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ITU SG Video Message - UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development - 13th Session

Video Message by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

13th Session of United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development

17 May 2010, Geneva, Switzerland





Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

It is my pleasure to be able to address such eminent panellists on the progress made on the WSIS Implementation and Follow-up.

I am only sorry not to be able to be with you in person today – because today is World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, and we are celebrating the event this year in Shanghai, China, in conjunction with Expo 2010.

Nine years ago, following ITU’s proposal, the UN General Assembly endorsed the World Summit on the Information Society, in two phases, in Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005.

Back then, nearly a decade ago, many of us were already confident that ICTs would come to play a vital role in social and economic development on a global scale.

But I don’t think any of us would have expected it to happen quite so quickly.

Today, ICTs underpin almost every single activity undertaken in the modern world, and the great majority of the world’s people are dependent in some way on ICT networks and applications – even if they do not themselves have first-hand access to ICTs.

ICT networks and applications help manage and control everything from water supplies, power networks and food distribution chains, to healthcare, education, government services, financial markets and local and international transportation.

In the space of just a few short years, ICTs have brought the vast wealth of global knowledge within the reach of hundreds of millions of people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you my view about the process.

Firstly, we should keep in mind that we have tried to give shape to an innovative UN Summit implementation and follow-up process. This was the first time that implementation at national, regional and international levels was so explicitly separated from the follow-up process. This was also probably the first time that so many UN bodies, the private sector and civil society were explicitly involved in a UN Summit implementation and follow-up.

Secondly, we should remember that we are talking about implementing agreed texts related to a constantly changing environment. The texts are still valid today, but new technologies and new tools have emerged which directly affect the implementation.

Today’s discussions may focus around a number of different areas.

First, I am sure you will look at the implementation of the WSIS outcomes, to see the progress which has been made and examine the challenges remaining ahead.

You will also be looking at the implementation and follow-up process itself, and asking whether we are satisfied. And if not, then how can things be improved.

Last week, during the 2010 WSIS Forum, around 600 leaders representing WSIS stakeholders came together here in Geneva. It was a good opportunity to take stock of the progress made so far and the challenges still remaining ahead.

It must be said that we have made remarkable progress. By the end of this year there will be around five billion mobile cellular subscribers and close to two billion people worldwide with access to the Internet.

And it is very encouraging to see that at least 161 economies — some 84% of the total — have already met the WSIS target of having a national ICT strategy in place, as detailed in ITU’s new report on National e-Strategies for Development, which has been drafted in cooperation with each of the UN Regional Commissions.

ITU has also just published the 9th edition of the World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report, WTDR 2010, which focuses this year on ‘Monitoring the WSIS Targets’.

The Report represents a joint effort among several international organizations, led by ITU and including contributions from UNDESA, UNESCO and WHO, as well as from representatives of civil society.

The Report reviews the mid-term WSIS targets, proposes concrete indicators to monitor them, and makes recommendations on policies and measures to help achieve them.

As a whole, I believe that the WSIS implementation has been quite fruitful and successful. Above all, many projects have been developed, financed and implemented.

In that respect, the WSIS Stocktaking database continues to provide a key tool to monitor the WSIS implementation. Today it shows the continuous efforts of the WSIS stakeholders to join forces and create win-win partnerships to accelerate the implementation of the WSIS outcomes. Examples include the Global Cybersecurity Agenda; the ITU Connect events; and large-scale projects underway around the world.

It is therefore our responsibility to facilitate and encourage this transition towards a more inclusive Information Society.

For this to be achieved, however, there is a tremendous amount of work still to be done. In particular, we need to bring affordable high-speed broadband access within reach of the great majority of the world’s people.

The key — as the WTDR acknowledges — will be to recognize that broadband networks deliver benefits right across society, and can quickly pay for themselves in terms of the savings realized in the more efficient provision of essential services such as healthcare, education, power, water, transportation and e-government.

Personally I have tremendous faith that the public and private sectors will work together — as they did in the creation of mobile cellular networks — to roll-out the infrastructure and services to bring broadband to all the world’s people.

I am absolutely certain, myself, that the next decade will be the decade of broadband.

This is why ITU is working with UNESCO in establishing the Broadband Commission for Digital Development. The Commission will be chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso, with Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and myself, as vice-chairs.

The Broadband Commission has the full support of the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, and will report to the 2010 MDG Summit in September.

Distinguished colleagues,

Concerning the process, we should be very satisfied that together — UN agencies, Member States, the private sector and civil society — we have been able to work together.

Together, we have defined the role of the Action Line Facilitators; the role of the Leading Facilitating Agencies; terms of reference of the UN Group on the Information Society; and the mandate of the CSTD. And we have gradually transformed the meeting of Action Line facilitators into a dynamic and appealing WSIS Forum.

It is work in progress, but I think we have managed:

  • To build a process which is not too burdensome in terms of reporting
  • To strengthen the linkages between the normal work of most UN organizations and the operational activities at the regional and international levels
  • and to keep the process inclusive

In terms of how we now move ahead, I suggest that we continue:

  • To strengthen the linkages between the WSIS process and other UN Summit Processes, such as the LDC IV conference, which are mostly driven from New York
  • To involve more UN programmes, funds, institutes, and agencies, and in particular those which did not take part in the WSIS events in 2003 and 2005
  • To give a stronger role to the private sector and civil society in the organization of the WSIS Forum, to ensure a dynamic and relevant process
  • And to address emerging and up-to-date issues

With this in mind, I have proposed that the next WSIS Forum meets in New York, and I am looking forward to working closely with UN partners who have their headquarters there.

As partners in WSIS, we must continue to be bold in our approach to implementing our initiatives, and to be clear in evaluating what still needs to be done to meet the WSIS targets and goals.

We must all play our part — as a team — in ensuring that ICTs are made accessible and affordable to all people everywhere.