Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the opening of the Forum at ITU
Telecom World 2009.
I will be brief, this afternoon, as I do not want to take up much of your time.
The real value of these Forums is to hear as much as possible from the floor,
and to keep speeches from the podium to a minimum.
We want to hear your views – and especially the views of the participants in the
Youth Forum. You are all digital natives, and can teach the rest of us, the
world’s digital immigrants, a great deal.
Before handing over the floor, however, let me go back to a time when most of
the members of the Youth Forum were still young children. Back to the end of the
last century, when things were very different indeed.
A decade ago, at the beginning of 1999, 3.6 billion people around the world had
access to television. At the same time there were 840 million fixed line
subscribers, 320 million mobile cellular subscriptions, and 186 million Internet
At the opening of the Forum in October 1999, ITU predicted – at the risk of
being proved wrong – that the number of mobile subscriptions globally could
surpass the number of fixed line subscribers by the time of the next ITU Telecom
World event in 2003.
That came to pass in 2002. And today, the number of mobile subscriptions, at
around 4.6 billion globally, is almost four times greater than the number of
fixed lines worldwide.
Compare that to the number of people with access to television, which has grown
in the past decade from 3.6 billion to 4.9 billion.
In 2009 – a year of worldwide recession – we have managed to add 600 million
mobile cellular subscriptions.
I am quietly confident, therefore, in predicting that the number of mobile
subscriptions will surpass the number of people with access to television in
And that the number of mobile subscriptions will surpass the number of people on
the planet by 2013 – at the very latest.
Turning now to the Internet.
Back in 1999, we predicted that in 2003, 500 million people would have Internet
Again we underestimated. The real number turned out to be closer to 800 million.
Today, the number is around 1.8 billion – over 60% of whom have broadband
The only prediction we got wrong in 1999, was saying we thought a good
proportion of Internet users would be accessing it from mobile devices.
We were ahead of ourselves.
But not very far ahead.
In 2009 – for the first time – we now have more mobile broadband subscriptions
globally than fixed line broadband subscribers.
So we have, to a very large extent, won the numbers game in the space of a
But that is only part of the picture.
It is one thing to be bringing connectivity to all the world’s people. That is
an achievement we certainly shouldn’t underestimate. But it is quite another to
put all this connectivity to good use.
Good use in leveraging the benefits of e-education, e-health and e-government.
Good use in being able to create, use and share information and knowledge
And good use in addressing the most important issues of our time – which include
the global financial crisis; cybersecurity; and of course climate change.
The Forum this week will address all these issues and more – and it gives me
great pleasure to hand you over now to the moderator for this session, Reza