting.

 

 

 

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