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

ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009: Ministerial Segment, Ministers and CEO Dialogue: Public-Private Partnership
Geneva, Switzerland8 October 2009

Your Excellencies,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
Yesterday in this same room we hosted Ministers from more than 50 ITU Member States.  We also had a visit from HE President Robert Mugabe.

The focus of our discussion was the future of the Internet, with a focus on Broadband & Convergence; Internet public policy; and New and emerging cyber-threats.

There was great interest in the debate and I am sure we will have the same level of interest this morning as we address public/private partnerships. 
We are delighted to host this Ministers & CEO Dialogue.

ITU is the only UN specialized agency with a membership of governments and private sector. The private sector has been a driving force in ITU from its inception, and its vital role continues to this day.

I wish to express my thanks to you all for sharing your time and insights today into the importance of Public Private Partnerships. 

It is my hope that at this Dialogue, policy-makers and industry leaders can come together to appreciate their diverse perspectives on the highly significant topic of Public Private Partnerships, especially relevant in the current business climate.

Multi-stakeholder partnerships were a founding pillar of the World Summit on the Information Society, but they are even more relevant now, at this time of great challenges, but also great opportunities for the industry, as we have seen in the stimulus packages announced recently by many governments.

The ICT industry has already been transformed over the last three decades. In many countries, strong government involvement in the planning, investment and roll-out of national telecommunications infrastructure has been replaced by liberalization, greater private sector participation and competition.

The ICT sector is now a sector dominated by private players competing strategically on new technologies, pricing, and customer service.

In the wake of the recent financial crisis, the role of government has been called sharply back into focus. Many governments are announcing stimulus plans including an ICT or broadband component to boost employment, stimulate investment in the sector and promote economic growth across other sectors.

There is evidence that the social returns on broadband infrastructure investment are greater than the private returns, which suggests that the private sector alone is unlikely to fund ICTs to socially optimal levels.

Governments can take simple steps to assist, particularly in helping fund some of the massive network investments needed at a time of constrained funding for the industry.

But how can governments assist?  And what is the best form for government assistance to take?

ITU published its latest analysis of the subject on Monday, “Confronting the Crisis: ICT Stimulus Plans for Economic Growth”.

It examines the impact of the financial crisis on the ICT sector and some of the ICT stimulus plans announced in response. It finds that there is now fresh impetus for government involvement in the funding and deployment of telecommunications.

The beauty of Public-Private Partnerships is that they leverage the advantages of both public and private sector stakeholders to draw out the strengths of both partners and get the best of both worlds.

PPPs can provide improved access to funding from greater public budgets than is possible through corporate financing for a single firm or several, but PPPs also allow greater commercial discipline in efficient planning and operations.

I look forward to listening to your insights as to how industry and government can best work together to promote growth in the ICT industry, both at home and in emerging markets.

How can the public and private sector work together more effectively for better and improved funding of ICTs? 

What further policy support is needed to fund the development of new communication technologies or roll-out of new networks – in terms of financing or other support for research institutions? 

Will the current financial crisis help or hinder the development of PPPs in telecommunications and ICTs? 

I hope that today’s Dialogue will help provide some of the answers to these questions.

Thank you.