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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

BDT Director's Speeches

Universal Postal Union, World Strategy Conference
Geneva, Switzerland  14 April 2015

Universal Postal Union

World Strategy Conference

Transferring trust in the physical world to the digital economy

Panel 8

Tuesday, 14 April 2015 CICG, Geneva

Brahima Sanou


Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), ITU

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

All protocol observed

It is a great pleasure to be here with you at the UPU World Strategy Conference to discuss with our sister organization UPU how the Posts can continue to raise to the challenge of remaining relevant and how to leverage the trust that we all have in physical postal services to deliver innovative development and business services.

Actually all the ecosystem and stakeholders of ICT, Government, Regulators, service providers and consumers are facing the same challenge. The technology is evolving so fast, that no matter at what time you go to bed, when you wake up, your first question should be: what have changed when I was sleeping? The second question should be: what must I do to remain relevant? The Posts, being a major stakeholder are facing this challenge as well.

Transforming trust in the physical world to the digital economy is a multi-faceted challenge with tremendous opportunities. On the telecom/ICT side I would like to focus on three main issues today.

1) Services should be accessible through resilient and high quality networks at affordable price. 

    • Once connected with high-speed capacity, Post Offices can serve as local platforms for a range of essential government, financial and other services, and thus provide Governments with vehicle tool to reach out to hard-to-serve communities where normal business models may not work.
    • ITU and UPU are currently working, for example, on projects to explore innovative business models to connect postal offices in remote areas using low cost broadband connectivity solutions and to study ways to cover the cost of connectivity from revenues generated by digital transactions.
    • Additionally, with mobile subscriptions approaching 7 billion, it is clear that mobile communications could bridge the digital divide and become a universal tool with benefits far beyond the voice and text communication originally envisaged. 
    • That is why I have launched the m-Powering Development Initiative as a multi-stakeholder platform to collectively reflect and act upon opportunities and challenges that can unlock and accelerate the impact of mobile phones.  

2) Citizens should be sure that their private and confidential data will be well protected. 

    • The recent cybercrime statistics are alarming. The likely annual cost of cybercrime to the global economy is estimated at more than $455 billion and there has been a fourfold increase in the number of banking and finance related malware on some software platforms from first quarter to last quarter of 2014.
    • Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs therefore remains one of our top priorities. ITU launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda in 2007 and I am happy to tell you that on this front, ITU has continued to play its full part as a catalyst through initiatives and programmes which we are implementing to facilitate international cooperation and improve cybersecurity in each country and globally.
    • The ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau plays an important role in implementing ITU's Global Cybersecurity Agenda, a framework for international multi-stakeholder cooperation in cybersecurity aimed at building synergies with current and future initiatives and partners towards a safer and more secure information society. In this framework 152 Member States have formally joined ITU global cybersecurity initiatives aimed at facilitating the deployment of Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT).
    • With the increase in usage of such e-services, catalyzed with the use of the .post top level domain, certain national Posts will soon be counted as critical information infrastructure. There is here a great window of opportunity for the post to become a trusted partner in the delivery of e-services to citizens and businesses. The Postal network and UPU are therefore our natural partners for Cybersecurity.

3) Customers should not be limited or constrained to certain geographies, providers or by any other boundaries.

    • We now living in the era of convergence of infrastructure, convergence of services and convergence of service providers. This is a new landscape where the assurances of yesterday could become the threats of today and lethal weapons tomorrow. There is a need explore innovative and sometime disruptive services, business models and partnerships.
    • The universal network and the international legally agreed and binding mechanisms through UPU position well the Postal services to facilitate cross-border transfers and ensure interoperability among payment systems deployed at national levels through a multilateral approach instead of separate bilateral agreements.
    • UPU can thus provide a neutral interoperable platform, a clearing house, leveraging UPU's international financial system, to allow various players who are offering e-payment solutions to transfer money between wallets from various mobile operators or banks.


I am glad to note that UPU is participating at the new ITU focus group on digital financial services, which would provide an important vehicle to bring together various players to develop new joint international standards for interoperable mobile financial services. 

Looking into the future, ICTs will continue to open up new opportunities. The widespread of the physical Postal network makes it a perfect candidate to equip everything (postal vehicles, mailboxes, parcels, etc.) with smart sensors to collect useful data about many things (environment, weather, road and traffic, mobile network coverage and many more).

Consequently, Internet of Things, Cloud computing, Big data, Open data, etc. are just a few examples of what the Posts can venture in the near future to create value, remain relevant and contribute to development objectives.

The Posts are at a strategic juncture to use the digital revolution as an opportunity rather than a threat. However for this to happen each stakeholder should play its partition.

Governments should put in place policies conductive to the development of the Posts in their new environment. We cannot assign such a handicap to the Posts and expect them to win.

Regulators that are more and more converged to regulate Post and Telecommunication should play their role of facilitators, the way they did it for telecommunication sector in the past decade.

Telecommunication sector should look at the Posts as a serious client and ride on their comparative advantage to cut cost and make business.

Postal service providers should reach out to the new profile of clients, particularly the youth that we call the digital natives and propose services to cope with their needs.

I am confident that the Posts will raise to the challenge and tap into the tremendous opportunities of ICTs.

As the Director General of UPU rightly said: "Posts must step out of comfort zone to build their future".

ITU is committed to plays its role together with UPU to make it happen.

I thank you.