Banner WTPF 2009

Opening remarks by Dr. Hamadoun I. TOURÉ
ITU Secretary-General

 

Minister Mario Lino,
Excellencies,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

E um enorme prazer estar hoje aqui em Lisboa junto a tantos delegados, especialmente do Governo português que é  o anfitrião deste nosso encontro.
[Translation: It is a great pleasure to be here with you today in Lisbon, and to be surrounded by so many attendees, and especially our gracious Portuguese hosts.]

Em nome da UIT, gostaría de agradecer-lhe pelo seu apoio infalível e suas calorosas boas-vindas ao acolher o Fórum Mundial sobre Políticas de Telecomunicações de 2009. Muito obrigado.
[Translation: On behalf of the ITU, I would like to thank you for your unfailing support and your warm welcome in hosting the 2009 World Telecommunication Policy Forum. Thank you.]

Thank you.

It is also a great honour to have Mario Lino, Portugal’s Minister of Public Works, Transportation and Communication, [in person] and Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society & Media, [via video message] with us to open the Forum.

Before we start, however, I would like us to share a moment of silence, in memory of Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, who passed away suddenly on 6 April. Ivy was the Minister of Communications in South Africa from 1999 until her death. 

Ivy was selfless in her dedication to bringing telecommunications not only to South Africa but to the African continent as a whole, and was instrumental in much of ITU’s work.

For me personally, she was truly a sister. We are grateful to have known her, and to have shared some of our lives with her.

Thank you, Ivy.

This is our fourth WTPF, which results from Decision 9 of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held in Antalya in 2006. Our previous Policy Forums, held in 1996, 1998 and 2001, had narrow agendas, but this edition has a much broader focus.

This reflects the rapid rate of ICT evolution, and underlines the critical importance of our sector to overall economic and social prosperity.

That’s one of the reasons why we launched the 2009 WTPF with a video contest, aimed at seeing what young people wanted to say on the future of ICTs.

This was a first for ITU, and I am delighted to report that we had a great response, with more than 30 videos being submitted from all around the world.

It was difficult to pick five winners, but after a lengthy judging process, we selected these five young people for their exceptional contributions.  We will award these young persons on Friday afternoon.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Yesterday – given the current financial and economic circumstances – we held a high-level Strategic Dialogue, with ‘Confronting the Crisis’ as the theme.

While acknowledging the very real issues facing the world – and our industry – we remained positive through yesterday’s discussions, and focused on causes for optimism, and ways forward.

We highlighted the need to ensure – even, and perhaps especially, during hard times – that all the world’s people continue to benefit from ever-greater access to ICTs, with ICT development being one of the main drivers of both social and economic progress.

We also discussed vital areas where public and private sector cooperation can make a big difference – areas such as infrastructure sharing and capacity building – and focused on staying united in finding solutions to stimulate investment and growth, and pave the way to economic recovery and development.

Indeed, if one positive thing has come out of this crisis, it is a heightened sense of the need for all of us to work together.

Over the coming three days, I now look forward to engaging with delegates across all the items on our busy agenda.

Much work has already gone on in the background. The WTPF Informal Experts Group met three times in Geneva over the course of the past year or so, and again this past Monday here in Lisbon, and I would like to thank them for their efforts.

The Secretary-General’s Report – which will be presented in more detail later on this morning – incorporates the work of the Informal Experts Group as well as numerous contributions from our Member States and Sector Members.

The Report closes with six draft opinions which have been endorsed by the Experts Group.

Distinguished colleagues,

One of the great advantages of the WTPF is that it is not designed to produce prescriptive outcomes with the binding force of an international treaty. This means that we have more freedom to say what we feel, and to listen with perhaps more open minds than usual.

It means we can debate the issues boldly and frankly – knowing that the opinions we agree on, here in Lisbon, can instead be used to guide ongoing global ICT policies, and regulatory and standardization efforts worldwide, as well as ITU’s own work for the coming year.

As defined by the famous Decision 9, the WTPF covers four broad areas for discussion:
Convergence and Internet-related public policy matters;
Next-Generation Networks;
Emerging telecommunications policy and regulatory issues; and
The International Telecommunication Regulations.

Looking at each of these in turn:

Convergence is arguably the most powerful driving force transforming today’s ICT landscape, as new technologies and platforms steadily erode the links between infrastructure and applications.

A good example is standard voice telephony, which is no longer limited to copper-wire POTS networks, but carried over the airwaves, through co-axial cable TV links or via the Internet.

Convergence goes hand-in-hand with the world’s most important data network, the Internet – which increasingly is not just an information resource, but supports a vast range of business-critical applications and processes.

This raises important questions about resource management, and in particular the management of top level domains, the allocation of IP addresses, and the regulations specifying who defines their associated rules.

With Asia-Pacific now having the largest share of Internet users by region, and developing countries under-represented in current governance mechanisms, there is an urgent need to ensure governance frameworks reflect new market realities – and I therefore look forward to constructive debate on this highly-charged issue.
Moving on to Next-Generation Networks, NGN packet-switched technology is here today. And it is already beginning to replace the traditional circuit-switched networks that have served as the basis of telephony since its inception well over a hundred years ago.

At ITU, we are leading the move to NGNs with our NGN Global Standards Initiative – one of the largest, most wide-ranging standardization projects ever undertaken.

For all their advantages, however, NGNs present their own challenges. A good example is the area of regulation, where there is still uncertainty as to whether existing mechanisms are sufficient to support a smooth migration.

We all look forward to an era of seamless connectivity to broadband services over any network and any device, worldwide – but we absolutely must ensure the continued interoperability with legacy networks.

Turning now to emerging telecommunication policy and regulatory issues, I would like to stress how important it is that global solutions are found to what, increasingly, are global issues.

Challenges such as building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, child online protection, digital rights management and data privacy simply cannot be dealt with in an uncoordinated, piecemeal fashion.

A collaborative, international approach is also needed to help solve new spectrum and satellite management issues which are resulting from new network and device types and fast-growing demand for bandwidth.

At the global level, we must also continue to explore how ICTs can help address climate change issues – for example through their deployment as early warning systems, through their use to monitor climatic variables, and through the opportunities they offer to help cut emissions in other sectors.

The fourth area for discussion this week is the International Telecommunication Regulations, the ITRs.

The current ITRs came into force almost twenty years ago – but the industry they relate to has changed beyond recognition since then. Back in 1990, many governments were still essentially the provider of analogue voice services; today they are expected to ensure fair policy and regulation of a whole host of convergent multimedia services, delivered over many different types of networks and devices.

We shall therefore use this opportunity, during the Forum, to look at new and emerging issues with respect to international telecommunication networks and services as they relate to the ITRs.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, may I once again thank you all for being here this week – this is an invaluable opportunity to help shape the future.

I am, as you know, an optimist. And I like to remember the quotation by the British wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill, who once said:
“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

We are living through a particularly difficult period in world history – arguably the most difficult since the second world war. But there are many opportunities in this difficult time – and I firmly believe that together we can seek them out, and make the world a better place.

Thank you.