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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

BDT Director's Speeches

Joint ITU/UNESCO Policy Forum
Paris, France  11 March 2016


Opening Speech by Mr Brahima Sanou
Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU

UNESCO HQ, Paris. 11 March 2016

Mrs Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO,

Honorable Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Representatives of the private sector

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome everyone.

The International Telecommunication Union, the ITU, is pleased to join UNESCO in co-organizing this Policy Forum which is symbolic of the spirit of collaboration that needs to be strengthened between both our sectors of activity: ICT and education.

As Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau of ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, my principle objective is to connect the world, and to bring the benefits of ICTs to all of the people of world – wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.

It is clear in the mind of all of us that ICTs are golden tool for accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  

We have around 7.2 billion mobile subscription, which is almost an average on one mobile subscription par inhabitant in the world. What a golden platform for extending education to those who have been denied for one reason or another. Let me commend UNESCO for initiating and organizing regularly the mobile learning week.  

I recently read an interesting article on the BBC featuring the story of a young Lady teacher who had moved to Kenya to help start a program to support teachers and who came up with the idea of teaching via mobile phone text messages. In the article she said that "When a technologist and a teacher put their heads together they are able to really think of solutions that work." This statement is so inspiring. 

Using a mobile device for learning is about empowerment. It is about allowing students to take a more active role in their own education, both inside and outside of the classroom. It is about empowering teachers by giving them access to extremely rich resources to build and improve upon their teaching methods. 

It is also about lifelong learning. Following the wise advice of Mahatma Gandhi, we should live our life as if we were going to die tomorrow but we should learn and continue learning as if we were going to live forever.  

I had a dream that is coming through. My dream is to transform the school bags of students into tablets or smart phones and to create an e-education ecosystem, where every teacher and student will have access to a smart device and Broadband so that everyone enjoys "inclusive and equitable quality education and access to lifelong learning opportunities":  SDG4 on education. 

We should see this as a great opportunity, not a challenge. Everyone can benefit from a "digital learning revolution". 

We live in a connected and increasingly digital world. What would be more useful than to invest in preparing our future generation to access better opportunities for their lives? Education for digital skills must take priority in education systems, planning and policies, alongside with teacher training and development.  

Just three days ago the world celebrated the International Women's Day under the theme "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality'. ITU data show there is a gap of at least 11 per cent in Internet use between men and women worldwide.  

Access to ICTs is key for gender equality because it enables women to achieve greater independence, improves access to economic and social opportunities, and facilitates empowerment. 

Mobile learning ecosystem could also be a great opportunity for youth and SMEs to innovate for digital learning. Education is to a large extent culturally based; therefore the creation of adapted local content and applications can boost local job creation and entrepreneurship. 

Policy-makers and Regulators need therefore to carry out a full and extensive analysis of the purchasing power of their population and consider working with ICT operators to introduce targeted measures for specific regions or specific socio-economic groups. In particular they might provide preferential rates for students. 

Close co-operation between the education and ICT sectors is crucial to align policies and that is why we believe that this Policy Forum is an extremely important effort to create synergies between these two sectors. 

Above all, this policy Forum is about creating together an ecosystem where everyone can play its role in perfect synergy with others.  

My last word is reserved for teachers. You are the most important piece of the puzzle. You are the first people who should receive the pedagogical and technical support necessary to maximize the benefit from mobile learning. We entrust our children to your care and believe that it is you who will lead this "digital learning revolution". 

I hope that this dialogue we are stating today will continue in the future and will be taken further to regional and national levels. Alone, one cannot achieve much, but together, we can change the world. 

Thank you very much Mrs. Irina Bukova for being with us here today and for your inspiring opening speech. It is not a surprise for those who know your commitment, dedication and passion particularly as co-vice chair of the Broadband Commission. 

I thank you.