Speech from Mr Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

GAID (Global Alliance for ICT and Development)
Open Consultation

Geneva, Switzerland
27 May 2008

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to these UNDESA-GAID Open Consultations. This meeting is taking place just one and a half weeks after the UNDESA GAID Annual Meeting, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 18 – 20 May, 2008.

As I have heard from Dr Toure, who had attended that meeting, it was an interesting brainstorming on the future framework for the GAID. As I know many important issues have already been addressed, some of them still stay open. Therefore it is my hope that our sharing of ideas here will become a valuable contribution to this process.

The fact that we hold this meeting within the framework of the WSIS Cluster of Meetings gives us the hope that many of the contributions will come from the multi-stakeholders offering interesting linkage to the ongoing WSIS process.

As you may know the ITU is committed to connecting the world and one of our main missions is to enable evolution of telecommunications and information networks around the world, so that everywhere, people can actively participate in the global information society. That is why it is not surprising that ITU whose mandate is to extend the benefits of ICTs to all of the world’s inhabitants, took the leading role in the organization of the key event of this decade - the World Summit on the Information Society held in two phases - in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005. The Summit was an important landmark in the global effort to eradicate poverty and to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015. Since the Tunis Phase of WSIS, much progress has been made.

For example, the Connect Africa Summit, the first of ITU’s Connect the World series, held in Kigali last year showed the extent of the commitment to achieving the WSIS goals and was a huge step towards achieving an all-inclusive information society.

However, we need to keep in mind that there is much more to be done and there are only seven years remaining to 2015. All WSIS Stakeholders need to recognize the fact that, in order to benefit from the capability of ICTs to act as a key enabler for achieving MDG goals, we may need to be more ambitious in many domains, for instance aiming to connect the unconnected by 2012.

Building on the existing multistakeholder spirit, all WSIS stakeholders need to continue working together, focusing on concrete actions and projects in the field of ICTs, supporting the development of the inclusive information society, spurring investment, employment and broader human, social and economic development.

The ITU is welcoming the number of GAID activities, carried out in 2007, which we see as an excellent result of the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders involved in the work with UNDESA-GAID. We are confident that this would not be possible without the deep involvement of Mr Craig Barret, Chairman of Intel Corp. and UNDESA-GAID as well as the dedication and continuous support to the activities of Mr Sha Zukang, Under-secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

Many of the activities carried out in 2007/2008 have proven that the UNDESA-GAID is becoming an efficient multi-stakeholder platform continuously attracting new partners in joining forces in the work on the ICT issues. We note that many of them are coming from the civil society and we strongly believe that it will be possible to maintain this tendency in the future.

Organized by the ITU the World Summit on the Information Society, for the first time in history gave to the civil society the possibility to be involved in the process almost at the same level as the governments.

I am confident that the civil society has an important role in building an all-inclusive Information Society and more visible and tangible involvement of the civil society in the global initiatives, which mainstream the ICT issues into the global development agenda. This might be with advantage for all parties involved.

Now, being here, at the open consultations, it is our role to advise on the appropriate directions to this multi-stakeholder platform. In order to avoid any possible duplication of on-going efforts, we should be very clear in determining the goals and scope of activities.

Bearing in mind that the Global Alliance for ICT and Development is a UNDESA initiative, we need to focus on those issues which still have not been reflected through existing mechanisms of the UN system or are out of its mandate.

With all its on-going and planned activities, the UNDESA-GAID demonstrates a great opportunity to the civil society to be part of the process mainstreaming the ICT issues into the global agenda. Therefore, I am confident, that we should do all our best in supporting UNDESA-GAID in its efforts to become an effective interface for the civil society.