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

Seoul, Korea
18 June 2008

Ambassador Gross
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Throughout the developing world, today’s great success story is mobile. But tomorrow, our priorities must centre on bringing broadband Internet within easy reach of all in order to avoid creating a devastating new Digital Divide.

In a rapidly globalizing economy, broadband networks are essential basic infrastructure, as vital to economic and social development as networks like transport, water and power.

ITU statistics reveal positive growth trends: at the turn of the millennium, the 49 UN-designated LDCs together shared just 370,000 Internet users. By the start of this year, that figure had reached some 11 million.

But it is clear to all of us that both growth rates and access speeds are still nowhere near fast enough. Users in developing countries are struggling to access information via dial-up connections, and are already locked out of the full online experience. Without faster access, it may not be long before they find themselves locked out of the modern world altogether.

Working more closely with the private sector is one way we can leverage new opportunities. In 2005, ITU launched Connect the World, an innovative development initiative founded on building multi-stakeholder synergies between private companies, governments and development agencies.

The advent of new technologies and innovative financing and pricing strategies is now drawing investors’ attention to the huge untapped potential in many developing markets. With nearly 260 million subscribers, India recently emerged as the world’s second-largest mobile market after China, and is adding 6 million new mobile lines each month. Africa has become the world’s most unwired continent, with mobile accounting for over 90% of all lines. And even small isolated island states such as Fiji and Samoa now boast mobile teledensities of over 50%.

With their impressive cellular penetration, a great many developing countries are thus in a prime position to harness new broadband wireless technologies that can deliver fast, affordable internet service regardless of a country’s lack of landline infrastructure. WiMAX, Mobile WiMAX, IMT-Advanced, latest-generation VSAT – these and other new technologies have enormous potential to overcome the tyrannies of distance and deployment costs to bring affordable access to populations in the developing world.

Complementing private sector investment, cooperative development initiatives led by government and intergovernmental agencies such as my own will continue to be important in identifying priorities and focusing investment. ITU’s Connect Africa Summit, held in Kigali last October, generated over 55 billion dollars worth of commitments to interconnect all African capitals and major cities with broadband infrastructure and to strengthen connectivity to the rest of the world by 2012. The outstanding success of this initiative has prompted ITU to consider similar events, targeting other developing regions.

At a governmental level, enlightened regulation and pro-ICT policies will clearly be critical. So will new approaches like infrastructure sharing, which served as the focus of ITU’s 2008 Global Symposium for Regulators. This new approach, which is already being successfully deployed in countries like India, offers great opportunities for operators to leverage existing networks like GSM cellular, electricity and transport to dramatically reduce the cost of wireless broadband deployment.

Of course, ensuring the right infrastructure is in place is only part of the puzzle. Empowering people to use these new tools and building confidence in online networks will be essential to stimulating global uptake of technology as it becomes available.

In the face of mounting cybercrime, we all face new challenges in enforcing cybersecurity – yet many developing nations lack the resources to effectively counter this threat.

The far-reaching nature of the many legal, technical and institutional challenges means that they can only be effectively addressed through active international cooperation. That has prompted ITU to launch a new Global Cybersecurity Agenda. This framework will build on existing national and regional initiatives and will encourage wide-ranging collaboration between all stakeholders, with the aim of building a safer and more inclusive Knowledge Society.

Thank you.