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

Havana, Cuba
10 February 2009

Distinguished guests,
Esteemed colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In the world of ICTs, the word ‘convergence’ has been around for a long time – but frankly, until quite recently, there was very little to show for all the talk.

But now the technology has caught up with the marketing hype, and convergence suddenly seems ubiquitous – with converged devices, converged applications, and converged networks.

To give just a few examples:

  • On the device side, there will be more digital cameras sold in 2009 than all the analogue cameras that were ever manufactured – and the vast majority will be incorporated in mobile phones.
  • On the application side, look at standard voice telephony, which is no longer limited to copper-wire POTS networks, but carried across the Internet, along co-axial cable TV links, and over the airwaves using a range of wireless technologies.
  • And concerning networks, in mature markets it is becoming almost impossible to have just a simple phone line; or an Internet connection; or simple old-fashioned television reception. Instead, these things are increasingly bundled together, their boundaries blurred.

As new technologies and platforms steadily erode the links between types of infrastructure and applications, convergence is arguably the most powerful driving force transforming today’s ICT landscape.

Like all advances, however, convergence has brought with it many new challenges, and we at ITU are working hard to face up to and address them – from standardization issues to Internet governance and policy-making, to one of the biggest problems we face today: cybersecurity.

Distinguished colleagues,

ITU is the oldest intergovernmental organization in the world. It is unique among UN agencies in having both public and private sector membership. In addition to 191 Member States, we count more than 700 Sector and Associate Members – many of them corporate rivals who put aside their competitive interests to work cooperatively with us to develop new technical standards and regulations governing the equitable use of shared ICT resources.

That gives us tremendous power to work in areas where consensus is not just desirable, but essential, and it also allows us to rise above political differences and help solve problems where they matter most, at the grassroots level.

A good example of that is our work in the standardization activities which underpin the world’s global ICT networks.

So how do we decide and prioritize our work, in this complex global system?

There are many ways. ITU is highly flexible and will jump quickly to meet the demands of industry.

Clearly the identification of new topics is key to maintain momentum, however, and to remain at the cutting of edge of technological development.

Initiatives that focus on bringing new topics and new blood into ITU-T’s standardization work include a series of events under the ‘Kaleidoscope’ umbrella, which seeks to better engage with the academic community, and ‘Technology Watch’, an initiative to survey the ICT environment for emerging technologies and assess their standardization needs.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to publicize the next Kaleidoscope event, which will take place in Argentina at the end of August – and which I hope will attract contributions from right across the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before looking at ITU’s involvement in Internet-related issues, such as governance and cybersecurity, I would like to share with you a few examples of the very important work we are doing in standardization – because standards, as we all know, are at the very heart of the converged ICT industry.

Next Generation Networks
At ITU, one of our most important areas of work at the moment is in Next Generation Networks – which will be one of the key focus areas at our World Telecommunication Policy Forum taking place in April in Lisbon, Portugal.

Next Generation Network packet-switched technology is already beginning to replace the traditional circuit-switched networks that have served as the basis of telephony since its inception well over a century ago.

Today, we have the audacity to dream of achieving seamless connectivity to broadband services over any network and any device, worldwide – and we are leading the move to Next Generation Networks through our NGN Global Standards Initiative.

This is one of the largest, most ambitious and most wide-ranging standardization projects ever undertaken – with ITU-T having now approved over 60 NGN Recommendations.

Of course that means it also comes with its own special challenges. The most significant of these is regulation, with uncertainty as to whether existing mechanisms are sufficient to support a smooth migration, while at the same time ensuring continued interoperability with legacy networks.

The fully-networked home
At the global level, we have also recently completed work on a new standard for the ‘fully-networked home’. This is the first global standard offering an in-home, high-speed network capable of delivering room-to-room HDTV.

Published under the G.hn banner, the standard promises true convergence by delivering high-quality multimedia over power, coaxial, phone and other home wiring. It will give up to 20 times the throughput of existing wireless technologies and three times that of existing wired technologies.

The fully-networked car
Moving from the home to transport, ITU has also been holding annual workshops on the ‘fully-networked car’, most recently in association with the Geneva International Motor Show. A detailed report can be found online in the ITU News of April 2008 – just go to www.itu.int/itunews and look at Back Issues for more information.

