Speech from Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General
ICT4ALL Forum - Tunis+4 - Opening Ceremony

24 November 2009, Hammamet, Tunisia

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to have the opportunity of joining you here today. And I would like to extend my special thanks to the Government of Tunisia: for its hospitality; for its commitment to ICT development; and for its organization of this important event.

It is now four years since governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society concluded the second phase of WSIS in Tunis.

The final outcomes included the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society – which set out a number of objectives to be urgently addressed in order to create an open, accessible and inclusive Information Society.

A lot has been achieved since then, and we are proud to see that the commitment of WSIS stakeholders has not diminished with time.

Quite the opposite.

Stakeholders all recognize that we need to be very ambitious in setting targets if we are to benefit from the capability of ICTs to help us achieve the Millennium Development Goals. ITU, for example, is aiming to connect the unconnected by 2012.

We also need to respond rapidly to anything which might limit our ability to achieve the WSIS targets or the MDGs.

For example, we are now just over a year into the global financial crisis.

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

The report showed that 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 financial crisis has affected many sectors but 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.

ITU firmly believes that investments in ICT and broadband networks have a major role to play in any stimulus plan. Next-generation technologies bring enormous advantages to nations, and the right policy choices must be made now, so we can reap the benefits tomorrow.

This is especially true in the developing world.

I was therefore pleased to be able to engage with private sector leaders at the World 2009 event, who all felt the developing world represented a tremendous opportunity for growth – and not just some countries, but all countries.

The World 2009 event also saw us focus on Part B of the Tunis Agenda, which addresses Financial Mechanisms for ICT for Development – and in this context the United Nations Group on the Information Society, UNGIS, which is chaired by ITU, held successful consultations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For the past 50 years Africa has based its development on three words: ‘help’, ‘assistance’ and ‘charity’.

But I’ve never seen anybody get out of poverty through charity. And aid has failed, time and time again.

If you’ve tried something for 50 years, and it hasn’t succeeded, then it’s high time to try something else.

The overarching theme for this event – ICT Innovation as a Tool for Strengthening Competitiveness and Growth – is particularly appropriate.

Because ICTs are incredibly resilient. And because humans will always want to communicate. And because human brainpower and innovation are unlimited resources.

We should also not forget that ICTs have a more important role than any other sector in helping us to address climate change – the most serious issue ever faced by humanity.

ICTs contribute around 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions – but more efficient use of modern technologies could cut global power consumption by 15%.

So ICTs are very much part of the solution, not part of the problem.

ITU’s mission is to connect the world, and to bring ICTs within reach of all the world’s people. But in doing so, we must ensure that access to ICTs is simple, equitable, and affordable to all. So that they can create information, use information, and share information – wherever they live and however modest their means.

One of the biggest challenges we face is how to deliver access to rural and isolated areas that are not necessarily profit-making – especially in the short-term. In some countries it is part of the licence conditions; in others deadlines are imposed on operators; in others still, reverse auctions have been used successfully.

ITU’s responsibility is to support countries in building their capacity and an enabling environment.

One of the ways we have been addressing this issue is through our regional Connect events. The first one, Connect Africa, was held in Kigali in 2007 and raised an extraordinary 55 billion US dollars in commitments to infrastructure projects. Eight billion dollars was invested in Africa in 2008 alone.

The next Connect event, Connect CIS, takes place in Minsk, Belarus, at the end of this week, and I have equally high hopes for this event, which will make a real difference to ICT development in the region.

We also work with regulators from around the globe in order to ensure that effective regulation drives sectoral growth and accessibility to ICTs.

Indeed, just two weeks ago, we held the Global Symposium for Regulators in Beirut, and had record attendance for the event, which was billed with the theme: ‘Hands on or hands off? Stimulating growth through effective ICT regulation’.

For the ICT industry, effective regulation delivers predictability and stability, and it reduces risk. It encourages investment in ICT infrastructure and rewards competition and innovative new business models.

At the same time, effective regulation protects consumers – by delivering a transparent market place and a fair system for resolving disputes.

Distinguished colleagues,

Building an inclusive information society also means dedicating significant efforts to building confidence in ICTs, and ITU plays a prominent role here as the facilitator of Action Line C5.

I know that many of you are already actively supporting and promoting ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda, which was launched in 2007 and is now in its operational phase.

We are proud to have forged a strong and highly supportive relationship with IMPACT – the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats.

Last year this culminated in a Memorandum of Understanding that saw IMPACT’s headquarters in Cyberjaya, Kuala Lumpur, become the physical home of the GCA.

The collaboration between the GCA and IMPACT is the world’s first truly global operational framework against cyberthreats. It provides ITU’s 191 Member States with expertise, facilities, information, and rapid access to resources which allow them to effectively address actual and potential cyberthreats.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before closing, I would like to take a minute to look forward in respect of the WSIS implementation and follow-up.

Next year, the WSIS Forum 2010 will mark the half-way point between WSIS in 2005, and the final review of WSIS 2015. It is therefore the responsibility of all WSIS stakeholders to prepare for this mid-term review.

In this context, it is my pleasure today to launch a fresh call for reporting on the WSIS implementation, made through the new WSIS stocktaking information system.

From now on, I would like to see this used as an interactive, community-based platform for the WSIS community – and in particular, project managers, who are working on the implementation on a daily basis.

We can all be proud of what we have achieved since Tunis 2005. But let us not rest on our laurels; let us instead build on the tremendous energy and spirit of cooperation of WSIS and let us meet these new challenges. Let us roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

Thank you.