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BDT Director's Speeches

​20th Telecommunication Development Advisory Group (English)
Geneva, Switzerland  28 April 2015

20th Telecommunication Development Advisory Group

Geneva, 28-30 April 2015

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 and of Sector Members,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Geneva and to this 20th meeting of the Telecommunication Development Advisory Group (TDAG).

This meeting is the first TDAG gathering since ITU's 19th Plenipotentiary Conference that took place in Busan in 2014.

As you know, the conference reaffirmed the essential role of telecommunications/ICTs in sustainable development, and strengthened ITU's role in several areas: bridging the digital divide, broadband roll-out, disaster risk reduction and disaster management, green ICT strategies to help combat climate change, accessibility for persons with disabilities, and gender and youth empowerment through ICTs.

Over the next three days, we shall discuss the outcomes of the conference and their implications for the work of ITU-D. To facilitate the work of TDAG and in keeping with tradition, key reports have been submitted to you for your consideration at this meeting, among which I would mention the draft ITU-D operational plan for the period 2016-2019 and the status reports of the two correspondence groups set up by TDAG at its last meeting.

This TDAG comes just before the official celebrations for the 150th anniversary of ITU. As we mark this anniversary, I must say that TDAG has as well over twenty years since its inception – years of tremendous contribution to ITU's development work. Let me briefly share with you some interesting historical facts about TDAG. Did you know that it was originally called TDAB, Telecommunication Development Advisory Board? The Board was first established in 1992 at the Additional Plenipotentiary Conference which took place right here in Geneva. The Board was tasked with advising the Director of BDT on priorities and strategies in the Union's telecommunication development activities and recommending steps to foster better cooperation and coordination with other organizations interested in telecommunication development. The World Telecommunication Development Conference held in Valletta in 1998 recommended that the conference convert TDAB into an advisory group open to all ITU-D members. That is how TDAG as we know it today was born.

Knowing our history helps us build a sense of pride and achievement.

Looking back to last year, we must acknowledge that 2014 was a busy but good year. Holding the World Telecommunication Development Conference and the Plenipotentiary Conference within a few months of each other meant a lot of work for everyone. I would like to use this opportunity to thank you for attending those conferences and for contributing in shaping the programme of work for the years to come. Thank you.

The performance report for 2014 showed the many achievements we have accomplished together, from broadband infrastructure development, spectrum management and broadcasting, cybersecurity and ICT applications, the enhancement of an enabling environment, emergency telecommunications, to human capacity building, digital inclusion, measuring the information society, and improvement of the ITU-D study groups with increased number and quality of contributions, just to mention but a few.

For the first time, the 'Measuring the Information Society' report was launched during the indicators' symposium (WTIS), which last year focused on the role of statistics and indicators in the post-2015 development agenda and on the increasing importance of big data and open data. In particular, we discussed the role of big data for the future of ICT measurement and how big data can help us improve the monitoring of the information society. There is no doubt that big data offers huge opportunities for everyone and can transform the way we work. I would like to invite you to continue this conversation with us at the next symposium which will be held in Hiroshima, Japan, from 30 November to 3 December 2015. I would also like to use this opportunity to thank the Government of Georgia for having hosted the 2014 edition of the World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium and the Government of Japan which will host the 2015 edition.

2015 has also got off to a successful start.

We have made a significant contribution in the fight against Ebola. The "Ebola-Info-Sharing" mobile application, which we launched towards the end of last year, has so far facilitated coordination among organizations responding to the crisis. We will soon be launching a mobile application to fight the Chikungunya virus disease and Dengue fever in the Caribbean and Pacific regions. The "Info Chikungunya and Dengue" smartphone application facilitates coordination among those involved in the prevention, control and treatment of both diseases and offers the general public access to the latest news on the disease.

But we cannot do all this alone.

In embracing the new ICT ecosystem, which is changing so rapidly every day, we are committed to strengthening our cooperation with regional and international organizations, particularly other UN agencies. Our current partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the Be Healthy Be Mobile initiative, launched in 2012 to combat non-communicable diseases, is a successful example, as is our collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on developing a National e-Agriculture Strategy guide. We are also working with the African Union and African countries on SMART Africa, the African Heads of State initiative aimed at embedding ICTs at the heart of their development programmes.

Since the beginning of the year, we have also dispatched emergency telecommunication equipment to flood-hit Malawi and, more recently, to Vanuatu, which was hit by severe tropical cyclone Pam on 13 March, and to the Federated States of Micronesia, hit by super typhoon Maysak on 28 and 29 March. As we speak, our team is deploying emergency telecommunication equipment to Nepal. Earlier in February, with the cooperation of the Government of Japan, we launched the "Movable and Deployable ICT Resource Unit" (MDRU) in the coastal town of San Remigio in Cebu, in the Philippines.

In March I attended the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, where I spoke about the crucial role of ICTs in disaster management. The conference adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. It is my firm belief that ICTs are just as important in development as they are in disaster risk reduction and disaster management. The Smart Sustainable Development Model Initiative is a result of this belief.

