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

UNGIS Open Consultations on the Financial Mechanisms
Geneva, Switzerland8 October 2009

Excellencies, Eminent members of this table,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this meeting.

This is the first time in its history that the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) is holding Open Consultations on the Financial Mechanisms for Meeting the Challenges of ICT for Development – addressed to all WSIS stakeholders, including international organizations, governments, private sector, NGOs, others.

This meeting is hosted by ITU and organized jointly by the UNGIS Chair, ITU and all UNGIS Vice-Chairs, meaning UNESCO, UNCTAD, UNECA, UNDP.
The time and the place of these consultations is not a coincidence.

Firstly, this meeting takes place during ITU Telecom World 2009, the most important global event for the ICT industry, where global leaders from the private and public sectors discuss global trends and policy options as well as concrete projects. Many of them will use this occasion to contribute to our discussion on the Financial Mechanisms as well.

Secondly, we are now one year into the financial crisis, which erupted in the autumn of 2008, and which has taken its toll on the global economy and financial markets, significantly impacting existing financial mechanisms fostering development of the ICTs worldwide.

Fortunately, the ICT industry is fast moving, adaptive and resilient.

We observe that in many countries it stands to benefit from the large investments announced by governments as part of their stimulus plans over recent months.

Thanks to several discussions with private sector leaders I had this week, I am convinced that developing countries have a tremendous opportunity today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As an African, my position is that for the past 50 years Africa has based its development on three words: ‘help’, ‘assistance’ and ‘charity’. And I’ve never seen anybody get out of poverty through charity.

Aid doesn’t work. And if you’ve tried something for 50 years and it hasn’t worked, it’s certainly time to try something else.

As you know, the ITU is committed to connecting the world, and one of our main missions is to enable the evolution of telecommunications and information networks around the world – so that everywhere, people can actively participate in the global information society.

That is why it is not surprising that ITU – whose mandate is to extend the benefits of ICTs to all of the world’s inhabitants – took the leading role in the organization of the key event of this decade:  the  World Summit on the Information Society.

WSIS was an important landmark in the global effort to eradicate poverty and achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
Since the Tunis Phase of WSIS, much progress has been made.

In 2007, ITU organized the Connect Africa Summit, which was held in Kigali in 2007, and showed the extent of the commitment to achieving the WSIS goals. Indeed, it was a huge step towards achieving an all-inclusive information society.

Partners at this meeting committed to investing up to US$ 55 billion in infrastructure projects and technical assistance in Africa.

Such a high level of financial commitment, accompanied by very high political support, makes us believe that it is feasible to develop financing mechanisms or mobilize the financial resources necessary to achieve connectivity goals even before 2015.

In this context, it is my pleasure to announce that we will be building on the success of Connect Africa Summit with the next ITU Connect Summit, Connect CIS, taking place at the end of next month in Minsk, Belarus.

Distinguished colleagues,

2015 is just around the corner.

We therefore need to be  more ambitious and aim to connect the unconnected by 2012.

The biggest challenge we have is to deliver access to rural and isolated areas that are not necessarily profit-making. How can we do that?  This is our biggest challenge. 

Let us use this occasion to explore  approaches for fostering ICT sector development. Let us focus on concrete solutions and actions.

Taking a look at the agenda, and seeing so many prominent speakers with broad experience in ICT4D issues, I am confident that this meeting will generate an important contribution to the international debate on financing mechanisms.

I would like to thank you very much for your attention – and I wish you all productive debates and fruitful discussions.