Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure and honor for me to address this CITEL
Steering Committee Meeting. I am very grateful for the
invitation. Let me also thank Costa Rica for an effective
leadership during its presidency of COM/CITEL.
As I have said earlier during this my mission, the Americas are
a symbol of the importance of information and communication
technologies (ICTs). Your continent touches the North and the
South poles with a great divergence of people, cultures and
socio-economic developments. A farmer in Canada needs to
communicate with a rancher in Argentina.
It is a great challenge for you to be the guiding force that
sets the right policies for information and communication
technologie for this vast continent. In ITU, we have a similar
challenge at the global level; and our guiding force is the ITU
The Council this year will take place at a critical moment in
ITU’s history. As the oldest international organization in
existence, ITU has attained prominence in recent years as the
driving force behind building an inclusive information society
while encouraging global leaders to embrace the promise of
information and communication technologies (ICT).
To remain the pre-eminent organization in ICT, ITU must address
three priorities. The first is to close the digital divide by
2015. According to ITU statistics, nearly half the world’s
population will have phone connections by the end of 2007. This
is one big step forward, but the challenge for us is to make
sure the other half of the world’s inhabitants are also
connected by 2015. The second priority for ITU is cybersecurity,
and the third is emergency telecommunications.
This Council session will consist of four plenary meetings. The
first of these will cover “General policy, strategy and
planning”; and at the top of the agenda is the World Summit on
the Information Society (WSIS).
The Council will look at ITU’s role in implementing the outcomes
of WSIS, and study how to promote the participation of all
stakeholders in ITU activities related to the summit. It will
also consider the ways in which ICT can bridge the digital
divide and build an inclusive information society. One of the
proposals being made by the Working Group of the Council on WSIS
is to “rebrand” ITU and adapt its role in building the
High Level Segment
An innovation at this year’s Council will be the High-Level
Segment. It is designed to provide ministers of Member States of
the Council and councillors the opportunity to exchange views on
issues of strategic importance to the Union and on emerging
trends in the sector. This year, it will focus on cybersecurity
and ICT infrastrucuture.
Several events, which highlight ITU’s work and its initiatives
in these three key areas, have taken place since the
Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey, last November. We
will be reporting on them to the Council, and I am pleased to
share some of the highlights with you.
Bridging the divide
On 6 July 2007, we officially launched the Connect Africa
initiative. It will result in a summit to be held in Kigali,
Rwanda, on 29–30 October this year. The aim is to accelerate
partnerships and roll out ICT infrastructure and connectivity to
boost economic growth, and help achieve the United Nations
Millennium Development Goals.
I first announced this initiative on the occasion of World
Telecommunication and Information Society Day last May. To
achieve WSIS goals, urgent action must be taken. For this
reason, the Connect Africa initiative has been launched as the
starting point. It will not be just another summit with endless
debate on new resolutions. Rather, it is to be a summit of
commitments between partners.
The private sector, governments and civil society will be called
on to work together, and there will be a commitment to creating
an environment that promotes the improvement of ICT. So the
Kigali event will be the beginning of a process. And similar
summits will be planned for other regions of the world,
including the Americas, where ICT infrastructure is not fully
adequate to build momentum towards achieving the MDGs.
The Global Cybersecurity Agenda
As we build ICT infrastructure to connect the world, we have
another challenge. We need to build confidence and security in
the use of ICT. In other words, we peace in cyberspace just as
we need peace in the world.
With more than a billion Internet users today, not only is crime
in cyberspace increasing at an alarming rate, but its
sophistication is constantly evolving. Fraud and attacks on
network security are only a few of the many threats, which range
from the costly annoyance of spam to personal identity theft and
from the proliferation of child pornography to clean-up costs of
We have seen the attacks on Estonia and the more recent attack
on the United Nations Website.
Financial losses alone are estimated to run into several billion
dollars. These are some of the reasons why the second phase of
WSIS in Tunis in 2005 asked ITU to coordinate a mechanism for
building confidence and security in the use of ICT under Action
Line C5. With this mandate, I was delighted to announce on the
occasion of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day
the Global Cybersecurity Agenda: a two-year plan to curb
The Agenda is intended to create a platform where governments,
law enforcement authorities, the private sector, international
organizations and civil society can work together to defeat
cybercrime. There will be five pillars of this effort: finding
technical solutions for every environment; developing
interoperable legislative frameworks; building capacity;
establishing appropriate organizational structures, and adopting
effective international cooperation mechanisms.
