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

ITU Sub-Regional Seminar and Ministerial Round Table for CEE - Gala Dinner Address
Belgrade, Republic of Serbia
26 April 2009

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be able to join you this evening as we ready ourselves to discuss and debate the challenges facing the CEE region in the area of ICT development.


I have just returned from Portugal, where ITU held its fourth World Telecommunication Policy Forum this week. The event was a tremendous success, with over 800 delegates representing 124 Member States in attendance. High-level participation by VIPs reached unprecedented levels – including a record number of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and heads of regulators.


The WTPF – and the High Level Strategic Dialogue, which preceded it – focused on the future policy direction for the industry which will guide future regulatory and standardization efforts worldwide.


As you know, ITU has been at the heart of information and communication technologies since they began, almost 145 years ago, with the launch of the world’s first international telegraph services.


As the UN specialized agency for ICT development, we have a special mandate to promote the widest possible access to the full range of information and communication technologies, which we believe serve not only as an essential facilitator of modern business, but as a powerful agent for social change.


We are also unique in having a membership that comprises over 190 Member States, leading research and development organizations from around the world, and virtually every major private sector player.


Since 1971, ITU has been leveraging these unique strengths to promote information and communication technologies through our ITU Telecom World and Regional events. In the past, these events have served as the premier showcase for the trends and technologies that are continually reshaping our world. At the very height of the IT boom, before the dot com crash, they had become dazzling events on a colossal scale that – on reflection – sometimes mirrored the unreality of the tech bubble that was about to burst.


It is worth noting, however, that the market correction of 2000-2001, which saw the end of quite a few Internet-age start-ups, has done nothing to curb consumers’ enthusiasm for new technologies.


Uptake of mobile cellular continues unabated, with the number of global subscribers recently surpassing the four billion mark. Next-generation network technologies are already finding their way into networks in Japan, Korea and western Europe. The world is witnessing a surge in demand for broadband, as content becomes richer and more complex. And Green IT has been singled out as a sector likely to see ongoing growth despite the sharp economic downturn.


With world markets in disarray, and the economic outlook still uncertain, we believe this year’s ITU Telecom World event, taking place in Geneva from 5 to 9 October, should look very different from its predecessors.


ITU Telecom was conceived as a service to ITU Members. To remain true to that mission, I believe this year’s event can best serve our industry by providing a top-level forum for debate and consensus-building on constructive strategies that will help our industry weather the storm.


To that end, we are including a global leadership summit to address the role of ICTs in economic recovery from the worldwide crisis and stimulating further investment and growth.


Heads of State, Ministers, industry leaders and Regulators will come together for the high-level summit, cutting-edge Forum and a dynamic exhibition – and I encourage everyone here this evening to attend what I am confident will be a unique public-private networking platform on a global scale.


As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said recently, in confirming he will be present at ITU Telecom World 2009:

“It is vital that we use opportunities such as this for a frank debate on the way forward for the ICT industry. We must not allow today's economic downturn to slow progress in providing widespread access to these essential tools.”


I look forward very much to seeing you there!


Thank you.