We have also held the Regional Development Forums for the Arab States, the CIS region and Europe. The forums for the Americas, Africa and the Asia-Pacific regions will be held before the end of the year. The Regional Development Forums are a platform to report at the regional level on the regional initiatives and offer an opportunity for dialogue and regular interaction on the implementation of the Dubai Action Plan. The Regional Initiatives guide BDT, Member States and Sector Members in implementing specific projects that focus on the priority needs of each region. I call upon all of you to join forces with us to implement them.

Since the last meeting of TDAG significant efforts have been dedicated towards the implementation of a new strategy on human capacity building through a new network of Centres of Excellence. Through a competitive selection process we have selected 32 centres across the world that will serve as platforms for the delivery of highly qualitative trainings in line with the objectives defined by WTDC-14. Since January 2015, regional steering committees have been held and resulted in establishing training programmes for 2015. I would like to thank all administrations that have supported us in this endeavour carried out under the ITU Academy.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I look ahead, and as I think of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector, one word resonates very strongly: innovation. Innovation is one of the key pillars of our work and it has been embraced as one of the values to guide ITU in its programmes and activities. The main objectives are to strengthen members' capabilities to integrate ICT innovation in their national development agendas and to build an innovation culture within BDT in order to lead, improve and adapt to the evolving converged ICT eco-system.

I recently read an article in Forbes magazine, which stressed the importance of creating a culture where innovation thrives. The author concluded that "excellence in leading innovation has far less to do with the leader having innovative ideas; it has everything to do with how that leader creates a culture where innovation and creativity thrives in every corner". This is what I am endeavouring to achieve for the ITU-D members and for BDT.

As decided by PP-14, the next WTDC will be held in the last quarter of 2017, which shortens the period available to us to implement the Dubai Action Plan. During the three years until the next WTDC, we will continue to strengthen synergies in our activities in order to maximize resources and impact, since the programmes, the regional initiatives and the study group questions are all interrelated and connected.

We will continue to strengthen synergies in our work with the other Sectors, since each Sector brings something unique to the Union, yet our areas of work are closely inter-related.

Results-based management is key to our working methods and processes and will continue to be our guide.

In a world characterized by convergence of infrastructures, services and service providers, ITU-D's role as a platform for dialogue for development becomes paramount. We shall continue to forge partnerships with all the players in the new telecom/ICT ecosystem, exploiting their respective comparative advantages in order to play our catalytic role more effectively.

We will continue to attract new Sector Members and Academia. I take this opportunity to thank the new members who have joined us since we last met. A big welcome to the new Sector Members below in addition to over 90 Academia in ITU-D:

Again, welcome to ITU-D!

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the coming years, our work will continue on several fronts, last but not least I would like to mention an area which is very close to my heart: youth.

Young people, the leaders of tomorrow and indeed already of today, are the most enthusiastic users and creators of ICTs. They are the ones who will shape the future direction of the ICT industry. We need to listen to their needs and concerns, and address them. We also need to ensure that they are ready to live and work in a fast changing world driven by technological advances.

ITU has a long history of involving young people, and helping them to become entrepreneurs and launch ICT careers. I, too, am fully engaged in empowering youth. I am also very keen on involving more and more young people in internships in the ICT sector in various parts of the world to share our expertise and equip them with the tools they need for their present and future.

We will exploit new technological progress such as big data, the Internet of things and open data in order to boost development.

Capacity-building and strengthening the regional presence, while streamlining our financial and human resources, will also be critical over the next three years. We will continue to train our staff and to ensure that technical competence and merit are the basis of our recruitment and promotion policies.

I have committed to and will continue to emphasize staff motivation and internal communication to ensure that every BDT staff member is associated with the results achieved. In addition to quarterly meetings, we shall continue to publish on the last day of each month the "Letter from the Director" through which we keep all BDT staff informed of the activities carried out and results obtained during the previous month.

I would also like to reiterate very clearly that promoting a relationship between BDT and ITU-D members founded on transparency, open consultation and accountability is one of my priorities. We have tried, since we last met, to make our activities and products more visible. We are in the process of making changes to our website to make it more user-friendly, and some improvements can already be seen. In this connection, I welcome the contribution by the Russian Federation with specific proposals to help us improve the website. Likewise, we have launched a new series called titled TOUCHING LIVES: How ITU-D and its members help make a difference in people's lives. These short feature stories show the impact of the work we are doing in cooperation with ITU-D members. We have also revamped the "ITU-D e-Flash" to make it more informative and ITU-D results more visible.

Before concluding, I would like to remind you of the major ITU-D meetings coming up in 2015, in which I invite you to participate:

  • From 9-11 June, in Libreville (Gabon), the next Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) will focus on the theme "Mind the Digital Gap – Regulatory incentives to achieve digital opportunities"
  • From 7-14 September, we will be organizing the meeting of ITU-D Study Group 2 and from 14-18 September that of Study Group 1. I take this opportunity to thank the study group chairmen, rapporteurs and vice-rapporteurs for the remarkable work they are doing.
  • From 30 November to 2 December, the World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS) will take place in Hiroshima (Japan).

Ladies and gentlemen,

The next World Telecommunication Development Conference will be held in 2017. And before that, we will have the Regional Preparatory Meetings for the six regions. There is a lot to do and a lot to deliver in a short period of time. I am confident that, together, we will achieve great results.

In concluding, I would like to thank you for your significant support and for your dedication and commitment as we continue to capitalize upon our successes in the years ahead.

Thank you for your attention.