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

President Lula of Brazil visits ITU
15 June 2009

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great honour to welcome President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva of Brazil.

Presidente Lula - permita-me dirigir-me ao Excelentíssimo Senhor Presidente pelo nome que o Brasil e o mundo bem o conhece -,  sua presença hoje na União Internacional de Telecomunicações é um novo marco na história da UIT que vem sendo escrita com mãos brasileiras, há mais de um século.

Assim, sinta-se em casa na UIT Presidente Lula, pois esta casa é sua, cuja história é também uma história do Brasil.

This is President Lula’s first visit to ITU, and it is truly a tremendous privilege and a great pleasure to have him with us today.

ITU is the oldest international organization in the world and the global focal point for governments and the private sector in developing ICT networks and services. It was created in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union with the purpose of ensuring telegraphic messaging could pass freely from one county to another.

While the technology has certainly evolved – and we have progressed from telegraphs to telecommunications to ICTs – our role in ensuring that communications continue to function smoothly at the national and international level remains unchanged.

Today, we are proud to have 191 Member States and around 700 sector members and associates. This makes ITU a unique forum where governments and industry work together towards common goals. And it is our mission to ‘Connect the World’ and ensure that all the world’s people can reap the full benefits that access to information and communication technologies can offer.

Back in 1865 there were just 20 founding members of ITU, all from Europe. In 1877 — just 12 years later — Brazil became ITU’s 23rd Member State and has remained an active member ever since. Brazil and ITU have enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership, based on shared values of multilateralism and respect.  In 1906, for example, just following the invention of radio, Brazil was one of the 27 countries which signed the first Radiotelegraph Convention.

Brazil has hosted many important events for ITU – including a major broadcasting planning conference in 1981 and 1988; multiple regional Telecom events; the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly in 2004; and other key meetings on subjects as diverse as IMT 2000 and climate change.

Since 1992, Brazil has also been the home of ITU’s regional office for the Americas region.

I know I speak on behalf of ITU when I say that we share a long and distinguished history of excellent cooperation, and we look forward to continuing this tradition of mutual support and mutual respect.

We are grateful for Brazil’s continuing support and, on the basis of our excellent collaboration to date, I am sure that Brazil will continue to play a vital role in our work, as well as hosting other ITU events in the future.

President Lula,

I am aware of your strong personal interest in and passion for information and communication technologies. And the year in which you were born was a hugely important year in the history of our industry.

It was the year that the zero generation of mobile telephones was introduced – involving a single base station covering a wide area, where each telephone could effectively monopolize a channel while in use.

It was also the year that Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who passed away last year, set out his vision for a global system of geostationary satellite communications – which became a reality 20 years later.

And it was the year that Mervin Kelly put together the team of physicists – John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley –  who went on to invent the transistor, for which they were later awarded the Nobel Prize in physics.

In our lifetimes, ICTs have transformed the way we live, work and interact.

From the richest nation to the poorest, ICTs are now virtually ubiquitous. Today, the global total of mobile cellular subscriptions has comfortably passed the four billion mark, and over 1.6 billion people now use the Internet.

Brazil’s own progress in ICT development is remarkable, and puts Brazil firmly in the forefront of the wireless revolution.

Brazil has 155 million cellular phones of which 5 million are 3G terminals already in operation, giving it a mobile teledensity of almost 80%.

At the beginning of 2009, over a third of the Brazilian population was online, and Brazil had over ten million fixed broadband subscribers and close to three million mobile broadband subscriptions.

Brazil is one of the world’s great satellite powers and has operated both geostationary and non-geostationary satellite networks since the early 1970’s. Given the large dimension of your country, space systems play a vital role in helping connect remote populations as well as in remote sensing, monitoring climate change and resource exploration.

Mr President,

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is held each year on the 17th of May to celebrate the founding of ITU.

This year our celebration was dedicated to the theme of Protecting Children in Cyberspace. This theme will influence our work over the course of this year and in the future as well.

Cyberspace could, and should be, a global learning resource where young minds can grow, explore their world and expand their horizons. It offers a wealth of opportunities, as well as incredible knowledge and information resources.

But children online – with their natural curiosity, innocence and trusting attitude and tech-smart approach to the world – are easy targets for predators and criminals.

Protecting children in cyberspace is clearly our duty. And since this is a global issue, a global response is urgently needed, across all segments of society.

As a result, ITU has launched a worldwide, year-long ‘Call for Action’ to raise awareness of the need for child online protection. So far, some 34 countries and several regional organizations have responded to our call.

We have asked all stakeholders to share knowledge and experience; create awareness; and promote the adoption of policies and strategies that will protect children in cyberspace, and promote their safe access to online resources.

President Lula,

We are here today to honour you for your leadership in promoting ICTs, as well as protecting children in cyberspace. You have consistently put social problems at the top of your agenda and have been a tireless campaigner for children’s rights.

You have promoted digital inclusion programmes such as ‘PC for all’, which aims to provide low-cost computers to Brazil’s low-income population.

For school-age children, you have demonstrated deep concern about the safety of children in cyberspace. The law you sanctioned last year against the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet should serve as a shining example for all countries.

Before presenting you with your Award, I would like to offer you something that we have been carefully storing in our archives for some time now.

It is an important part of our history, and an important part of yours, and a commemoration of the long, shared road ITU and Brazil have travelled together.

As I said earlier, hopefully with a Brazilian-Portuguese accent, Brazil’s deep commitment to multilateralism has been fundamental in the process of shaping ITU, as we know it today.

Sixty years ago Brazil ratified the International Telecommunication Convention of Atlantic City, the Annexes, the Final Protocol, the Additional Protocols, the Radio Regulations and the Additional Radio Regulations.  This instrument is dated 15 August 1949.

In closing, it now gives me great pleasure to present you with your World Telecommunication and Information Society Award.

This Award is given each year to distinguished persons for their contribution towards building an inclusive and more equitable Information Society.
President Lula, please accept this Award.

Muito obrigado!