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Regional Development Forum (RDF) & WTDC 14 Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) for the Americas


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RPM Opening Speech, Mr Zaho, Deputy Secretary-General, ITU

ITU Americas Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM)
for WTDC-14

Opening Ceremony

Tuesday 20 August 2013
Montevideo, Uruguay

Opening Speech

Houlin Zhao

Deputy Secretary-General,
International Telecommunication Union

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

  • I visited Montevideo on 2003 and it is a tremendous pleasure to be here with you today in this beautiful city for the ITU Americas Regional Preparatory Meeting for next year's World Telecommunication Development Conference, WTDC-14.
  • On behalf of ITU's Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré - who cannot unfortunately be with us here in person this week - let me express ITU's profound gratitude to Government of Uruguay for hosting this meeting, as well as yesterday's Regional Development Forum.
  • I have been informed that yesterday's Forum was a source of tremendously rich and productive deliberations and discussions and I thank you for your active participation and invaluable contributions.
  • I am very pleased to see many friends of this region present here today, and I am also pleased to see some new delegates. On behalf of the Secretary-General and myself, we welcome your attendance at this important meeting.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • As you know, ITU's mission is to connect the world, and to bring the benefits of ICTs to all the world's people, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.
  • This we do together with our 193 Member States and more than 700 sector members from industry, academia and civil society organizations.
  • I firmly believe that if we can succeed in achieving our mission, then we will see unprecedented social and economic improvement for all, and that we will continue to make bold steps in accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals as well as those of the World Summit on the Information Society - and indeed other sustainable development goals as we move forward with the post-2015 development agenda.
  • We can be proud of the progress that has already been made, and especially the progress made in the first twelve years of the new Millennium, especially in mobile cellular telephony.
  • In the year 2000, around half the people in the world's richest countries had a mobile phone, and mobile penetration in this region was just 21.8%.
  • By the end of this year there will be almost 7 billion mobile phone subscriptions globally, and mobile penetration in the Americas region as a whole is expected to surpass 109%. Here in Uruguay, mobile cellular penetration is even higher, reaching 147% by the end of 2012.
  • At the beginning of the Millennium, around 280 million people used the Internet worldwide. In not much more than a decade that figure has grown almost ten-fold to reach just over a third of the world's population.
  • And yet we still have a long way to go.
  • Because two thirds of the world's people - some 4.5 billion people - are still offline.
  • We all know that a lot of modern ICT technologies were initiated and developed in this region. In many areas of the ITU statistics, the Americas region is more advanced than either Asia-Pacific or Africa - but it is important to remember that even in this region there are gaps in terms of Internet connectivity between regional members, and that some members of this region remain behind some members of the other regions.
  • Our next goal must therefore be to bring affordable, equitable access to the Internet, to all the world's people.
  • The importance of broadband to all countries - and especially developing countries - was made very clear at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12, which took place in Dubai last December.
  • The new ITRs which were agreed at WCIT-12 contain a number of important revised and new provisions that represent a major improvement over the 1988 text - including provisions for landlocked developing countries and small island developing states, and provisions for the 650 million people worldwide living with some kind of disability.
  • There are also provisions to encourage investment in international telecommunication networks and promote competitive wholesale pricing for traffic carried - and I am confident that this will play a very important role in furthering broadband rollout around the world.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the treaty reflects the increasing participation of developing countries in ITU's work, and in this context, I am pleased to see the growing involvement of the region's members in ITU's activities, and I have noted that more and more ITU meetings and workshops are being organized in this region.
  • ITU senior management has also been present in this region more often than before. I note that since PP-10 was held in Guadalajara, Mexico, the Secretary-General himself has visited this region several times, and I myself came to this region twice in the past year. Brahima Sanou, the Director of BDT, has put a lot of effort in getting close to this region, and I know he has visited around half of the Member States in the region. The other two Directors have been here as well.
  • Finally, of course, the ITU Connect Americas Summit, held in Panama in July 2012, was a great success, and many new projects have been implemented.

Distinguished colleagues,

  • This regional preparatory meeting gives us a very welcome opportunity to listen to you, our membership, and to hear the issues that you want to see discussed and addressed at WTDC-14 next year.
  • I am pleased with more than 50 inputs to this meeting, covering a wide range of issues which are critical to the region.
  • The regional preparatory meetings for the CIS and Asia-Pacific regions were held earlier this year. The ideas, proposals and suggestions from these regional meetings, concerning their regional priorities, would be useful inputs for our meeting here in Uruguay, and let me encourage you to study these reports.
  • Our goal now is to find out what you, our membership, want to see in next year's WTDC - which is, after all, your conference - and to understand your priorities for the coming years.
  • We are here to listen, to take guidance from you, and to work with you, and I am confident that we will leave here with very fruitful results for the conference next year.

Distinguished colleagues,

  • Let me close by saying once more how happy I am to be here in Uruguay for this important meeting, and how grateful we are at ITU to the administration for hosting us.
  • Let me also express my gratitude to the BDT staff and other colleagues for their tremendous efforts under the leadership of the Director, Brahima Sanou. They have all been working very hard to ensure the success of this and the other regional preparatory meetings for WTDC-14 next year.
  • I wish you all a very successful meeting.

Thank you for your attention.