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Panel discussion on "Information Society: New Perspectives for Post -WSIS Scenarios"
Geneva, Switzerland
5 July 2007

Opening Remarks by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen
 
It is a great pleasure for me to be here this afternoon to address the topic on the “Information Society: New Perspectives for Post-WSIS Scenarios”.
 
I see many old friends around me today on the panel and I look forward to their comments.
 
It is now almost 2 years since the Tunis Summit took place.
 
Our key objective must be to ensure that we  reach the WSIS targets by 2015 to connect the world. This will demonstrate that ICTs are a powerful tool for development and help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
 
WSIS created a very rich and diverse mechanism for implementation and follow of the Summit. We are still fine-tuning that model to find the best and most efficient arrangements.
 
At the international level, the implementation mechanism provided by the Tunis Agenda is taking shape under the 11 Actions Lines, with designated UN Agencies facilitating the process.
 
Two rounds of Action Line Facilitation meetings have taken place since WSIS, gathering all stakeholders. As a result, long term work plans have been defined and partnerships and projects have already emerged.  ITU, along with UNESCO and UNDP, is playing the lead role to coordinate the Action Line process.
 
At the inter-agency level, ITU was pleased to chair the new United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) this past year.  The mandate of UNGIS is to coordinate substantive and policy issues facing the United Nations system in its implementation of the outcomes of the WSIS.  UNGIS will hold its second meeting on 17 July in Paris and UNESCO will be the new Chair.
 
While we tend in the UN system to focus on global actions, in the area of WSIS I am pleased to inform you that big steps are being taken at the national level and regional levels. For example:

  •  In May, Nigeria launched its first Telecommunication Satellite
  •  the second African Internet Registrar has been accredited to ICANN
  •  an Internet security Master Plan has been launched in Singapore


On the occasion of the celebration of the second World Telecommunication and Information Society Day on 17 May 2007, the ITU, in cooperation with its Members States, launched a web portal highlighting progress on WSIS implementation at the national level.
 
I have been impressed by the information received. This portal provides access to more than 40 national reports which include comprehensive descriptions of the national mechanisms established to advance WSIS objectives, as well as information on e-strategies and key initiatives undertaken since WSIS in Tunis 2005.
 
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen
 
While there is a lot of post- WSIS meetings and activity, I must share my concern that not enough is being achieved.
 
In the developing world, the growth in mobile phones is not being matched by expansion of affordable broadband access.  Risks associated with cyber crime increase daily and the costs of cybersecurity are mounting.  Our increasingly networked world is increasingly vulnerable to network attacks and the attacks are becoming more frequent and more powerful.
 
In a time when UN agencies have declining resources, we need to set priorities and help countries make the right choices in the fast-moving world of technology.  The landscape of the ICT world is littered with flawed technologies and failed companies.  One of our key roles must be to provide the best possible policy advice to our membership.  The possibilities offered by innovation must be balanced against careful choices and respect for national and local needs.
 
The principle of inclusiveness was one of the “innovations” in the WSIS process.   Inclusion can help us avoid mistakes in the market for new technology.
 
I doubt that many of you would have predicted 10 years ago that close to one million people would earn their living today through E-Bay.  The Apple I-pod was met with scorn by critics when it first came to market.  So it is often the case that consumers, voting in the marketplace through their purchases, are the best guide as to which technologies and services will succeed.   
 
ITU itself has a long experience with the involvement of the private sector in its work, through more than 700 Sector members and Associates who are part of the membership of the Union.   We are now actively studying ways to involve new voices and actors in our WSIS-related work. 
 
Equipment manufacturers, network operators, service and application providers and others concerned with the development of ICTs discuss together, within ITU, the development of new market opportunities and learn from each other’s experience. Technological change and innovation is at the heart of ITU‘s business.
 
As the main organizer of WSIS, ITU is committed to achieve the WSIS goals and to develop partnerships to maximize our efforts.
 
To increase momentum and achieve concrete results, I have announced 2 major initiatives.
 
These initiatives will demonstrate how we can join our forces, benefit from each other’s expertise, and find ICT solutions that will foster development and economic growth.
 
The first initiative is the Cybersecurity Agenda.  This is a 5 point program to improve cybersecurity and combat the growing problem of cyber crime.
 
The second initiative is called Connect Africa.
 
In October this year in Rwanda, leaders from government and industry will come together and commit themselves to a comprehensive Plan and funding to provide access to communications to all citizens in the African continent and to expand affordable broadband access.  I hope this initiative can then spread to other regions.
 
While the pace of technological change is constantly accelerating, the centuries old problems of hunger, poverty and disease persist.
 
We must find a way to reconcile the two, so that technology truly serves mankind.
 
I look forward to a lively discussion.


 

 

 

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