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BDT Director's Speeches

SAMENA Regional Regulatory Summit
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia  12 April 2017

SAMENA Regional Regulatory Summit

12th April 2017

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Speech by Mr Brahima Sanou,

Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau


Al Salam Aliakum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatoh


Excellency Dr Abdul Aziz Salem Al Rwais, Governor of CITC

Mr. Sultan Al-Malik, Advisor to the Minister of Information and Communication Technology

Dr Khaled Biyari, Group CEO STC

COEs and leaders of Regulatory authorities

Members of teh board of SAMENA

Mr Bocar Ba, CEO of SAMENA Council

Distinguished Business Leaders

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my great pleasure to be here in the beautiful city of Riyadh and to join you for the Regional Regulatory Summit 2017, organized by SAMENA Council, one of the ITU's Development Sector member, under the theme "Driving the Digital Transformation in the Region".

The Summit could not be more timely. Digital transformation is happening. It is a reality that impacts all and everyone and everything across all economic and social sectors, including, education, public services, financial services, health, transport, agriculture, utilities such as electricity and water, oil and gas, just to mention a few.

This summit is taking place at a time when we are starting to write a new page in the history of the ICTs, thanks to the applications associated with them. Big Data, open data, 3D printing, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, are all increasingly becoming essential tools for decision-making and management.

The Digital transformation is driven by facts and trends. I would like to mention few here that are essential for policy makers and regulators and for service providers of course.

First, as a global trend, the landscape of policy, regulation and service provision have changed and will continue to change because we are living in an era of convergence of telecom/ICT infrastructure, services and service providers.

We are witnessing the emergence of new players without any regulatory or infrastructure legacy. We are also witnessing the displacement of revenues and changes in business models for service provision.

The telecom/ICT industry will continue to broaden and diversify, but most importantly it will continue to change more and more rapidly. We are living in a sector where no matter what time you go to bed, when you wake up your first question should be what has changed when I was sleeping? The second question should be what must I do to remain relevant? Everything is accelerated: the time to transform an idea to a business, the time frame to become billionaire. In the past it would take a life or two generations to become billionaire, now it is about 5 to 10 years' time frame etc.

Some time we portrait these changes as disruptive businesses, but we should see them, hear them and understand them just as wakeup calls. We are moving to asymmetric business models and asymmetric competition frameworks.

These changes are not happening only in the ICT sector but in the ICT ecosystem. Take for example the FINTECH that is changing the financial landscape using ICTs, how Biometrics is bringing unique identification. Another example is the very blurred frontier between physical and cyber worlds that is making us commute frequently and seamlessly between those two worlds.

We are witnessing the very rapid development of Artificial Intelligence. It is estimated that by end of 2017, 24 million Americans will have robots at home interacting with human beings. Elon Musk has a new project of a medical research company called Neuralink that will make brain-computer interfaces.

Second, Digital economy has brought about, at least amplified the shared economy. Shared economy at consumer level with example of Uber, Airbnb. Shared economy at the level of investment with crowd sourcing and crowd funding. Some time share of power because with 1.86 billion Facebook active subscribers compared to 1.36 billion population of China, Facebook has a critical mass to claim some power from the governments.

Third, Cybersecurity will continue to be a big challenge as we embark on the Internet of everything and artificial intelligence. In such an interconnected world a loophole anywhere in the network represents a danger everywhere. Therefore cybersecurity is a global problem that requires a global approach. We are interdependent when it comes cybersecurity. For example in the first 9 weeks of this year the IT systems of the German Army, the Bundeswehr, had been targeted in more than 280,000 cyberattacks, leading to the creation of a new branch in the army called Cyber and Information Space (CIR) Command.

Fourth, the debate on the ethical issues related to artificial intelligence will go beyond the technology to the societal debate on minimum common ethics standard in the world. We need to start this debate in order boost the development of artificial intelligence.

Fifth, on the consumer side, there will continue to be an ever-expanding variety of services and applications to serve our social, business and entertainment needs.

We are moving from owning infrastructure and devices to the usage of them. We will be more inclined to pay for the usage than for the ownership. We will rely more and more on cloud computing.

The feeling of freedom of expression and interaction with an unlimited number of people in cyberspace will continue to outweigh the issue of privacy for the younger generations that are known as digital natives.

The consumers who have been passive are now become active players in the ecosystem because they are claiming their share of the wealth created from their data. New business models are being built on this assumption.

As you can see, the ICT sector that is driving the transformation and the digital economy is characterized by three main factors: acceleration, asymmetry and interdependence.

Faced with these new challenges, but also, especially, with these tremendous opportunities, policy makers and regulators need to undergo structural changes in their strategies and operation.

On another hand, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals has broadened our mission and mandate. We are now required not only to provide broadband and universal access to ICT services at affordable price, but equally important, to make ICTs work for other economic sectors.

Therefore, our actions should go beyond the ICT sector to embrace the ICT ecosystem. A new ecosystem where ICTs are about streamlining Government processes, bringing education and health to the neediest people in order to create national cohesion, inclusiveness and economic growth.

We are at a turning point of our sector and all stakeholders, governments, regulators, ICT service providers, academia, research community, consumers and civil society need to change the way they interact with each other in order to create this new enabling ecosystem.

It is important to recognize, that there is no single and comprehensive blueprint for best practices. Each country will have to weigh short-term and long-term gains and losses in relation to each policy and regulatory decision it takes within its environment and the status of its digital transformation.

However, it is equally important to share experiences and cross-fertilize knowledge around the world because at the end of the day we are leaving in an interconnected world where everything is interdependent. This the reason why I hereby invite you to join us at the 2017 edition of the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) which will take place in the Bahamas from 11 to 14 July 2017 under the theme "Living in a World of Digital Opportunities". GSR is an ITU yearly event that gathers all the regulators and policy makers and industry.

Before I conclude, I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate Saudi Arabia and its leadership for the 2030 forward-looking vision and strategy that would pave the way for a total transformation of the Saudi economy to reap the full benefits of the digital economy.

 I would like to congratulate SAMENA and commend Mr. Boca Ba for organizing this Regulatory Summit of such a pertinent theme.

In conclusion let me state that as the ICT sector is writing a new page of its history, we need to reinvent our ways of working together. We all need to not only think innovation, which we are doing very well now, but more importantly to innovate our way of thinking. As Albert Einstein wisely said "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them".

Let us put hands together to make ICTs work for our people.

I thank you very much.

Sukran Jesilan.