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

23 November 2009, Hammamet, Tunisia

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to join you today here in Hammamet, and to support the ongoing work of AICTO – and my good friend and colleague, Khédija Ghariani, AICTO’s Secretary-General.

The subject chosen for this Forum – ‘The ICT Sector and the Economic Crisis’ – is both timely and appropriate, one year on from the dramatic events which overtook the global financial sector in September and October 2008.

Just last month, at ITU Telecom World 2009, in Geneva, ITU launched a new report entitled ‘Confronting the Crisis: ICT Stimulus Plans for Economic Growth’.

The ICT sector has a major role to play in generating economic growth and stimulating global financial recovery – across all commercial and industrial sectors.

The ITU’s report notes that the financial crisis has failed to make a major dent in demand for ICT services – with the mobile and satellite sectors proving remarkably resilient, and consumer demand for high-speed fixed and mobile connections continuing to fuel growth in broadband subscriptions in major markets worldwide.

And from a consumer perspective, do you see anyone deciding not to use their phone any more? I certainly don’t.

Looking at the ICT sector in more detail, which ICT market segments have best weathered the storm?

The main winners are wireless communication technologies, fixed broadband Internet, Next-Generation Networks and satellite technologies – which all have enormous potential to spur economic growth in both developing and developed countries.

Distinguished friends and colleagues,

Economists may still be debating appropriate measures to combat the crisis, but we at ITU firmly believe that investments in ICT – and broadband networks in particular – have a major role to play in any stimulus plan. They often promise stronger marginal returns on supply, and greater productivity gains, than other forms of infrastructure.

There is an increasing body of research which shows that investment in ICTs has a direct positive effect on GDP growth. And interestingly, higher-end technology seems to deliver the greatest benefits.

A 10% increase in fixed line teledensity seems to increase GDP by around 0.5%. The same increase in mobile teledensity increases GDP by some 0.7 percentage points. And a 10% increase in broadband penetration can boost GDP by an average of 1.3%.

I think it is therefore clear that ICTs will continue to play a pivotal role in helping us emerge from the financial crisis, and in fuelling economic recovery.

Broadband infrastructure projects are a key part of many governments’ stimulus packages, and in the knowledge economy ICTs are directly responsible for the creation of new jobs.

And I am certain that ICTs will continue to play a major role in the Arab world, which has already demonstrated its resilience in the face of the economic crisis, and which boasts such a vibrant and dynamic ICT sector.
Ladies and gentlemen,

ICTs are at the centre of everything we do in the modern world. They play a vital and increasing role in education and health, in the workplace and at home, and in creating government services that work for the people.

In every field of human endeavour, and in every crisis we face, including the economic crisis, ICTs are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Thank you.