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Global Symposium for Regulators 2024
Kampala, Uganda  02 July 2024


ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin's
Opening Remarks at Global Symposium for Regulators 2024​

Your Excellency Vice President Alupo,
Honorable Minister Baryomunsi,
UCC Executive Director Nyombi,
ITU Development Bureau Director Zavazava, 
Ladies and gentlemen, 

Let me begin by thanking Uganda for hosting this year's Global Symposium for Regulators (the GSR) in Kampala — at the heart of “the Pearl of Africa." 

We're delighted to see GSR return to Africa for the second year in a row! 

Madam Vice President, 

Africans are taking full ownership of their digital future.

African ICT and Communications Ministers just endorsed the landmark Continental Artificial Intelligence Strategy and African Digital Compact. 

Uganda, our host, has embarked on an ambitious Digital Transformation Roadmap. 

It builds on the country's Vision 2040 and the progress achieved in the last 20 years by the universal access and service fund. 

Congratulations to the Uganda Communications Commission on its silver jubilee! 

UCC's journey takes us back to the turn of the century, to November 2000, for our first symposium for regulators in Geneva, and Uganda was there, with its then Executive Director, Patrick Masambu. 

The landscape was very different in those early days. 

Less than half of the world had regulatory bodies. 

Convergence was on everyone's mind, as regulators focused on opening markets to competition and private investment. 

Approximately 7 per cent of the world's population was online. 

Dial-up Internet was still prevalent. We used our mobile phones primarily for calls and texts. There were just about 1,000 satellites orbiting Earth — a number that's grown tenfold since. Artificial intelligence (AI) was still in its infancy. 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The only certainty facing regulators and policymakers is change. 

Since the last GSR in Egypt a year ago, the pace of change has accelerated, raising critical questions like:

Just last Friday, the UN Secretary-General unveiled the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2024. 

He shared his disappointment that only 17 per cent of the SDG targets are on track. 

He called for action, urgent action, on the digital transition.

And this means that you, the regulators gathered from around the world in this room, have a responsibility to act. 

Today we ask:

Has our response been fast enough?

The answer is "sometimes." AI is one of these areas where much remains to be done.

Has our response been uniform?

Not always. But we're seeing common underlying principles take shape around approaches and tools like capacity development and standards.

And has our response been consistent across the globe?

Not yet. Countries are at different stages in their digital journey. Yet the pace of innovation continues unabated.

As I heard yesterday at the Heads of Regulators Executive Roundtable, there is no pause button! 

We need to move quickly in all the areas central to our discussions at this year's symposium. 

I will give you three examples:

First, artificial intelligence.

Governments have been racing to establish protections around the development, deployment, and use of AI since our last gathering. But the reality is that much of the world is still contemplating what to do.

A staggering 85 per cent of ITU Member States indicate they don't have any AI regulations in place yet. Despite this, they've all expressed a strong desire to learn from others.

This is the essence of GSR.

I hope we will use this opportunity to explore how regulators and policymakers everywhere can effectively address the challenges and risks brought by AI — putting inclusion, trust, safety, and sustainability at the core of our efforts. 

Second, space.

Only 14 nations operated satellites 24 years ago when we held our first symposium. 

Since then, satellites from more than 90 countries have reached orbit — with 2023 marking a historic record high number of satellite launches.

We're seeing more space-faring nations, more companies in competition, more pressure on orbit and spectrum resources, and more diverse services and use-cases — from connecting unreached communities, to better understanding climate change, including disaster prediction and early warnings.

Yet space governance continues to be centered around the nation-state.

Like AI and the other topics on our agenda here in Kampala, space is putting regulatory paradigms to the test. 

This GSR is an opportunity to look at all the tools in our toolbox and reimagine the future of space and other emerging fields and technologies.  

Which brings me to my third example: international cooperation.

We need to work together to build bridges. 

That's what UN Secretary-General Guterres said during his historic visit to ITU just three weeks ago.

For me, that means:

Madam Vice President, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We're here to chart the course of transformative technologies for positive impact. 

We've been here before. Twenty years ago, the Internet was met with a similar mix of shock, awe, and scepticism. 

Going forward, our path is clear. 

We have the power — and duty — to strike the right balance between the benefits and risks of these technologies, without stifling innovation —​ before it's too late. 

Let's rescue the SDGs and promote sustainability in all its dimensions — economic, social, and environmental.

Let's make the digital experience inclusive, affordable, and safe. 

Let's make it meaningful! 

Thank you.