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

ITU-D Study Group 1
Geneva, Switzerland
7 September 2009

Mrs Loridan-Baudrier, Chairperson, of Study Group 1,
Vice-Chairmen,
Mr. Kisrawi, Chairperson of ITU-D Study Group 2,
Rapporteurs and vice-Rapporteurs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I am here to open this fourth meeting of Study Group 1 at the request of my friend and colleague, Sami Al-Basheer.  I know how much Mr. Al-Basheer would have liked to have been here in person, but his presence was required at the World Telecommunication Development Conference preparatory meeting.  The overlap of the two meetings was, as I understand, unavoidable.  As you know the RPM for the Americas was originally scheduled for August, but was postponed due to a change of venue and host country, which was beyond our control.

I know that many of you have travelled from far and have dedicated much time and effort to the study questions being addressed this week.  Being very much a membership-driven initiative, it is primarily your personal efforts that drive the success of the Study Group and reinforce its essential role for ITU-D and particularly its relationship with the activities of its programmes and initiatives.

Given that this is the last meeting before next year’s World Telecommunication Development Conference, it is an important opportunity for you to review the past work of the Study Group, but especially to think about the key priorities for the next Study Period. 

The questions you are addressing here are not only important to the BDT, but are an integral part of the ITU’s mission to bring the benefits of the information society to all the world’s people.

Many of the questions of this Study Group relate to regulatory issues.  We all know that to be successful in spreading affordable access to ICTs, adopting the right regulatory and legislative policies is crucial. The environment that enables new technologies to be used and shared by all can only be created through regulatory reform.

In the rapidly evolving ICT Sector, adopting the most effective regulatory policies can be quite a challenge.  Study groups, such as these, that bring together experts from many different regions to share experiences and best practices are a practical and constructive way of meeting that challenge.

We are also delighted with the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR), which has become a global ITU platform where regulators can share their experiences, exchange best practices and enter into a frank dialogue on challenging issues in this rapidly evolving sector.   As you know, the next GSR will be held 10 – 12 November in Beirut, Lebanon. It will be preceded by the Global Industry Leaders’ Forum, a high-level forum for CEOs and other industry leaders to convey their views and make proposals regarding key regulatory and policy issues.

Over the next few days you will also be discussing access to telecommunication services for people with disabilities.  ICTs have huge potential to give greater autonomy to people with disabilities and to allow them to be fully part of the society in which they live.  ITU is working with policy makers and regulators to ensure that the potential of existing assistive technologies are readily available to the people who need them and, equally important, to ensure that new technological developments do not erect unexpected barriers for persons with disabilities.

The recent success of the ITU Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Mainstreaming ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, held last month in Bangkok, is an indication of the growing interest in this topic.  We believe that the joint ITU- Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs toolkit will provide a valuable platform for sharing best practices on improving ICT accessibility.

However, as we intensify our efforts to bring empowering new ICT services to the world’s people, we must remain vigilant to the rise of cyber-threats and cyber-crime.  While we are making progress towards a globally coordinated approach to cybersecurity, more needs to be done, particularly in protecting the most vulnerable group being targeted by online criminals, our children. 

We must continue to work together at every level to ensure a peaceful cyberspace.  Input and cooperation from all our members is critical if we are to succeed.

You have a busy schedule ahead of you, so I will not take up any more of your time. Let me just express my gratitude to Mrs Audrey Loridan-Baudrier, for chairing this meeting of Study Group 1.  I leave you in her capable hands and wish you well in your important work over the next few days.