Speech from Mr Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

African e-Gov Forum 2008: Using ICT for more efficient, effective and inclusive governance
Kampala, Uganda
4 March 2008

Mr. Chairman,
Honourable Minister,
Distinguished Guests and Participants,
Ladies & Gentlemen,


It is my privilege to be invited to address you today. In September 2003, CTO invited me to attend its meeting in Kampala. Therefore, this is my second visit to Kampala, again for a CTO meeting. I sincerely thank the CTO and the Ugandan Administration for bringing me back to this beautiful city. On behalf of the Secretary-General of ITU, Dr. Hamadoun Toure, the other elected officials and on my own behalf, we extend to you our warmest greetings on the occasion of this conference.


Africa is the fastest-growing regional mobile market in the world, with sustained average growth rates of above fifty per cent a year for the last five years (equivalent to average additions of over five million subscribers a month for Africa during 2006). In 2005, Africa’s mobile market that barely existed ten years ago was estimated to be worth $25 billion. In 2006, Africa’s mobile market surpassed 200 million subscribers for the first time.


However, I would encourage you to look beyond these macro-economic statistics to the true transformation brought about by putting a mobile phone into the hands of every active adult. Such growth in mobile, with the proper enabling environment, will help make e-governance a reality and bring connectivity and access to ICTs to underserved communities in rural and remote areas.


What are the key trends ITU foresees in the changing role of world communications?


  • The first major trend is new services: ITU sees ever-growing consumer demand for multimedia services with greater functionality. High-speed mobile broadband services will grow, as mobile technologies will become the most cost-effective and convenient way of accessing the Internet. Internet-enabled mobile phones will offer a wealth of new services, including global positioning, real-time navigation and tracking, among others.
  • Better access to ICTs for e-applications i.e. e-government, e-commerce services: and combating climate change.

    Enabling environment for better access to government information and services by citizens and increased accountability in government services provided to citizens is a key for e-government projects.

    Coherent ICT applications for Governments, drawn from national e-strategies will increase government efficiency, transparency and it will assist in promoting democracy. This can be achieved through cost-efficient and secure communication, access and exchange of information between government agencies and citizens using secure e-mails, e-transactions, videoconference, web-based applications forms for online government services and reliable procedures (government, customs, revenue authority, local governments, etc.)
  • Combating climate change in Africa by using ICTs is also one of Government’s tasks. Improving food self-sufficiency by making optimum use of climatic data for agriculture and animal husbandry, to better match production to market needs (e-agriculture), and to facilitate heritage conservation (wildlife, forests), within the framework of e-government projects will contribute to better life for all by using ICTs.
  • Special initiatives for Gender Youth, People with Disabilities and Indigenous Communities: The need to address specific requirements for Gender, Youth, People with Disabilities and other marginalized communities is key to addressing the digital divide. ITU, together with other partners, have launched a number of activities under special initiatives bringing connectivity and access to rural communities and empowering women, youths, people with various kinds of disabilities and indigenous communities making them active participants in the information society. The theme for this year’s World Telecommunication/Information Society Day is “Connecting People with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All”. It is obvious that neither e-government nor any other e-services can be provided in a, universal, ubiquitous, equitable and affordable manner without specific focus on the needs of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups. We need to join hands to provide accessible ICTs for all. ITU has also already made and will continue to make significant efforts towards attaining gender balance. Professional positions have been filled by women in the last year, and a nomination of a woman at a very high-level recently. Empowering women is beneficial to humanity - men and women alike. We are approaching International Women’s Day. On this occasion, I would like to express our sincere wishes to all women present in this room, as well as to those in your families.
  • Africa is home to many pioneering success stories. African operators are introducing innovative new services including mobile banking and micro-recharging methods. New and innovative entrepreneurs are forging their own models, suited to their own market, rather than just adopting business models developed elsewhere. Innovation, both in business, technology and regulation, will precisely be addressed during ITU TELECOM Africa 2008, the theme of this event being “ICTs in Africa – A continent on the Move”.

Please allow me to highlight a few ITU activities which have an impact in the mobile industry and in the ICT sector in general.

  1. In October/November 2007, ITU was host to the ITU Radiocommunication Assembly and World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07). Over 3 000 delegates representing 161 Member States and 101 Observers attended WRC-07 in Geneva, which culminated in the adoption of revised Radio Regulations to meet the ever-growing demand for radio-frequency spectrum.

