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

26 November 2009, Minsk, Belarus

My dear colleague, Mr Kubis, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here in Minsk today for the opening of the ITU Connect CIS Summit, and I wish to express our deep gratitude to our host country, Belarus, for their fine hospitality and organization.

ITU Connect CIS is the second in a series of regional events.

Like the first such summit, ITU Connect Africa, ITU Connect CIS brings together high-level participants from the public and private sectors to set off a chain reaction which accelerate the spread of ICTs across this most dynamic of regions.

It is time to leverage the huge market potential of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and to mobilize the human, financial and technical resources which will support the rapid move to a true information economy and society.

The CIS countries are a vigorous and exciting place in the ICT world today. Indeed they have been the fastest-growing mobile market in the whole world in the new millennium – achieving an astonishing regional mobile teledensity of 107% by the beginning of this year.

The next big leap forward for the CIS region will be broadband, which has become vital for social and economic progress in the 21st century.

High-speed, always-on, broadband access is an increasingly critical platform for business activity of all kinds, as well as for the delivery of services ranging from e-health,
e-education and e-government, to entertainment and interpersonal interaction.

With broadband, however, come new concerns, and notably a dramatic increase in the need to address cybersecurity issues.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Last year, cybercriminals stole up to a trillion dollars worth of intellectual property from businesses worldwide, and many millions of individuals have had their privacy violated, have suffered identity theft and have had their hard-earned savings stolen from them.

Increasingly, women and children are being targeted online by traffickers and paedophiles.

Governments constantly face cyberattacks – and terrorists increasingly rely not just on their weapons, but on the power of cyberspace technologies like GPS and VoIP to sow destruction.

Indeed, the recent establishment of cyberdefence centres by many governments shows how seriously nations take the threats. It is no exaggeration, I believe, to say that the next major war will probably not begin on the ground, but in cyberspace.

Given the scale of the threat – and the phenomenal harm that can be caused by even a single cyberattack – we cannot rely on ad hoc solutions or hope to survive by strengthening our defences only after attacks have occurred.

No – we must work together, to ensure a coordinated response.

This is why ITU is playing a lead role in coordinating global efforts in this area, and why we launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda in 2007.

The GCA is now in its operational phase, with a physical home in Malaysia at the headquarters of IMPACT – the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats – and I encourage all ITU members to take advantage of these facilities.

ITU is also working with partners to bring cybersecurity to the table at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Distinguished colleagues,

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

Today, as we face some of the biggest challenges of our time, I cannot over-emphasize the fact that in every field of human endeavour, and in every crisis we face, ICTs are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

ICTs are playing 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 ICTs are directly responsible for job creation in the knowledge economy.

ICTs also have a more important role than any other sector in helping us to address climate change – the most serious issue we have ever faced as a species.

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

New technologies, such as next-generation networks, can reduce network and data centre power consumption by up to 40%.

ICTs can help solve the climate crisis by reducing waste. By cutting business travel. By making industry more efficient. And by helping us monitor environmental change through satellite-based remote sensing systems.

That is why I will be going to Copenhagen in two weeks, for the UN Climate Change Conference, which is a unique opportunity to make progress and seal a deal.

And that is why I have called on all ITU Member States to strive to ensure that ICTs are included in the final texts from Copenhagen.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Returning to ITU Connect CIS, it is now time to turn words into actions, and that is why we are here together today. To transform dreams into reality, and to put in place the building blocks for tomorrow' s world.

This can only happen through a renewed commitment to partnership – and in particular partnership between the public and private sectors.

It can only happen if policy and regulatory frameworks are conducive to doing business, and to doing business profitably.

And it can only happen with the political will on the part of governments to make ICTs a key priority in their development agendas.

Over the next two days, we will be seeking commitments to ICT development across the region. Commitments to roll out broadband infrastructure. Commitments to develop the skills needed to succeed in the knowledge economy. And commitments to deliver affordable, equitable access to ICTs for all.

In short, we are looking for commitments to the future.

Personally, I am confident that we shall succeed.

I am confident that where ICTs are concerned, we shall meet the Millennium Development Goals, and that we shall meet them ahead of schedule.

And I am confident that this summit will help us achieve these goals.

I look forward to seeing partnerships brokered, relationships forged, and investment commitments made, here in Minsk – and I look forward to seeing further rapid development of ICTs across this most vibrant region.

In closing, therefore, I would like to thank our hosts, the Government of Belarus, as well as our partners, without whom none of this would be possible.

Thank you.