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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

BDT Director's Speeches

3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction Sendai, Japan. International Forum on the use of ICTs for Disaster Risk Reduction organized by the Government of Japan
Sendai, Japan  14 March 2015



"International Forum on the use of ICT for Disaster Risk Reduction"

14 March 2015, Sendai Japan

14:00 – 15:30




Sakamoto San, Vice Minister MIC Japan

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here with you to represent the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) at this side even organized by the Government of Japan. Vice Minister Sakamoto, thank you for inviting me to speak.

Let me now congratulate the Government of Japan for once again hosting the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. Most of us share the view that Japan is one of the most befitting venues for such an important event that discusses issues that go to the core of the people. In addition, Japan has a lot of experience in preparing and responding to disasters using modern technologies.

Coming from the Development Sector of ITU which I lead, my view is that the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) are as much important in development as they are in disaster risk reduction and disaster management.

This is why I launched the Smart Sustainable Development Model (SSDM) initiative in 2012. The initiative is innovative in that it links projects in two key areas that touch human lives namely; socio-economic development using ICTs and mitigation efforts using the same technological tools.

In other words, when we implement ICT infrastructure projects and add ICT applications, we ensure the mainstreaming of disaster reduction and response. The population running such projects for socio-economic activities, are trained and act as first responders when a country is affected by disasters.

On that note, I would like to thank Mr. Masahiro Yoshizaki, the former Vice-Minister for Policy Coordination who accepted to serve on the SSDM Advisory Board.

I also recognize and thank Mr. Yasuo Sakamoto, Vice-Minister of MIC Japan, who is here present. He participated in our last Board Meeting which was held in Doha on the occasion of ITU TELECOM 20014.

Vice-Minister Sakamoto San is very supportive to ITU emergency telecommunications initiatives since taking office. For instance, we just launched a joint project in the Philippines which involves the deployment of a Movable and Deployable ICT Resource Unit (MDRU) which was totally funded by the Japanese Government.

At the just ended ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Korea last year, Japan also pledged a sum of CH180'000 to finance our work on supporting countries affected by the Ebola disease. ITU contributed CH200'000 to the same project.

I am pleased to say that the project is progressing very well, the mobile application is up and running and is used by public and health workers in the countries affected by Ebola disease. We intend to now include some mobile applications that will address the problem of dengue fever and chikungunya fever.

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me now turn to the role of ICTs in saving lives. I see ICTs as a driving engine to economic growth. Everything that we do today is directly or indirectly driven by ICTs. When one looks around the banking, agriculture, education, health, environmental protection, and the business sectors, it is easy to appreciate the role of ICTs in the timely delivery of critical services.

However, development that does not take into account the preservation of human life when disasters strike, is a disaster in itself. 

With good planning, the same ICTs used to provide social services can be used in weather prediction, environmental monitoring, dissemination of timely alerts, and exchange of information among the humanitarian community for the coordination of activities during emergencies.

There are four important issues that I would like to leave you with:

  1. Technology and Innovation: Information and Communication Technology is evolving every day. In order to fully embrace the new ICTs, we have to be innovative. For instance, the Big Data revolution can made a huge contribution to development as well as to disaster risk reduction.  On this note, I congratulate the Japan Science and the Technology Agency and the US National Science Foundation who are making progress on a compelling research on challenges that arise from leveraging Big Data approaches to transform disaster management. 
    Working with big data generated by disasters help advance analyst and modeling with applications such as probabilistic hazard models. Through new ICT tools and innovation, we can have real time data sensing, visualization, analysis, experimentation and prediction, which are critical for time-sensitive decision making. 
  2. Partnerships: I believe that Governments, Private Sector, Inter-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, and Universities  should work together in order to bring out bright ideas that could contribute to disaster risk reduction. This alone is not enough, however. The most important part of a sustainable partnership local communities. We have to involve them from start to finish for the success of such projects and partnerships.
  3. Financing: It is important to incorporate disaster risk reduction, and resilience in development-oriented projects. This is important so as to save scarce resources particularly in developing countries. In the area of ICTs, this is very important because the same communication systems can be used for sustainable development and for saving human lives. Special insurance funds for reconstruction are also necessary from which affected communities could rely when emergencies arise. 
  4. Coordination: There are sometimes too many initiatives. Even in our ICT Sector, there are many entities trying to provide services when disasters strike. My advice is that we should be well coordinated to avoid congestion, spectrum abuse, and deployment of unlicensed equipment during emergencies. ITU is there to continue to play this important role working closely with Ministries and Regulators of telecom/ICTs concerned.   

To conclude I would like to state that ITU is committed to work with others to improve the baseline quality of disaster risk reduction and management through ICTs and to continuously search for practical, technical and operational innovations in this area.

I Thank you.