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Strategy Council Meeting of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development
Intel Headquarters – Santa Clara, California, USA
27 February 2007

Address by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here today in this very appropriate setting.

In the late 1840s, miners from around the world flocked to California seeking gold. But the gold ore soon ran out.

Some 150 year later, a new form of gold was found in this area.  The marriage of telecommunications with computing gave birth to the Internet and the Information Society.   Silicon Valley, where we sit today, became the symbol for the ICT revolution.

It is also very appropriate that we meet today at the headquarters of a private company.

The private sector is a key player in the world of ICT.  In recognition of that fact, the CEO of Intel spoke at the opening ceremony of the Tunis phase of WSIS.  I thank Craig Barrett for his hospitality in hosting this meeting and his support for WSIS.

The challenge before us is to spread the benefits of ICTs throughout the world.  And that will require the concerted actions of all stakeholders; government, private sector and civil society and the involvement of the UN system.

The ITU is proud to be a leader in this process. For more than 140 years, the mandate of the ITU has been to connect the world.  Our Member States have recognized for more than 2 decades that ICTs are a key enabler of development.

The ITU mandate and work program focus on:

  • bridging the digital divide through infrastructure projects, capacity building and developing an enabling policy and regulatory environment
  • governance of  the wireless spectrum through global treaties
  • adopting standards to ensure seamless global communications

I am pleased that the Geneva Declaration expressly recognized the importance of the ITU mandate in building the Information Society.

The Tunis Phase of the Word Summit tasked ITU, along with UNESCO and UNDP, to lead the implementation process of the 11 WSIS Action Lines.

ITU has been actively implementing the WSIS outcomes:

  • The ITU World Development Conference last March in Qatar adopted the Doha Action Plan, which contained concrete programs to bridge the Digital Divide and 25 regional initiatives.
  • At our Plenipotentiary Conference last November in Turkey, 191 Member States adopted a set of resolutions to emphasize the importance of implementing the WSIS outcomes and the need for the Union to find ways to include all parties in its WSIS work.
  • ITU organized the first World Information Society Award on May 17 2006.  The recipients were:
    • President Wade of Senegal, founder of the Digital Solitary Fund
    • Professor Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
  • ITU is playing a leading role to establish the WSIS implementation mechanism on a multistakeholder basis
    • A second meeting of Action Line facilitators will be held on May 25 in Geneva to review and coordinate the work. More than 3000 projects have been reported to the WSIS stocktaking database. 
    •  The UN Group on the Information Society was established in April 2006 by the CEB.  ITU is chairing UNGIS during its launch year.  The Group met last June and established a work program designed to maximize the resources of the UN system in bridging the Digital Divide.

The success of e-applications rests on building an inclusive, fair and affordable communications network at the national and global level.

The challenge is to make the maximum use of new technologies so as to avoid a widening of the Digital Divide.

ICT will not help achieve the MDGs unless there is a level playing field.  A bicycle cannot compete with a jet plane.  A country with high-cost, low quality Internet access cannot compete with a nation that offers inexpensive broadband to all its citizens and companies.

There are some disturbing trends.

  • ITU has just released its ICT Opportunity Index, which uses ten indicators to better measure and compare access to ICTs
  • The Index shows that the divide between the 29 economies that have achieved a high level of access to and use of ICTs and the 63 economies that have minimal levels of access to the Information Society has increased over the five-year period 2001-2005.
  • While the uptake in mobile phones is impressive in developing countries, quality access to Internet is lagging

ITU is focusing its work and projects on technologies that can reverse this trend.

  • ITU has a number of projects to promote broadband in developing counties, in particular to rural and undeserved areas.
  • A regional initiative to develop broadband access and broadcasting networks for regional interconnectivity in Africa (no. 3)
  • A regional initiative in the CIS countries on implementation of e-applications based on broadband technologies (no. 3
  • Next Generation Networks or NGN, are a technology that provides a great opportunity to improve communications.  NGN was the topic of the recent Global Symposium for IT Regulators, organized by ITU in Dubai earlier this month.
  • NGN offers operators the possibility to make better use of their resources by rolling out and operating a single network instead of several separate networks.
  • With most developing countries still plagued by the cost to provide access and roll-out traditional fixed networks, NGN may be an answer to boost deployment cost-effectively and therefore increase access.

ITU has many projects and partnerships to expand ICTs throughout the world, but we are constantly seeking new partners and support and reaching out to all stakeholders. 

  • Resolution 124 of the Plenipotentiary Conference calls for close cooperation between ITU and NEPAD on ICT matters
  • Program 3 of the Doha Action Plan call for projects to build multipurpose community telecenters (MCTs)
  • We have many projects with CISCO, which just announced a 1 million USD grant to support ITU activities to provide more people with access to ICTs
  • ITU, through its “Connect the World” Initiative, signed an agreement with Grameen Bank, to launch a virtual “ICT empowerment Network”. One of the priorities of this network will be to use the expertise of the private sector in areas such as device design and wireless access to develop ICT solutions for the poor.

We must continue to be forward-looking if we are to meet the challenges of tomorrow.  Let me give you an example.

Twenty years ago in Mali, my home country, few citizens had a mobile phone or even dreamed of owning one.  Times change and the number of mobile phone subscribers in the world has doubled in the last two years, to 2 billion subscribers.

As a sign of the times, the Government of Mali just passed a law prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving.

More generally, we need to consider the overall impact of the communications revolution on our societies, so that our advice and polices meet the needs of future generations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • GAID is an important initiative and can make a valuable contribution if it takes a targeted and focused approach to the challenges before us and sets realistic priorities and objectives.
  • GAID must avoid duplication and complement the rich implementation structure established by world leaders at WSIS.
  • GAID  needs to reflect the synergies being developed among the UN agencies and their work program through UNGIS.

The WSIS process has helped us to broaden our common understanding of the Information Society revolution and to realize that ICTs are not only about techniques and technologies, but also about people and their potential.

ITU welcomes the challenge of working with other entities in making that potential a reality.




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