The first, important step will be for every country to have a
national cybersecurity policy and response team. ITU will focus
its initial efforts on the world’s 50 least developed countries,
which are the most vulnerable.
ITU has an important role in coordinating and disseminating
information on cybersecurity activities and training. It has
started work on a practical "tool kit" to help countries assess
their level of cybersecurity and to protect it.
I expect the Americas Region to make a very valuable
contribution to the high level experts from around the world who
will identify the challenges as well as provide solutions.
As I begin my journey to Costa Rica, the papers and airwaves
were filled with news about two major disasters in Peru and the
Caribbean. A devastating earthquake and a very powerful
hurricane are destroying and changing people’s lives.
Afterwards, governments will have to assist them in rebuilding
In 2006 alone, it is estimated that 21 800 people succumbed to
natural disasters, with 95 per cent of those killed living in
least developed countries. Economic losses worth some USD
65 billion were recorded worldwide.
ITU has forged a partnership with ICO Global Communications and
the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) on using satellite
communications for improved global response to natural
disasters. Under an agreement made on 20 June this year, airtime
will be available for disaster prevention, and to help ensure an
effective response in the aftermath of natural disasters. This
will enable both voice communications and other applications,
such as telemedicine.
This is an important milestone in ITU’s effort to save human
life. Satellite communication provides a platform to deliver a
wide range of services and applications, even to remote areas.
It allows us to offer a lifeline to disaster victims and
humanitarian personnel entrusted with coordinating rescue and
relief operations, especially when terrestrial communications
infrastructure is disrupted, overloaded or destroyed.
In April this year, ITU also concluded a Memorandum of
Understanding with Télécoms Sans Frontières. Their volunteer
experts travel to disaster zones to set up emergency
communication links. It has demonstrated how telecommunications
can be used to strengthen emergency response efforts and save
lives. We encourage other telecommunication operators to join us
in using the potential of their products and services to save
I urge countries in the region to ratify the Tampere Convention,
the treaty that governs cross-border emergency
World Telecommunication and Information Society Day
I was delighted to present this year’s ITU World Information
Society Award to three eminent winners. Two are from the
Americas region: The First Lady of the Dominican Republic, Dr
Margarita Cedeño de Fernández, "for her outstanding contribution
to building an inclusive and equitable global information
society" and Mozilla Corporation of the United States, “for its
outstanding contribution to the development of world-class
Internet technologies and applications".
The Council will be approving a theme for next year’s World
Telecommunication and Information Society Day, and we look
forward to this region’s active participation.
It is important to discuss various issues concerning the
Internet, given its growing commercial and social influence. The
Council will consider ITU’s role with regard to international
public policy pertaining to the Internet and the management of
Internet resources. These fundamental resources include systems
of domain names and addresses, as well as the role of Member
States in managing multilingual domain names. In addition,
networks based on the Internet protocol (IP) will be discussed.
Deciding the budget for 2008-2009
The Management and Budget Group was established by the
Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya. It has the important task
of presenting a draft budget for the 2008-2009 biennium. Despite
the important efforts made by the ITU secretariat to increase
revenue and reduce expenditures, the draft budget for 2008-2009
can only be balanced with a withdrawal from the reserve account.
Efficiency measures were identified to cut costs further, and
certain Member States are in the process of increasing their
contributions to ITU. However, it is a challenge to balance the
books, given the increased workload of the Union while the
financial resources are in real terms declining. We are looking
for opportunities to rationalize costs and at the same time
maintain the quality of services that are provided.
Building an all inclusive Information Society
ICTs are omnipresent tools with profound implications for all
economic sectors. The way we communicate, do business or engage
in leisure activities is in constant and rapid evolution. We
have all become familiar with e-commerce, e-government,
e-learning, and e-health. ICTs facilitate everything from a
payment with a mobile phone to space travel.
We are less than eight years away from 2015.The possibility of
not meeting the Millennium Development Goals is very real. And,
given that ICTs are the key tools to achieve the MDGs, we must
meet our targets well ahead of 2015.
ITU’s challenge is to assist the world in harnessing those
tools. If we do not meet our ICT goals, the other sectors, such
health or education, are unlikely to meet their own goals. This
is why I am dedicating a great amount of resources to reach our
ICT goals by 2012.
Those 3 initiatives: building infrastructure, ensure confidence
in the use of ICTs and emergency telecommunications are
fundamental to building an all inclusive Information Society.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that what ITU is doing at the
global level should be undertaken in each region of the world,
including the Americas.
Muchas gracias América, muchas gracias CITEL y especialmente
muchas gracias Costa Rica.