    WRC-07 addressed issues in terrestrial and satellite radio services and applications, including meteorological applications, aeronautical mobile services, digital broadcasting and emergency communications. It revised the technical and regulatory provisions for the Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) Plan for applications including television and the Internet. The revised Plan will facilitate access to spectrum and orbit resources for FSS systems. WRC-07 also successfully reviewed international regulations relating to maritime mobile services, including distress and safety transmissions. This international treaty will govern spectrum allocation to meet the global connectivity goals of the 21st century.
  2. To highlight the importance of investment in telecommunications, in conjunction with several other partners, ITU convened the Connect Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, in October 2007, attended by over a thousand participants. Forty-three African countries were represented. The focus in Kigali was not on aid or charity - no country has achieved long-term prosperity on this basis. Instead, there was broad consensus that fresh investment and business opportunities are needed to support sustainable growth, employment and development.

    A total of 55 billion US dollars was pledged between now and 2012 to expand the broadband ICT networks in Africa from industry, development banks and others. Further important commitments were made in workforce training, policy and regulatory reform to support these investments.
  3. Next week, ITU’s 8th GSR (Global Symposium for Regulators) will be held in Pattaya, Thailand. I was advised that more than 500 delegates have already registered for that meeting. The GSR will be preceded by the first meeting of GILF (Global Industry Leaders’ Forum) just prior to the GSR. A significant number of CEOs/CTOs are already registered for this event also. The GSR is an annual event bringing together heads of national regulatory authorities from both developed and developing countries and has earned a reputation as the global venue for regulators to share their views and experiences as part of the worldwide community of regulators. The meeting fosters an open dialogue between regulators and key ICT stakeholders: the private sector, investors and consumers. I invite you to join them.
  4. As I already mentioned a few moments ago, ITU organizes this year TELECOM Africa 2008 in Cairo, Egypt, from 12 to 15 May 2008, and TELECOM Asia in Thailand in September 2008. TELECOM events will explore the latest technologies and infrastructure solutions in deployment across the world, and in particular in Africa and in Asia, the two most dynamic telecom markets in the world. These events will also investigate future growth prospects, business strategies that have succeeded and much more. If you consider that your company or your country should be visible on the regional and international ICT scene, being present at these events is a must, either as an independent Exhibitor, a National Pavilion, a sponsor, or a Forum participant. We invite you to join us at these events and I strongly recommend that you act very soon on this proposal!
  5. The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-2008) will take place this coming October in Johannesburg, at the kind invitation of the Government of the Republic of South Africa. This is the first time such an event will be organized in the African continent. It is also the first WTSA to be preceded by a Global Standardisation Symposium (on 20 October) at which Ministers, regulators, CTOs and other high level speakers will give their vision on how to bridge the standardization gap. ITU welcomes greater participation by interested CTO members and African regional members, to ensure that your views are fully reflected in our important work on standardization. This event will help define the overall strategy, working methods, structure and procedures for ITU-T over the following four years.

At WTSA-2004, many resolutions based on common African proposals were adopted. Mr. Masambu, Executive Director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), chaired the WTSA Committee 4, which was one of the most important Committees of the Conference. Committee 4, under his able leadership, successfully completed its mandate and provided the whole set of new Study Groups for the ITU-T standardization work during 2005-2008. As Director of TSB then, I highly appreciated the valuable contribution by the African members, as well as the good coordination and assistance of the CTO, to the success of WTSA-04. As Deputy Secretary-General, I would like to encourage you to join the WTSA-08 to ensure another success, and I know that my successor Malcolm Johnson, who was very active in the CTO, looks forward to your contribution.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would invite you to join with me in celebrating how e-governance can help people shape and take greater control over their lives. We are at the start of a social revolution, in which technology is transforming the way in which we take decisions and interact with each other, as well as with the society in which we live. We are just at the start of this transformation, and are only just exploring its consequences, which is why I welcome the initiative shown by the CTO and Ugandan government in hosting this Forum to explore these key issues.

Let me conclude by congratulating Africa for being part of the positive trend where developing countries are shaping and deciding the future of their own markets. This shifting growth dynamic towards developing markets represents, more than anything, the driver of the changing telecom landscape.

I wish you all a successful meeting.

Thank you.