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

ITU TELECOM Asia 2008 - Opening Address
Bangkok, Thaïland
1 September 2008

Your Royal Highness,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today, in the heart of the world’s most vibrant and fast-growing region for information and communication technologies.

Over the next four days, I am confident you will find much to excite you in the new products and services on show in our Exhibition Halls, and that you will hear much to inspire you from the ICT experts and visionaries leading our Forum debates.

I believe each of our regional ITU TELECOM events has something unique and special to offer. In Africa, for example, we see ingenious solutions to overcoming barriers such as distance and climate challenges.

In Latin America, the focus is on accessible technologies for a young and booming population.

But I think you’ll agree with me that the world looks to our Asia event to showcase the trends and technologies that will define future global markets. You are truly at the cutting edge, both in terms of the technologies you pioneer, and the way you interact with these technologies to define new, digital lifestyles.

That said, Asia, as we all know, is a very big place. If some nations are leading the world in defining, developing and deploying ICTs, there are others which are still striving to make basic products and services affordable and accessible to their populations. Despite the region’s wealth of technological skill and evident enthusiasm for the many benefits ICTs can offer, the Digital Divide remains a significant blight on Asia’s economic landscape.

Isolated Small Island States and countries that find themselves disadvantaged by geography or history are in the greatest need. That’s why ITU is already making plans to hold its very first ITU Connect Asia event in the region.

Those of you who attended our launch event, Connect Africa, held in Kigali last year, will remember the tremendous buzz this generated. In just two days we were successful in raising an unprecedented 55 billion dollars in funding and in-kind contributions, most of which will be allocated to pan-regional projects aimed at solving major ICT bottlenecks in areas like bandwidth, access costs and network reach.

We’ll be shortly building on the success of this event with our first Connect CIS summit, which will take place in 2009. We aim to follow that with a Connect Asia event that will harness the energy and vision that characterizes this exciting region, and channel that into new strategies and projects to definitively bridge Asia’s Digital Divide.

I passionately believe that this win-win initiative will benefit every single Asian economy, by helping build new markets for Asian developed and manufactured ICTs, and by helping nurture new pools of ICT-skilled labour in disadvantaged countries. These ‘new economy’ professionals will help spur even faster regional growth, while at the same time helping themselves and their nations build a better, more prosperous future.

Indeed, when it comes to capacity building, ITU is already very active in the region through our Internet Training Centres Initiative, and our Asia Pacific Centres of Excellence. Our network of 21 Internet Training Centres spanning the Asia Pacific region has already produced 700 young ICT graduates, with a further 700 pupils currently enrolled in ongoing courses.

I’m also delighted to be able to say that all five nodes of our Asia Pacific Centres of Excellence network have now been established, with the signing of an important agreement here in Bangkok last September with the Royal Thai government. This network provides continuous professional development to policymakers, ICT regulators and senior ICT managers, ensuring the region as a whole benefits from the very latest developments in network management and regulatory best practice.

Access to highly skilled labour is one element that will help keep Asia at the forefront as the world’s manufacturing powerhouse for ICT equipment.

But success in today’s manufacturing sector also means producing equipment for increasingly globalized markets which seamlessly interoperates with other systems and allows manufacturers to realize important economies of scale.

As the world’s pre-eminent developer of ICT standards, whose membership not only spans 191 countries but more than 700 of the world’s leading ICT hardware and software developers, ITU has led the development of the world’s networks and services for over 140 years.

ITU Recommendations serve as the bedrock of today’s and tomorrow’s networks. Through these stable, globally agreed technical standards which are defined by the industry they serve, ITU is helping Asian companies achieve ambitious growth and conquer new markets through world-class products that deliver top performance and customer satisfaction.

In just a few weeks from now, I will be welcoming participants to our Global Standards Symposium and World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly in Johannesburg, South Africa.

These events see the public and private sector members of ITU-T meet to define the standardization priorities and broad work programme for the coming four years. They are critical events for every manufacturer and developer, and I expect many of you here today will be joining us to help set the programme for key standardization initiatives in areas such as Next Generation Networks, IMT-Advanced mobile systems, IPTV and Identity Management.

If making networks work has long been a key ITU remit, making them safe is the focus of a major new global initiative.

Launched in May 2007, ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda aims to create an effective international framework for combating the growing tide of cybercrime and cyberterrorism that is sweeping our fixed and mobile networks.

Drawing on the work and experience of existing initiatives in countries around the world, the Agenda continues to garner strong support. One recent development is an agreement for collaboration with IMPACT, the initiative launched by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, which has volunteered its services and infrastructure, and offered to serve as one of the GCA’s physical homes.

ITU is also taking the lead in harnessing the potential of ICTs in combating climate change. Following two ITU symposia earlier this year, this critical issue was addressed by the G8 summit in Japan, where world leaders agreed to promote work on energy-efficient technologies and better exploit the power of ICTs for environmental monitoring, early warning systems for disaster response, and climate modelling and forecasting.

Complimenting these efforts, ITU is an active promoter of ICTs for emergency telecommunications, working with partners on the ground to help restore lost communication links in the wake of a disaster; collaborating with experts on new systems for disaster prediction and alert; and brokering treaties like the Tampere Convention, which removes barriers to the rapid deployment of wireless equipment by disaster response teams. Such devices have the power to save many lives. Their lack can have dire consequences, as we saw only too tragically with Cyclone Nargis earlier this year.

Your Royal Highness,
Ladies and gentlemen,

For most of us, the next few days will be a whirlwind of new technologies, new ideas, and new opportunities to work together. Let us continue to push the envelope of ICT innovation, and to identify even more ways in which technology can help us meet everyday challenges.

But while we’re pioneering new systems and applications, let us remember the three billion people still lacking an affordable and reliable connection to basic services. Many of Asia’s governments have recognized that ICTs are now the key engine for economic growth. With the right mix of infrastructure and services, these under-developed markets will quickly take off.

That’s not just a boon for under-resourced communities, it’s a huge opportunity for many of your organizations.

And that makes it a win-win situation in which everyone will benefit. Booming markets will create more jobs, and more wealth. And every child in Asia will get access to the information and communications they need to realize their potential and make their future another great Asian success story.

Thank you.