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Global Connections: Then, Now and Beyond
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 14 December 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen
Colleagues and friends

Allow me to first thank the Summit organisers - the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi, AGEDI and UNEP for inviting me to be here with you today.

ITU is the lead UN Agency for Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) which comprises 193 governments and over 700 private sector entities. And since the start of this year academia can also become members. We now have over 30 universities from around the world members of ITU.

ITU has two major goals: bringing the benefits of the information society to all the world's peoples; and actively promoting the use of ICTs to tackle environmental challenges.

These two objectives are closely related, since to tackle environmental challenges you must first have access to ICTs.

We believe that ICT solutions can enable today’s Summit theme “Effecting Change”. It can enable the transformation of key sectors of the economy, improve people's lives, and reduce global emissions and costs. All key elements that will help us to move towards a green economy and promote sustainable development.

ITU is also one of three international standards bodies recognised by the WTO, the others being ISO and IEC. International standardization is very important. It is the reason there are 2.4 billion Internet subscribers and 6 billion mobile phones in the world.

This would not have been possible without the partnership between governments and the private sector that we have in ITU.

Indeed – let me recall for a moment Article 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992) which reads ”Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level”.

ICTs can enable the kind of access to information that this summit promotes.

ICTs connect the world, they are an essential aid in sustainable development, they are key in monitoring the global environment, and they can be used to spread information to even the remotest parts of our world and can engage citizens in environmental data collection.

The power of ICTs can be brought to bear in so many ways; better traffic management, smart water and energy management; improve food security; reduce the need for travel; and dematerialisation - the digitalization of goods.

Some of the potential of ICTs has been realised, but there are countless more ways in which ICTs could be put to use in our battle against climate change and to tackle environmental challenges such as e-waste.

It is equally as clear that to bridge the world’s environment information gap we need to see the same coordination between governments and the private sector that we have in ITU.

Technologies such as smart grid, smart water management, intelligent transport systems, e-health, e-government, cannot be rolled out effectively without harmonization and government backing for international ICT standards, especially broadband standards.

ITU’s standardization sector has three main objectives:
  • To develop interoperable, non-discriminatory, international standards
  • To assist in bridging the standardization gap between developed and developing countries
  • To extend and facilitate international cooperation among international and regional standardization bodies.

Let me expand on the first objective. ITU develops international standards, not national or regional standards but standards that can be implemented on a world-wide basis. This means they have to have been accepted by the world community and to do this it means we must satisfy the requirements of the full ITU membership, again that’s 193 governments and over 700 private sector entities.

This connectivity that provides the world with the access to information that we currently see is brought about because our standards should provide interoperability so that products can be used anywhere in the world regardless of who has manufactured them and who is offering the service.

This is an extremely difficult objective to achieve in the multistakeholder environment we are now in, with products coming onto the market from different vendors often not complying to international standards, or any standard. This can result in poor quality products and services – not what we expect in the connected world we live in today.

To address this ITU is implementing what we call a “conformity and interoperability programme”.

This consists of a publicly available database where potential purchasers can view the products that have been tested to ITU standards, a series if interoperability events where different manufacturers come together to connect up their equipment complying to an ITU standard to prove they interoperate, capacity building, and assisting the establishment of test centres in developing countries.

Our second strategic objective is to bridge the standards gap.

What this means is to involve as many of the ITU member countries as possible in the development of our standards.

We are doing this in several ways, for example: by providing remote participation in our meetings; by having more meetings in the regions rather than in Geneva; and by offering fellowships for delegates from least developed countries. We are also producing more handbooks and tutorials on the implementation of our standards. We run over 50 workshops a year around the world.

And since 2007 all our standards are available for downloading from our website free of charge... leading to a significant reduction in ITU’s carbon footprint.

There are many ways that the human race can tackle climate change, but there are few tools that provide the same potential as ICTs.

Ladies and gentlemen, we saw at COP-17 last week in Durban an emphasis on robust measurement, reporting and verification mechanisms.

In ITU, industry working together with governments, academia and other standards organizations has adopted a set of internationally agreed methodologies to allow for accurate measurement and reporting of GHG emissions from ICTs, and for estimating the reduction in GHG emissions from other industry sectors that can be achieved through the use of ICTs.

We very much hope this set of methodologies can be used to illustrate how important ICTs meeting international standards can contribute to mitigating and adapting to climate change.

COP-17 has agreed to implement the Technology mechanism next year which will provide advice and funding through its Green Climate Fund for the transfer of technology from developed countries to developing countries to assist their efforts in climate change.

Armed with the proof of the substantial role ICTs can play that our methodology will give, developing countries should be able to get funding for the implementation of ICT projects to assist with mitigation and adaptation.

Bridging the digital divide and addressing climate change…. a win-win scenario I am sure you will agree.

We recognize that as we move toward Rio +20, data and information are the foundation for ensuring collaborative, informed decision-making for a sustainable future.

The percentage reductions in GHG emission that the climate scientists consider necessary to save the planet can only be achieved by the widespread application of ICTs.

Let me close by quoting Alberto Kattan, one of the most famous environmental lawyers in Latin America who said “when you open your eyes it is a commitment. You can never close them again.”

So let us make the most of this opportunity, with so many leading experts from around the world, to recognise that the global connections facilitated by the application of ICTs will be instrumental to achieve the required reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and address other environmental challenges.

Thank you


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Updated : 2011-12-19