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UNDESA-GAID Strategy Council Meeting 
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
18 May 2008

Address by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

The world we live in is increasingly being characterized as a global Information Society, where the importance of extending access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is considered vital for social development and economic growth. The experiences of many countries show that the ICTs have the potential to impact the economic dynamics, including job creation, enterprise development, income sustainability, innovation. They also boost social and community development as well as build cultural identity. In this century the ability to use ICTs becomes a key skill that determines not only the employability but influences all life style. Access to ICTs is often a precursor of access to knowledge, which in turn determines economic success.

The ITU is committed to connecting the world and one of the main our missions is to enable evolution of telecommunications and information networks around the world, so that everywhere, people can actively participate in the global information society. That is why it is not surprising that ITU whose mandate is to extend the benefits of ICTs to all of the world’s inhabitants, took the leading role in organization of the key event of this decade - the World Summit on the Information Society held in two phases - in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005.

As we may know, at the Summit the ICT leaders from all over the world made commitments compiled in the Geneva Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action, setting out a vision for the future development of the information society and the Tunis Commitment and Tunis Agenda for the Information Society as a clear basis for implementation. The world leaders also agreed on a set of targets that include connecting all villages, towns and cities of the world by 2015. They also recognized the role of ICT in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which range from halving extreme poverty to putting all children into primary school and improving literacy and health care, promoting gender equality and ensuring environmental sustainability - all by 2015.

Now, we have only seven years left to meet the Millennium Development Goals target date of 2015, but ITU is even more ambitious in aiming to connect the unconnected by 2012. We know that we cannot meet this challenge alone and we count on all WSIS stakeholders to join in bringing together the necessary forces make this goal a reality.

Since the Tunis Phase of WSIS, much progress has been already made. Many initiatives, actions, projects have been launched since 2005, bringing tangible effects in terms of the connectivity, enabling environment, capacity building, ICT applications and cybersecurity.

Just released, new edition of the WSIS Stocktaking Report 2008, draws attention to some of the flagship initiatives, which prove that the commitments made by the governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector in 2005 in Tunis are followed by continuously increasing dedication to the work on building inclusive Information Society as well as achieving the WSIS as well as Millennium Development Goals.

One of the best examples showing the extent of the commitment is the Connect Africa Summit, the first of the ITU’s Connect the World series, held in Kigali last year. The willingness to invest in the telecommunication markets of the developing world was clearly demonstrated at the Summit, with 55 billion dollars committed to developing ICT infrastructure on the African continent.

As has been done in Africa, ITU plans to continue mobilize like-minded stakeholders in each region along with global players, to create win-win partnerships and work together on concrete actions and projects to expend ICT networks and access as a means of spurring investment, employment and broader social and economic development.

Nevertheless the Connect the World initiative is only one of the mechanisms coming out of the World Summit on the Information Society. All eleven WSIS Action Lines are intended to assist in achieving greater connectivity around the world and the ITU continues to carry out numerous activities relevant to all of them and following special mandate given during the WSIS process to take the lead role in two Action Lines, namely “Information and communication infrastructure” (Action Line C2) and “Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs” (Action Line C5). These two WSIS Action Lines for which ITU is sole Facilitator are closely related to the ITU’s work towards its strategic goals of “Bridging the Digital Divide” and “Safeguarding Networks”.

ITU carries out numerous activities related to the facilitation of ICT infrastructure development, giving emphasis to the development of large - scale regional and national initiatives.

As for Cybersecurity, it is essential for the ITU to ensure that the progress made in the use of ICTs as a vehicle for social and economic development is not disrupted by emerging threats to the information society. To address these threats, I launched last year the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, an ITU framework for international cooperation, aimed at proposing strategies for solutions to enhance confidence and security in the information society.

The potential for ICTs as a catalyst for economic and social development is enormous, but things change quickly in the ICT sector and it is sometimes hard to keep up. Given the rapid changes in information technology it is essential for small countries to develop common strategies to confront increasing global economic challenges and turn those challenges into opportunities.

The key component of the information society is universal access. I strongly believe that everyone must have equal right and the opportunity to participate in the digital age. And no one should be denied the potential benefits of new information and communication technologies (ICT), not least because they are hampered by their disabilities. As ICT bring a range of innovations in the workplace, at home and in every facet of our lives, these benefits must also be harnessed for the benefit of persons with disabilities. On 17 May 2008 we were celebrating the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, with this year’s theme of “Connecting People with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All”. In our mission to connect the world we must make sure that no one is left out.

The ITU is welcoming the growing number of 2007 activities reported by the UNDESA-GAID, which we see as an excellent result of the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders involved in the work with UNDESA-GAID. We are confident that this would not be possible without deep involvement of the Mr Craig Barret, Chairmen of Intel Corp. and UNDESA-GAID as well as dedication and continuous support to the activities of Mr Sha Zukang, Under-secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

We also note that thanks to the extensive work of the UNDESA-GAID staff the number of the partners is continuously growing. Many of them are coming from the civil society, which makes us believe that GAID, as UNDESA initiative, becomes an attractive platform for multi-stakeholder activities, giving to its partners, including civil society, the opportunity to mainstream the ICT issues to the global development agenda. We strongly believe that this mechanism, gradually improved, will lead to better reflection of the voice of the civil society in the works of the UN family.

Having said all that I am ensuring you that the ITU is committed to connecting the world and will continue to work to mobilize the technical, financial and human resources needed to make the global information society a reality.

We encourage all stakeholders - manufacturers, service providers, international organizations, public and non-governmental organizations as well as policy makers - to join the forces and use all possible means to connect everyone and create more fair world with equal opportunities for the citizens of our planet.

 

 

 

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