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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

BDT Director's Speeches

21st Telecommunication Development Advisory Group Meeting
Geneva, Switzerland  16 March 2016

21st Telecommunication Development Advisory Group
Geneva, 16-18 March 2016

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


Prof. Vladimir Minkin, Chairman of TDAG,
TDAG Vice-Chairmen,
Representatives of Member States, Sector Members, Associates and Academia,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the 21st meeting of the Telecommunication Development Advisory Group (TDAG). This is the first TDAG meeting since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals otherwise referred to as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As Mr Zhao said, 2015 was a memorable year with the commemoration of the ITU 150th Anniversary, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, and a global agreement on climate change.

Sustainable development is at the heart of the work of the ITU's Telecommunications Development Sector.

Telecommunications and information communication technologies (ICTs) are the foundation upon which economic and social development can grow.

There is no doubt today that telecommunication/ICT is cross-cutting and an enabler for growth and development.

The work of the Development Sector is therefore essential in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Allow me to list a few of the contributions that we are making towards achieving the goal of sustainable development. We are contributing to:

Ending poverty and ensuring that everyone has equal rights in economic resources, as well as access to basic services, by collecting data on the access to these services, including households with broadband internet in urban and rural areas. This is SDG 1.

Ending hunger by supporting countries to develop their e-agriculture strategies. In close cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we have produced an e-Agriculture Strategy Guide to assist Member States. We are therefore contributing to the achievement of SDG 2.

We are also contributing to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all. In this regard, we are documenting ICT best practices on the role that eHealth applications can play in achieving the SDGs. In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), we have implemented the "Be Healthy Be Mobile" initiative to help fight the growing burden of non-communicable diseases and we continue to support countries to develop their national eHealth strategies to better harness ICT for health.

I am pleased to inform you that, on the occasion of the World Health Assembly, which will take place in May here in Geneva, we will be co-hosting with WHO a two-day high-level meeting between health and ICT stakeholders to discuss how policies and cross-sectoral collaboration between health and technology can foster innovation and improve the quality, equity and accessibility of health services. We are supporting the achievement of SDG 3.

We are also contributing to promoting inclusive, equitable and lifelong learning opportunities for all. We develop and deliver ICT-related courses to train young people and adults in ICT skills and ensure equal access for women to technical and vocational education.

I am delighted to tell you that I have just returned from a policy forum jointly organized by ITU and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, where, for the first time, Ministers of Education and Telecommunications/ICTs gathered to examine the role that policies can play in fostering innovation in the education sector and facilitate the use of mobile technology for learning. ITU got standing ovation from the participants and the Director General of UNESCO for our support to the achievement of SDG 4.

We are also contributing to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by taking a lead role in the global International Girls in ICT Day campaign. This year the Day will be observed on 28 April and I encourage everyone to organize events to empower and encourage girls and young women to consider careers in telecommunications/ICTs. This is part of our many activities contributing to the achievement of SDG 5.

By encouraging young people to learn to code, publishing research on code bootcamps, providing online training on ICT-enabled entrepreneurship and promoting the use of new and existing telecommunication technologies for enhanced trade, we are contributing to economic growth, productive employment, and decent work for all (SDG 8)

We are helping to build resilient infrastructure, to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and to foster innovation by assisting Member States in elaborating both holistic and targeted ICT policies, regulations, and strategies as well as by promoting building confidence and security in the use of ICTs. We are therefore contributing to SDG 9.

My report that is mapping the work of ITU-D and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a detailed overview of our contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. As you can see,  we work more and more with non-traditional ICT players and that is because ICTs are increasingly recognized an essential pillar of many areas of life in the converged ecosystem. As a consequence, the ITU-D Membership has grown more and more diverse.

In 2015, for instance, we have welcomed several new non-traditional members, including MasterCard, Walt Disney and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Moreover, we have now reached over 100 Academia members. This year, for the first time, the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) is reaching out to the financial sector by organizing, on 11 May, a Global Dialogue on Digital Financial Inclusion, with the support of the Gates Foundation and other partners. Also, we are organizing dedicated sessions for Industry Leaders' Debates and Chief Regulatory Officers (CRO) around GSR and Telecom to better engage with Sector Members, and private industry in particular.

Indeed, our Membership is the engine that fuels our actions. No one can do this alone, we are all engaged to make our world more sustainable.

We are also engaging more and more with regional and international organizations, particularly with other UN agencies.

Ladies and gentlemen:

I look forward to the next WTDC in 2017 when we will review our accomplishments in the first years of implementation of the new development agenda for the world but also define our way forward with new and innovative ways to do things. Our journey to the next WTDC has begun.

Significant efforts are under way to prepare key documents for WTDC-17 so as to engage our Members and build consensus early on. I would like to commend the chairmen and all those who are contributing to the work of the TDAG Correspondence Groups. The Groups met yesterday, 15 March.

This TDAG may also want to establish a Correspondence Group on streamlining the resolutions.

The first Regional Preparatory Meetings will take place towards the end of 2016 in the CIS region and Africa respectively. As you know these meetings are organized to achieve regional coordination and engage Members in the WTDC-17 process. They help to identify regional issues that need to be addressed to foster the development of ICT.

Looking towards WTDC-17, we continue to strengthen synergies in our activities in order to maximize resources and impact recognizing that all areas of our work are strongly interrelated. This helps us maximize our resources while using results-based management as our guide and reference.

I would also like to stress, once again, that promoting a relationship between BDT and ITU-D members grounded on transparency, open consultation and accountability remains very crucial to me. I welcome any suggestions and feedback, during this TDAG and beyond, you may have to help us improve.

Last but not least, I am a firm believer that our success also depends on our skilled personnel, staff motivation and a shared vision. To enable staff to fulfil their full potential, BDT organized several training courses last year. Recently, we held a BDT retreat to start preparing, together, for WTDC-17, share ideas and opinions and build team spirit and enhance teamwork. A study by Stanford University shows that it is possible to create a spirit of teamwork as people take on challenging individual tasks – a feeling that we're all in this together, working on problems and tasks – and that this sense of working together can inspire motivation. And motivation from staff translates into more success for the Organization.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Before I conclude, let me share with you the major ITU-D meetings coming up in 2016: 

  • From 11 to 14 May, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt,  the next Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) will focus on the theme Be Empowered, Be Included! Building Blocks for Smart Societies in a Connected World.
  • From 5 to 8 September, the Global Human Capacity Building Symposium will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, under the theme: Developing human and institutional capacity for a digital society
  • The third meetings of the ITU-D Study Groups 1 and 2 will be held from 19 to 30 September in Geneva. We also invite you to the upcoming 2016 Rapporteur Group meetings which will start on 4 April. I take this opportunity to thank the Study Groups' chairmen, rapporteurs and vice-rapporteurs for the remarkable work they are doing for the increased and quality contributions.
  • And from 21 to 24 November, the World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS) will take place in Botswana.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Only by working together, will we make the world better, safer and more sustainable. We at ITU-D are ready to play our role in the noble task ahead of us.

I would like to end by thanking you for your dedication and commitment.

Thank you for your attention.