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ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009: Special report: Reflecting new needs and realities
Opening ceremony
photo credit: State of Geneva
David Hiler
President of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva
 
 
Wang Jianzhou
Chief Executive Officer of China Mobile
 
 
Saud bin Majed Al Daweesh
Chief Executive Officer of the STC Group
 
image
 
Pictured at the opening of ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009 are (left to right): Moritz Leuenberger, Swiss Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré
 

Political and industry leaders at ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009, held in Geneva on 5–9 October, cited increased collaboration and high-level dialogue as a positive force for the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector. The event attracted over 2250 VIPs, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Heads of State and Government, ministers, ambassadors, heads of regulatory agencies, and chief executive officers (CEO) of companies from around the world. They addressed many of the most pressing issues of our time, such as climate change, global economic recovery and cybersecurity.

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was addressed by the President of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva David Hiler, who wished all participants a successful week at ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009; ITU Secretary- General Hamadoun I. Touré; Swiss Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, Moritz Leuenberger; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of China Mobile, Wang Jianzhou, and Chief Executive Officer of the STC Group, Saud bin Majed Al Daweesh.

Concluding the ceremony was a special video message from former South African President Nelson Mandela, who said “ICT are the single most powerful tool we have for human progress.” He urged participants to support efforts to connect the world and bridge the digital divide.

“The world has changed since the last time an ITU TELECOM WORLD event took place in Geneva in 2003. Back then, we had just achieved the first billion mobile phone subscriptions. By the end of this year we will have 4.6 billion. Back then, 680 million people used the Internet. Now, the figure is 1.8 billion — and more than half have broadband access.”

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré

Communicating around the world

Dr Touré described how much the world had changed since the last time an ITU TELECOM WORLD event took place in Geneva in 2003. “Back then, we had just achieved the first billion mobile phone subscriptions. By the end of this year we will have 4.6 billion. Back then, 680 million people used the Internet. Now, the figure is 1.8 billion — and more than half have broadband access,” he said.

Dr Touré called on those present at the event from the developed world to recognize the business opportunities that were on offer. Developing countries were not, he said, coming with “a begging bowl,” but with “proposals which will work for the benefi t of all.” He called upon the developing world to “move beyond charity and aid, roll up their sleeves, get to work, and make business happen” and flourish by creating the right environment.

From Switzerland’s government, Moritz Leuenberger welcomed the event’s theme of “Open Networks, Connected Minds”, which he said emphasizes how ICT are integral to freedom of communication. “We must protect freedom of communication like we protect the environment,” he declared.

UN Secretary-General highlights the importance of ICT

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underlined that ICT are “creating new possibilities for the United Nations to achieve its goals of peace, human rights and development”. He added that ICT are also “a very vital tool for confronting a problem we face as a planet: the threat of climate change.” The UN Secretary-General said that he is pushing all countries to “seal a deal” when negotiators gather for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 7–18 December 2009. Business leaders, he said, understand that a comprehensive, fair and effective deal will power growth, helping both the environment and the economy.

“Already, ICT are being used to cut emissions and help countries adapt to the effects of climate change,” Mr Ban noted. He gave an example of how, “for decades, the United Nations has provided seeds and fertilizers to farmers in Africa. Such inputs remain essential. But now we are adding a new kind of tool: text messages.” These allow information on weather, for example, to be transmitted swiftly and widely. “Earlier this year, we teamed up with mobile phone companies and other partners to install 5000 new weather stations across Africa. These will monitor the impact of climate change. When there is news, we will be able to transmit it immediately to farmers’ mobile phones. We hope to reach as many African farmers as possible — because seven out of ten Africans rely on farming to survive,” Mr Ban explained.

Across the world, ICT are being used to raise awareness about climate change. What is more, Mr Ban said, “governments and industries that embrace a strategy of green growth will be environmental champions and economic leaders in the 21st century.”

