I am very pleased to be here with you this morning to discuss such a vitally
important subject as mobile technology and convergence.
As Dr. Touré highlighted in his statement yesterday, mobile technology is the
technology with the greatest immediate promise of connecting the developing
world, with some 4 billion people having access to a mobile, over half the
world’s population by some estimates. This is the first WSIS goal to have
been achieved – we are close “to ensuring that more than half the world’s
inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach”.
Over two-thirds of these subscriptions are held in the developing world.
Competition, new technologies and applications and flat-rate pricing models in
the mobile market have allowed an ever greater number of people across the world
to join the information society.
Between the end of 2005 and the beginning of this year, the number of mobile
cellular subscriptions globally has grown at a stunning rate of over 20%
year-on-year. The regions with the highest growth rates are the developing
regions. Africa's annual average growth rate over the last three years stood at
no less than 40%.
ITU has tracked the rise of mobile over the last fifteen years with our World
Telecommunication Development Reports, the WTDR series. Together with our
partners in industry, ITU and the Administrations have worked hard to transform
the mobile industry through licensing and greater private sector involvement,
and the mobile industry has become more competitive. ITU has promoted
open-market policy and the development of effective regulation to facilitate
market development, which has contributed to the successful growth of the mobile
sector around the world.
This makes mobile telephony one of the success stories of the developing world
and a technology of intense interest to all those working in development, who
strive to reduce poverty and improve the lot of poorer people around the world.
Today, convergence is expanding the opportunities that mobile telephony has to
offer to developing countries. Since the conclusion of the Second Phase of the
WSIS in Tunis in 2005, the number of countries with IMT-2000/3G networks
offering mobile broadband services has more than doubled, to some 110 countries
today. ITU estimates that there are currently over 400 million mobile broadband
Building on its work with IMT (3G) mobile technologies, ITU is working on
new-generation mobile IMT-Advanced technologies and low-power, energy-efficient
mobile technologies. Much of the standardization work involved in ensuring
inter-operable communication technologies has been carried out at ITU.
Although some developed countries have led the way, where more people access the
Internet over their mobile phone than over fixed Internet connections, other
countries are fast catching up. Now, African countries are showing us just what
can be achieved using mobile banking services, money transfer of electronic
currencies and micro-credit payments, as well as public health text messages.
Some of the most exciting and innovative applications are being invented in
developing countries, where the need may be great, but human ingenuity even
Mobile broadband has significant potential to expand the availability of
high-speed Internet access in developing regions, as barriers to entry in the
installation and maintenance of mobile masts are low and since wireline access
is often restricted to major urban centers.
Since the Tunis Phase of the WSIS in 2005, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
have added over 120 million mobile cellular subscriptions to their subscriber
base. With this, in just three short years, LDCs have been able to increase
their mobile penetration rate from under 5% to over 20%. Mobile telephony
remains a high-growth market in developing countries that has barely been
impacted by the recent economic turmoil and financial crisis.
We have the technical capabilities to offer remarkable services with great
development potential, but we need to make these services more affordable for
those who need them the most – those on and below the poverty line.
It is widely recognized that mobile telephony has much to offer developing
countries, but I like to think that developing countries have much to offer
mobile telephony – in terms of new applications and services to meet the needs
of the poor.
Mobile telephony represents the means for fulfilling WSIS goal that is the
closest to being met – “to ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants
have access to ICTs within their reach”. Therefore, we need to continue to
prioritize mobile telephony as the means to further the development agenda and
reach as many people as possible.