Inspired by the event and with the support of new contributions at its last meeting, ITU-T Study Group 16 has started new work on a vehicle gateway protocol, which aims at defining global standards that will allow seamless integration of consumer devices with intelligent transport systems.

Video coding Emmy
Much of the work we do goes on behind the scenes, but sometimes we earn public accolades, and this was the case last August, when we were delighted to receive a prestigious Primetime Emmy Award for Excellence from the US Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

The prize was awarded to ITU, ISO and IEC for our work in producing an advanced video coding standard, formally known as Recommendation ITU-T H.264 | ISO/IEC Standard 14496-10 on Advanced Video Coding (AVC).

This may sound obscure, but a quick search for H.264 on Google delivers close to fourteen million hits.

And we are very pleased to see ITU-T H.264 | MPEG-4 AVC now being deployed in millions of products and services to deliver high definition video images over broadcast television, cable TV and a variety of direct-broadcast satellite-based television services – as well as Blu-Ray disc formats, mobile phones and Internet Protocol television (IPTV).

ITU-T and accessibility
Before moving beyond our work in the area of standardization, I would like to mention one more very important field where we have been devoting our efforts: making ICTs more accessible to people with disabilities.

This is one of the key obligations of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and ITU has been active in accessibility and human factors for many years.

This work has increased significantly since the beginning of 2008, however, and I am pleased to draw attention to three events which took place last year:

  • Firstly, ITU – together with G3ict, the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs – held a joint forum in April entitled ‘The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Challenges and Opportunities for ICT Standards’;
  • Secondly, ITU-T established a Joint Coordination Activity on Accessibility and Human Factors (JCA-AHF);
  • And thirdly, ITU was successful in the establishing of an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability at the Internet Governance Forum in Hyderabad, India, in December.

We also dedicated this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day in May to connecting persons with disabilities to opportunities offered by ICTs.

The event was celebrated in Cairo, and the WTISD Award was presented to three eminent laureates there.

The Award also went to Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt's first Lady, President and Founder of the Suzanne Mubarak Women's International Peace Movement, who has been a champion of peace as well as a promoter of women's empowerment and the wellbeing of children and youth.

It was a great personal pleasure, therefore, to find out that the film of the awards ceremony in Cairo was the most-watched video in 2008 on ITU’s YouTube channel.

Excellencies, colleagues,

Moving onto Internet-related issues, it must be said that convergence has brought with it new challenges in the highly-charged area of Internet governance and public policy. This will be another of our key areas for discussion at the World Telecommunication Policy Forum in April.

Internet governance
The crux of today’s Internet governance debate centres on resource management, and in particular the management of Internet top level domains, the allocation of Internet protocol addresses, and the regulations stipulating who defines their associated rules.

With Internet demographics changing very rapidly, and developing countries grossly under-represented in current governance mechanisms, there’s an urgent need to ensure Internet governance frameworks keep pace with new realities.

As I noted at the most recent meeting of the Internet Governance Forum in Hyderabad, in India, at the beginning of December, heads of international agencies are unanimous in their call for global frameworks that embrace a new multilateral approach to managing global resources.

These leaders spoke of the urgent need for a new model that rewrites the rules of globalization, so that its benefits are more equitably distributed. They were unequivocal in their call for a new environment that supports, rather than undermines, social fairness and sustainable development for all.

This compelling need for new international frameworks is just as important when applied to cyberspace. The concerns of governments and policymakers around the world are real, and demand to be addressed. If we continue to sweep them under the carpet, we risk the same kind of meltdown in cyberspace as we have recently been seeing in the real world.

The same principles of democracy which are advocated by many people around the world, also need to be applied to Internet governance.

As a neutral and impartial international organization, ITU is working hard to try and achieve consensus in this sensitive domain, and to ensure that any outcomes do indeed benefit all the world’s people, and not just the wealthy few.

Any mention of the Internet would be incomplete without discussing one of today’s most pressing issues, and one of the ITU’s top priorities: cybersecurity.

Just under two years ago, after being tasked by the global community with developing an effective response to cybersecurity issues, ITU launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda – the GCA.

