Speech from Mr Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

Ambassadors Round Table:
Financial Mechanisms for Infrastructure Development and Other ICT Initiatives
Geneva, Switzerland
19 May 2008

Excellencies, Eminent members of this table,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this Ambassadors Round Table on Financial Mechanisms for Infrastructure Development and other ICT Initiatives. At the same time I would like to thank our guests from Africa, (Arab Region), Asia, Americas and Europe – more precisely Rwanda, (Egypt), India, Costa Rica, and Italy – for accepting our kind invitation to this round table. It is my hope that our sharing of ideas will become a valuable contribution to the work on Action Lines C2, C4, C6, aimed at facilitating the task of making connectivity across the world a reality.

As you may know six months ago, October 2007 over 1000 delegates – many African heads of state, and ministers, chief executives of some of the largest ICT businesses, and leaders of major international and regional financing entities, witnessed a landmark Summit in Kigali, the first summit of the ITU Connect Series.

To this summit major stakeholders came together not to pass new resolutions or draft declarations, as this had already been done in 2005 at the WSIS, which endorsed a Plan of Action, setting out connectivity goals. The mandate for the Connect Africa Summit in Kigali was clear from the outset. As ITU sent a strong message that the time had come to build a team of partners and move forward with a common goal in focus - to connect Africa.

To do this, the Summit concentrated on mobilizing human, financial and technical resources needed to expand access to ICT infrastructure across the continent. This approach was successful as partners committed to investing up to $55 Billion to the implementation of infrastructure projects and technical assistance in Africa.

Such level of financial commitment accompanied by very high political support makes us believe that it is feasible to develop financing mechanisms or mobilize the financial resources necessary to achieve the connectivity goals even before 2015. Nevertheless, the way to achieve it is very long and requires that all stakeholders join the forces in the fight against the digital divide.

Today, in this room, in the context of WSIS and Millennium Development Goals, let us use this discussion as an ideal opportunity to explore the national approaches for the ICT sector. Let us focus on concrete solutions and actions. I am confident that the fact that our guests are coming from four/(five) different continents will give us broad spectrum of views and answers to the following questions:

  1. How important are the information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the countries? Is it really a key enabler for the socio-economic development?
  2. What is the role of the governmental policies and strategies in promotion of the accessibility to the ICTs?
  3. What are the financial mechanisms the countries use for promotion of the ICT sector development? (Universal Service Funds, Direct Funding, Public-Private-Partnerships, Regional Initiatives, Assistance of the Development Banks/Regional Organizations)
  4. What are the new and very particular ICT initiatives, worth drawing attention?
  5. What is in your view the role of the international cooperation in development of the ICT sector?