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
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
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