Keynote Speech by Malcolm Johnson, ITU Deputy Secretary-General
Networking Event "Changes in the telecommunications landscape, changes in access priorities, changes in technologies and their implications for achieving universal, affordable access to communication in Africa"
9 September 2018, Durban, South Africa
I would like to thank APC and CRASA for the invitation to say a few words at the opening of this event held in conjuction with the ITU World Telecom, opening at the ICC tomorrow.
As will be seen from the discussion at the World Telecom event this week, ITU promotes investment in digital infrastructure, digital literacy, cybersecurity and connecting the world.
We need to recognise however, that 80% of the world's population is covered by at least 3G services, but less than 50% are online. So it is not just a question of connectivity, the services need to be affordable, have relevant content and in the local language. People have to be aware of the benefits, know how to make use of the services, and have the local skills needed to bring local content in the local language online. They must also trust the technology!
So ITU needs to redouble its developmental effort to achieve this, and recognise we can only do so by working in partnership. This is clearly something that APC is fully aware of and I complement you on your wide range of partnerships, including I am pleased to say, being a member of ITU. ITU is spearheading the digital revolution which underpins the digital economy and brings social, economic and environmentally sustainable development to the world's citizens.
With the adoption of the 2030 Development Agenda, ITU's role is more important than ever before in its long 153 year history.
As we know, this technology has developed faster than any other in the world, and continues to grow at ever increasing speed. Let's take the growth of mobile-broadband subscriptions as an example. Active mobile-broadband subscriptions have grown from 268 million in 2007 to over 4.2 billion last year.
And this is only the beginning. Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G will change our economies and the way we live as never before.
We must recognise the risk that if not managed properly, the wave of technological change might in fact increase the digital divide, as these technologies develop at ever faster rates.
Each year ITU hosts the WSIS Forum, the biggest ICT for development event in the world, bringing thousands of people together from across the world to exchange good practices and promising innovations. I am pleased that APC participates and I hope you will all join us again next year.
Such a multi-faceted issue requires a multi-stakeholder approach, and I am pleased that ITU benefits for an increasingly diverse membership. We have a large private sector membership – nearly 600 private sector companies – and we also have around 130 universities as members, as well as many regional and international organizations, including APC. The diversity of our membership has put ITU at the centre of advances in communications for over 150 years, from the telegraph to the telephone, to satellites and the Internet - to today's Internet of Things and AI.
ITU harmonizes the worldwide use of the radio spectrum, develops common standards for new technologies, coordinates the use of satellite orbits, and advocates best practices. Through its work, the cost of equipment and services is reduced through the economies of scale, and interoperability is ensure between different equipment and services, and between countries.
This event will be addressing the issue of bringing coverage to rural areas. This is something I closely relate to as I was born in a small village in Wales, so it is something I feel strongly about. Not only will it improve the lives and productivity of rural populations, but it will also help reduce the trend of urbanization which is creating so many difficulties in the rapidly expanding cities around the world. Connectivity in rural areas is a challenge due to the poorer return on investment requiring public private partnerships and I look forward to the outcome of this discussion on this important issue.
So let me conclude by expressing ITU's willingness to partner will all stakeholders to bring the benefits of this technology to everyone, everywhere.
The key words are collaboration, coordination and cooperation, bringing our own specific competencies to the table and avoiding duplication of effort!
Thank you very much, I wish you a success event!