“Our presence at this important event gives us a unique opportunity to exchange views, share experiences and get a first-hand view of key ICT trends.”

An African perspective

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda expressed similar sentiments. “We witness every day further evidence that environmental protection and economic development are inseparable as we invest in innovative solutions to save our planet,” he said. He went on to underline how the powerful theme of ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009 — Open Networks, Connected Minds — had a particular meaning for Africa, even though it is a latecomer in embracing ICT and starting businesses in that sector.

Highlighting developments since ITU’s Connect Africa Summit, held in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, in October 2007, President Kagame said that there has Opening ceremony been tremendous investment in communications infrastructure in Africa, worth billions of US dollars. The impact has been important in a number of ways. “Firstly, we have seen a reduction in charges averaging 30 per cent, thereby enabling more people to access communication services and improve their livelihoods. Secondly, these investments have produced returns of over USD 40 billion for the investors. Thirdly, these investments have contributed significantly to the expansion of our nations’ tax bases, creation of small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as new jobs,” Mr Kagame explained. Finally, he added, the new infrastructure is proving to be a very powerful tool for regional integration, as it links individual countries while also connecting them to international gateways.

In the Rwandan context, there have been significant developments since the Connect Africa Summit, the President said, adding that over half-a-billion US dollars have been invested in communication infrastructure — 70 per cent of which was private investment. “These billions of dollars in investment and returns in Africa are neither aid nor loans that lead to national debt traps. This remarkable progress in Africa and in Rwanda is due to an improving business environment, better policies, enhanced public-private partnership and increased efforts in skills development for our workforce,” President Kagame stated.

“The short message service (SMS) continues to make people’s lives more convenient. At present, China Mobile handles over 1.8 billion SMS per day.”

China’s progress

Describing how ICT have become an indispensable part of people’s lives, China Mobile’s CEO Wang Jianzhou said that “in China, from the remote islands to the Himalayas, even ordinary farmers can now use wireless networks to get the information they need in real time, including prices of agricultural products.”

Telecommunication operators in China began rolling out third-generation (3G) networks early this year. This has greatly promoted the development of equipment and created a lot of job opportunities, said Mr Wang.

He explained how the short message service (SMS) continues to make people’s lives more convenient. “At present, China Mobile handles over 1.8 billion SMS per day,” Mr Wang said, and reading material is one of the most popular forms of content. “Over 40 million people now subscribe to the Mobile Newspaper service operated by China Mobile,” he commented.

On climate change, Mr Wang noted that ICT could also play its role in energy conservation and the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions. But the industry must start by examining its own performance. “We used to believe that the telecommunication industry has low energy consumption; however, following the construction of numerous base stations and abundant utilization of servers, power consumption has become one of the major operating costs and needs to be lowered,” Mr Wang said. He explained that China Mobile has launched a “Green Action Plan, which aims to lower energy consumption via technical measures, including adjusting equipment, adopting natural wind cooling and water cooling, recycling packaging materials, and promoting renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.”

Mr Wang stressed that greenhouse-gas emissions can also be reduced through the positive impact of interconnected objects and processes in “the Internet of things”. He said that “today, with the expansion of telecommunication networks (especially wireless networks) and the development of sensor technology, we have a more mature environment for promoting the Internet of things.” This, he said, will lead to greater efficiencies in many processes, and thus conservation of energy.

A first-hand view of key trends

Saud Al Daweesh, Group CEO for STC, said: “It is a great pleasure to be part of ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009, especially among such distinguished participants, and to witness this high level of interest in telecommunications and in the IT sector. Our presence at this important event gives us a unique opportunity to exchange views, share experiences and get a firsthand view of key ICT trends. At STC, we are pleased to share some of our achievements and highlight the international experience we have gained from our fast-growing operations in ten countries around the world.”

 

All photos are by P. Christin/ITU, D. Keller/ITU, V. Martin/ITU, and F. Rouzioux/ITU unless indicated otherwise

 

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