As a framework for international cooperation and response, the GCA focuses on forging partnership and leveraging collaboration between all relevant parties in the fight against cybercrime.

To set priorities and develop clear strategies for a coordinated global approach, I first convened a special High Level Experts Group which brought together top-level representatives from around the world.

The group comprised cybersecurity experts from national administrations, from enforcement agencies such as Interpol, from international organizations like the United Nations and the Council of Europe, from academic and research organizations, and from the ICT industry itself.

Remarkably, this was the first time that many of these key organizations had ever collaborated – clear evidence, I think, of the very urgent need for a global approach led by a representative global organization like ITU.

Today, the GCA continues to gain momentum worldwide, with the support of global leaders including Nobel Peace Laureate Dr Óscar Arias Sánchez, President of the Republic of Costa Rica, and President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso.

ITU has also signed a key Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysia’s IMPACT – the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats – that sees IMPACT’s state-of-the-art global headquarters in Cyberjaya, Kuala Lumpur, become the physical home of the GCA.

IMPACT will provide a broad portfolio of services to support the GCA. Its state-of-the-art Global Response Centre has been designed to serve as the foremost cyberthreat resource centre in the world. The Centre will provide the global community with a real-time aggregated early warning system that will help member countries quickly identify cyberthreats and provide critical guidance on effective counter measures.

It will also provide nations with a unique electronic tool that will enable authorized cyber experts in different countries to pool resources and collaborate with each other remotely and securely, to help the global community respond immediately to cyber-threats, especially during crisis situations.

In the area of capacity building, IMPACT will conduct high-level briefings for the benefit of representatives of ITU Member States, along with training and skills development delivered in collaboration with leading ICT companies and institutions.

Such high-level, cross-industry briefings represent an unprecedented opportunity for Member States to gain invaluable information and privileged private sector insight about the latest trends, threats and emerging technologies.

IMPACT’s Centre for Security Assurance & Research will work with leading ICT experts to aggregate and develop global best practice guidelines, creating international benchmarks relevant to governments around the world.

And on request, the Centre will be empowered to conduct independent ICT security audits for government agencies or critical infrastructure companies, such as national utility and telecommunication companies.

IMPACT’s Security Assurance Division will also function as an independent, internationally recognized, voluntary certification body for cybersecurity.

Finally, under ITU leadership, IMPACT’s Centre for Policy & International Cooperation will work with partners including UN agencies, Interpol, the Council of Europe, the OECD and others to formulate new policies on cybersecurity and help promote the harmonization of national laws relating to cyberthreats and cybercrime.

Child Online Protection
The GCA has also taken on a new and important responsibility, in the form of the Child Online Protection initiative, which we launched in November.

At ITU, we firmly believe that children everywhere have the right to a safe environment, even when that environment is a cyber one. Because even though the connection is virtual, the danger can be all too real.

Through the Child Online Protection initiative, ITU will therefore be working with policymakers, educators, industry, the media, NGOs – and with children themselves – to promote awareness and develop effective strategies to protect young people from cybercriminals of all kinds.

In today’s newly converged and interconnected world, we need to work together, to build multi-stakeholder consensus on effective strategies to tackle the challenges we face.

I would therefore like to see the international community join together under the auspices of the GCA to deliver a Common Code of Conduct on Cyber Crime – what I call the five ‘C’s.

Such a Code of Conduct will provide us all with a clear, legally-enforceable global framework through which we can begin to prosecute cybercriminals and stamp out their activities.

Criminals will no longer be able to hide behind legal loopholes and regulatory inconsistencies. Nations with less well-developed ICT legislation will no longer unwittingly find themselves hosting nefarious online activities. And even the world’s most disadvantaged states will at last have an effective shield with which to safeguard themselves.

ITU is uniquely well-placed to serve as the broker and coordinating agency for such a Code of Conduct. We have a long and successful history of building multi-stakeholder consensus on globally shared ICT resources. And we are a truly globally representative body whose mandate has always been based on cooperation, and on partnership.

My friends,

Convergence brings with it a wealth of opportunities – many of which we cannot even imagine yet. But it brings challenges, too, which must be faced squarely.

I do not believe that any one of us can solve these problems alone.

But I do believe we can solve them together.

Thank you.