Speech from Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General
GSR (Global Symposium for Regulators) and GILF (Global Industry Leaders Forum)

9 November 2009, Beirut, Lebanon

Mr President,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here in Beirut today for the opening of the Global Symposium for Regulators and the Global Industry Leaders Forum.

I would like to echo Sami Al Basheer’s thanks to His Excellency the President of Lebanon, General Michel Sleiman, for his patronage of this event, and to Dr Kamal Shehadi, Chairman and CEO of Lebanon’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, for agreeing to chair this year’s GSR.

The GSR is a unique platform in ITU where regulators can share their experiences, exchange best practices and enter into a frank dialogue.

And this year’s theme – ‘Hands on or hands off? Stimulating growth through effective ICT regulation’ – is particularly appropriate in the current global economic climate.

This year’s GSR will build on the past successes of the symposium, which was started back in the year 2000, when I was myself Director of BDT. And I must confess that the GSR has always been one of my favourite events – and has a special place in my heart.

This year, for the second time, we are holding the Global Industry Leaders Forum, so once again, regulators and policy makers will benefit from the advice of industry players in helping to shape the future of the ICT sector.

I would also like to draw your attention to the Regional Regulator Associations who will have an opportunity this afternoon to discuss issues of common interest. Their role is essential in coordinating harmonized ICT policies and regulatory frameworks to facilitate the development of ICTs.

These regulatory events are vitally useful and their importance should not be underestimated.
Ladies and gentlemen,

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.

But everything depends – of course – on the right policy and regulatory environment being in place.

Today, as we face some of the biggest challenges of our time, it is important to note 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 incredibly resilient. Because humans will always want to communicate. And because human brainpower is an unlimited resource.

ICTs are playing a pivotal role in helping us emerge from the financial crisis and in fuelling economic recovery. And ICTs are directly responsible for job creation in the knowledge economy.

And 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%.

New technologies being developed within ITU, 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.

Regulators will also have a role to play in addressing climate change in the very near future, if not already.

Distinguished colleagues,

ITU’s mission is to connect the world, and bring ICTs within reach of all the world’s people.

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.

Communication is a basic human right.

In stimulating growth, and increasing access to ICTs for all, effective regulation is absolutely crucial.

For the ICT industry, it 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.

We also need to be aware that advances in ICTs – and in particular the move to an always-on, broadband environment – bring with them new areas of concern.

The Internet has certainly been one of the most powerful forces for learning and knowledge sharing in human history.

But its ubiquity has made it a tempting place for criminals and wrong-doers.

So regulators must now also consider issues of cybersecurity, along with their ever-broadening mandate in a converged world.

And they must think especially carefully about how children – the most active and enthusiastic users of technology – can be protected.

Children online are the most vulnerable and most at risk segment of our society.

This is why ITU – in partnership with many other organizations – launched the Child Online Protection initiative a year ago, as part of our Global Cybersecurity Agenda.

I would like you to pay special consideration to the role of regulators in protecting children online during this year’s Global Symposium for Regulators and Global Industry Leaders Forum.

For it may be something of a cliché, but everything depends on our children, and on our children’s children.

As a father and a grandfather myself, that means a great deal to me.

Thank you.