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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

World Telecommunication Development Conference 2010 - Opening Remarks

24 May 2010, Hyderabad, India


Your Excellency,  Sri A Raja, Honourable Minister of Communication & Information Technology, Government of India,

Excellencies, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Ambassadors, Heads of Delegation

Your Excellency, Sri PJ Thomas, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications,

My fellow elected officials of the ITU, the Deputy Secretary General, the Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, and the Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau,

Cloud of words: broadband, development, world, mobile, people, conference, indiaDistinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here in Hyderabad this morning. Let me offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Government of India for all its efforts in the excellent organization and facilities for this conference. I would like to express my thanks to the local authorities of Hyderabad for their very kind hospitality.

I would like to start by expressing my sincerest condolences, on behalf of the ITU, to the people of India and to the families and friends of those that died in the tragic plane crash that happened in Mangalore last Saturday.

Last week, we were in Shanghai where we celebrated on the 17th of May, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. As you know, 17 May marks the Anniversary of the ITU and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention. This was our 145th anniversary celebration.  It is my pleasure to inform you that we awarded three distinguished personalities for their contribution to ICTs. We awarded:

  • His Excellency Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak;
  • Mr Wang Jianzhou, Executive Director, Chairman and CEO of China Mobile,
  • Mr Robert Kahn, President and CEO of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI),

This year’s theme for WTISD was  “Better City, Better Life with ICT”, is in keeping with the overarching theme — Better City, Better Life — of the World Expo


Since we last met in Doha, at the most recent WTDC, the ICT world has also lost a great man. A man who was a passionate believer in the power of ICTs to change the world. I am talking about former ITU Secretary-General Dr Pekka Tarjanne, who held office from the beginning of November 1989 to the end of January 1999.

Dr Tarjanne was a leading advocate of the ‘Right to Communicate’. He presided over ITU during an era of unprecedented growth, and charted a sure and steady course for the organization through a period of immense change and upheaval. He may no longer be with us, but we will keep his vision for development in mind as we move forward in our work here at WTDC.

I have brought with me the Book of Condolences for Dr Tarjanne, and I invite you to come and sign it. The book will be left outside my office. It will then be sent on to Dr Tarjanne’s family in Finland.

Distinguished guests,

I think we are all well aware of the importance of this fifth WTDC, and I am encouraged to see such a high level of participation.

What we decide and define here over the next two weeks will shape not just the future of ICT development over the next four years, but the future shape of the very world we live in.

In today’s fast-moving ICT sector, four years is a very long time. To see how long that really is, let’s look back to March 2006, when we last held the WTDC.

Since then the ICT landscape has changed in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

We have seen the number of fixed-line subscribers fall for the first time in telecommunications history, and there are now around 36 million fewer fixed-line subscribers than there were at the beginning of 2006.

Of course this has been massively more than compensated for by mobile growth over the same period.

The best news for this Conference is that almost all of this growth has been in the developing world, which grew 270% in the four years from the beginning of 2006 to the beginning of this year, and added over 2 billion of the 2.5 billion new mobile cellular subscriptions globally.

The same is true of the growth in internet users, where 600 million of the 777 million new internet users over the past four years have come from the developing world.

We have also seen social media skyrocket. When we met in Doha, no one had ever sent a tweet, and facebook was a small, closed site for students. Today 50 million tweets are sent every day and Facebook has 400 million users.

Does that mean our job is finished?

Of course not! And that’s why we’re all here.

While close to two thirds of people in the developed world now have access to the internet, four fifths of people in the developing world still do not. In the developed world, fixed and mobile broadband penetration rates at the beginning of 2010 stood at 27% and 39% respectively. In the developing world, they stood at 3.5% and 3.3%.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These are dramatic figures, but they also demonstrate the extraordinary opportunities that lie ahead. ICTs – and in particular broadband networks – offer perhaps the greatest opportunity we have ever had to make rapid and profound advances in global social and economic development.

This is of tremendous and timely importance.

In September, world leaders will gather to review progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals – and unfortunately, the news will not be very positive.

We can change that.

I am convinced that by extending access to broadband, countries will quickly accelerate their progress towards meeting the MDGs.

We know that broadband can help us achieve universal primary education, for example. This was highlighted yesterday in the ‘Connect a School, Connect a Community’ seminar.

We know that broadband can improve maternal health, and thereby reduce child mortality.

We know that broadband can help us ensure environmental sustainability and help us manage and mitigate climate change.

We know that broadband will help governments deliver better and more effective services to their citizens.

By delivering efficiencies across so many areas – from education and healthcare to transportation, water and energy – broadband networks can quickly pay for themselves, creating a virtuous circle of investment, productivity and human development.

To help world leaders see the ways that broadband can accelerate the achievement of the MDGs, ITU and UNESCO launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development on 10 May, just two weeks ago.

The Commission is chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso, and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and myself are the vice-chairs. We will be reporting to the MDG Summit in September with a set of clear recommendations for broadband development.

Distinguished delegates,

In this context, and in the context of this Conference, it is especially gratifying to see broadband access growing rapidly in the developing world.

Since Doha, fixed broadband penetration rates in the developing world have almost tripled – and mobile broadband penetration rates have grown more than tenfold.

Mobile broadband penetration in the developing world has doubled in the past year alone.

I am an optimist, and I have tremendous faith that the public and private sectors will work together to invest in, and to roll-out, the necessary infrastructure. They did this so well in the creation of mobile cellular networks in the developing world, and I expect to see the pattern repeated for broadband.

I am also convinced that in partnership, they will also help create the necessary services that people need, and that we will quickly see enriched content developed and created that will stimulate demand.

As this happens, we will rapidly see broadband reach the remotest corners of our planet.

We must make sure that we do not just bring broadband to the people, but that we do so responsibly. That we preserve cyberpeace and deliver cybersecurity in a world that is always connected, and always online.

Cybersecurity is a global problem and it requires a global solution. So we must bring together all stakeholders – not just government and industry but also civil society and the media too – to address the issue.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the next two weeks, let’s dream big!

Let’s think about how technological advances might shape the future. What can be done with cheap and super-abundant sensors and monitoring devices? With massive increases in computational power? With ever smarter smartphones? With flatter flat screens? Voice-activated devices? With continued convergence?

Let’s be bold. Let’s work together to develop programmes and projects that will ensure that ICTs really do deliver a better quality of life for all the world’s people.

Your output will be fed into the ITU Strategic Plan which will be endorsed by the ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference in Mexico in October. And I hope that many of you will be there to help shape our future as an organization, and to make sure we adopt a sound strategic and financial plan for the next four years so that we make ICTs for a Better Life.

Thank you.