Speech from Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General

World Radiocommunication Seminar - Opening Remarks
Geneva, Switzerland
8 December 2008

Dear participants, Ladies & Gentlemen,

Welcome to Geneva for the ITU World Radiocommunication Seminar (WRS-08).

This event is all about wireless and you will be delighted to know that, in this field, ITU figures reveal the world has made the most extraordinary progress! Back at the beginning of 1998, there were one billion fixed and mobile subscribers worldwide. By the beginning of this year, however, this number has mushroomed beyond all expectations – to reach 4.5 billion total telephone subscribers and sometime between now and the end of this year, our planet will become home to four billion mobile subscribers and over 1.5 billion people will have access to the Internet, a big proportion of them connected via wireless accesses.

You will also be interested to know that all the key strategic priorities which I have established for ITU are of great relevance to the topics addressed by this Seminar, which can be translated as follows:

  • the stewardship of the international radio spectrum and the satellite orbit;

  • the establishment of international standards, particularly for wireless services and applications;

  • the use of ICT, specially radio systems, in the area of emergency and climate change;

  • the use of radio in the efforts to connecting the world;

  • the role of radio in the global cybersecurity agenda.

The ITU World Radiocommunication Seminar 2008 seems to be following the successful path of the 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference, which decisions, grounded on the provisions of the ITU Radio Regulations, will serve as a solid foundation for the development of modern wireless communications for years to come.

The Radio Regulations which you will be studying this week is more than centenary now but still very vivid. The proof is the striking successful results of the recent radiocommunication conferences. Your massive presence at this Seminar can only corroborate my opinion that the international regulatory framework established and managed by ITU is effective and responsive to the challenges of this unpredictable modern world.

Indeed, there are serious challenges facing us. The growing role for ICTs holds great promise, but it can be abused. Breakthroughs in communications bring not only benefits but also new dangers. Global cooperative agreements have never been more necessary, yet at the same time, the sheer speed of development makes this all the more difficult. This means we must not only work hard, we must work smart: creating effective partnerships, making efficient teamwork central, and finding ways to do more with less. When doing things better proves not enough, we’ll show the courage to do things differently.

In the coming years, ITU must take the lead in many areas: ensuring security in cyberspace, the efficient use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, promoting appropriate strategies and policies, encouraging infrastructure development to bridge the digital divide, and the use of ICTs to mitigate climate change. We are the first and last stop for establishing workable standards to provide global telecommunications for everyone, including the disabled and disadvantaged.

ITU’s role as the organization ‘Committed to Connecting the World’ echoes the growing belief in the importance of an inclusive society. By our efforts to empower communities through ICTs, ITU can play an important role in creating the enabling environments needed to foster a new, more equitable economic paradigm, and we will redouble our efforts towards achieving this goal.

By connecting the world and fulfilling everyone’s fundamental right to communicate, we strive to make the world a better and safer place.

Among technological developments, international regulations and policies, and the many diverse interests of commercial businesses, there needs to be an organization that safeguards everyone’s fundamental right to communicate. The ITU World Radiocommunication Seminar 2008 helps to achieve this goal by addressing the technical, regulatory and operational mechanisms and procedures for the efficient management of the international radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbit, which know no borders and thereby require our utmost attention to detailed implementation, planning and cooperation. Through the deep understanding of the WRC-07 results this Seminar will provide, you be better equipped to undertake a key role in the preparations for the next ITU World Radiocommunication Conference of 2011.

The world economy is in for a rocky ride for some time. What this will mean in practice for our nations, and for our industry, remains to be seen.

Distinguished Delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

What is certain, however, is that ICTs, and in particular wireless systems and applications, will continue to permeate the fabric of every sector and every economic activity.

Good luck. I thank you for your participation and wish you a very successful Seminar.