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ITU convenes unique gathering of tech & development leaders to forge new strategy for global digital connectivity

Leaders, policymakers and statistics experts from industry and government highlight catalytic role of ICTs

Mexico City, 4 December, 2013 – World leaders from government, industry and research institutions gathering this week in Mexico City for ITU’s World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS) have sent a strong message calling for the international community to explicitly prioritize information and communication technologies (ICTs) as essential to every nation’s future social development and economic growth.

The three-day symposium, which opened today, represents the world’s most important meeting of ICT data experts from around the world. More than 300 delegates, ranging from government ministers and business leaders to regulators and ICT data analysts, are participating.

Held annually by ITU, the UN specialized agency for ICTs, the WTIS reviews approaches to data gathering and processing and strives to harmonize global methodologies for measuring the key statistical ‘indicators’ that help government, industry, UN agencies and other international organizations measure progress and shape development strategies.

“Without measurement we cannot track our achievements, identify gaps which still need to be addressed, or set new goals. It is absolutely essential, as we move forward with our post-2015 development vision, that the role of ICTs in social and economic development is properly recognized in the setting of new goals, targets and indicators,” said Dr Touré.

This year’s event is hosted in partnership with Mexico’s telecommunications and broadcasting regulator, the Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT). “At a time of tremendous ICT sector transformation in Mexico, accurate statistical information is indispensable. Reliable data on access and affordability serve as the cornerstone of concrete plans to energize the sector, which is why Mexico is particularly proud to be hosting this important meeting at such a timely juncture,” said IFT President Gabriel Contreras Saldívar.

Day One featured three High-Level Debates focused around key priorities for ICT data and analysis in the lead up to the WSIS+10 Review process and post-2015 global development agenda.

Opening speakers included the Mexican Secretary for Communications and Transport, Gerardo Ruiz Esparza and Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Antonio Meade Kuribreña; IFT President Contreras Saldívar; ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré; and Dr Sam Pitroda, special advisor on ICTs to the Prime Minister of India. Speeches, photos and other information can be found on the WTIS Newsroom at: http://www.itu.int/en/newsroom/Pages/wtis13.aspx.

The high-level component of the meeting also welcomed prominent figures from the telecoms sector including Carlos Slim Helú; leading policymakers such as Alejandra Lagunes, Coordinator of National Digital Strategy with the Mexican President’s Office; expert analysts from the UN system including Professor Jeffrey Sachs, special advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals and Robert Kirkpatrick, Director, UN Global Pulse; statistical experts such as Dr Eduardo Sojo Garza Aldape, President of Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography; leading global development champions including the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, Brahima Sanou, and many others. The full speaker programme is available at: www.itu.int/en/newsroom/Pages/wtis13.aspx.

The event also incorporated a special tour led by the Mexican government to underserved communities in Mexico City designed to highlight the human face of ICT access.

ITU led the call for greater recognition of the transformational power of technology in the shape of a new UN development goal designed to bring all countries up to a minimum level of ICT access and use at affordable prices to empower business and drive growth.

Many now believe that, with hindsight, the catalytic role of ICT was not sufficiently recognized when the MDGs were set back in the year 2000. At that time, mobile cellular penetration was just 12.1%; today, it stands at 96%. At the same time, the percentage of the world population online has increased from 6.5% to almost 40%.

The need to connect people to ICTs was included in the MDG framework as subsidiary ‘target’ to Goal 8*. Now, the global technology and development community is pushing for much stronger recognition of the vital importance of ICTs to socio-economic growth.

“In today’s hyper-connected world, accurate statistics are the only way we can set benchmarks to help us measure the progress of our development initiatives,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which convenes the WTIS each year. “As the UN agency committed to connecting the world, digital inclusiveness is one of our core mandates, and this event is a key part of that effort.”

ITU collects ICT statistics for 200 economies and over 100 indicators, in partnership with its 193 Member State administrations, over 700 private sector members, and more than 60 members from the academic and R&D community.

In addition to publishing the world’s most comprehensive global ICT database, it produces the industry’s ICT statistical reference report, Measuring the Information Society (MIS), which includes a unique global ranking known as the ICT Development Index (IDI).

The IDI combines 11 statistical indicators into a single measure that can be used as a benchmarking tool to measure ICT access, use and skills in a given country, and includes indicators such as mobile cellular subscriptions, households with a computer, Internet users, fixed and wireless broadband Internet subscriptions, and basic literacy rates.

A fast-evolving global ICT landscape

Figures released recently by ITU in its 2013 Measuring the Information Society report show buoyant global demand for ICT products and services, steadily declining prices for both cellular and broadband services, and unprecedented growth in 3G uptake.

By end 2013 there will be 6.8 billion total mobile-cellular subscriptions, while an estimated 2.7 billion people will be using the Internet – though speeds and prices vary widely.

ITU figures also show that mobile broadband connections over 3G and 3G+ networks are growing at an average annual rate of 40 per cent, with 2.1 billion mobile-broadband subscriptions worldwide and a global penetration rate of almost 30 per cent by end 2013. Almost 50 per cent of all people worldwide are now covered by a 3G network.

However, an estimated 1.1 billion households worldwide – almost 60% – are not yet connected to the Internet; and 90 per cent of these are in the developing world.

Follow the WTIS event on Twitter at: #ITUdata

Speeches, photos, videos and background reports are available on the WTIS Newsroom: www.itu.int/en/newsroom/Pages/wtis13.aspx

An Executive Summary of ITU’s MIS 2013 report can be found at: www.itu.int/go/mis2013

Journalists wishing to receive a free copy of the full MIS 2013 report in PDF format should contact Sarah Parkes at the ITU Press Office: sarah.parkes@itu.int.

Download the MIS 2013 infographics at: www.itu.int/go/mis2013

Download the MIS 2013 PowerPoint presentation at: www.itu.int/go/mis2013

Download photos of WTIS at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/itupictures/sets/72157638302188344/

For more information, please visit the event website or contact: 

Sarah Parkes
Chief, Media Relations & Public Information, ITU
telephone +41 22 730 6135
tel + 41 79 599 1439
email sarah.parkes@itu.int 
Angelina Mejia
Communications Unit, IFT
telephone +52 55 5015 4012
email angelina.mejia@ift.org.mx 

*Note to editors:


Specifically Target 8F: “In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications”.

ITU statistics are widely recognized as the world’s most reliable and impartial global data on the state of the global ICT industry. They are used extensively by leading intergovernmental agencies, financial institutions and private sector analysts worldwide. ITU statistics are available at www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/statistics

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