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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

21st Session of the Assembly of Parties
International Mobile Satellite Organization

12 July 2010, London, United Kingdom

Cloud of words: ITU, satellite, broadband, communications, services,... 

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is always a personal pleasure to be at the heart of the satellite community, and it is a great privilege to be here today in such distinguished company.

I am especially pleased today to note IMSO’s continuing support for ITU as a Sector Member, and we are very grateful for your input, contributions and participation in ITU’s work.

As many of you know I have long been a passionate believer in satellites, and I am still amazed and impressed by their ability to bring connectivity to very corner of our planet.

This is core to ITU’s mission to ‘Connect the World’. We have been spectacularly successful over the past decade or so, and I am pleased to note that there will be five billion mobile cellular subscriptions globally by the end of this year.

But it is now time to move up a gear and deliver the benefits of broadband access to all the world’s people, wherever they live.

I mention broadband specifically, because in the 21st century, the social and economic development of every country on earth will depend on it.

Broadband will completely transform the way essential services are delivered – from e-health to e-education to e-commerce to e-government. And it will help us to meet the Millennium Development Goals in every sector.

Distinguished colleagues,

Broadband satellite technology will play a vital role. While the core of the internet will typically use optical fibre to achieve very high speeds, we will need satellites to deliver access in parts of the world where fibre or ground radio technologies simply aren’t a viable option.

We were therefore delighted that the IMSO Director General, Captain Esteban Pacha-Vicente, accepted our invitation to become a Commissioner on the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which was recently launched by ITU and UNESCO.

The aim of the Broadband Commission is to provide policy guidance to extending the availability of broadband worldwide, in the context of the Millennium Development Goals.

Mobile satellite communications, on land, sea and air, are fundamental to the goals of the Broadband Commission, in particular providing universal broadband services which ensure transport safety and security and interoperability in rural and remote areas, and in times of natural disasters.

The Commission had its first formal meeting yesterday in Geneva, in the presence of the two co-chairs, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso.

There were a total of over 30 Commissioners present – including my good friend Esteban here – and we had some very fruitful debates and discussions.

We will now be preparing a report which will be delivered to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, just ahead of the 2010 MDG Summit in New York in September.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I mentioned transport safety, and security and interoperability just now, and I would like to say a few more words about services in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System. GMDSS is a key part of IMSO’s responsibilities, and an area where ITU and IMO also play important roles.

We all know the importance of GMDSS services, and ITU takes its responsibilities in this regard very seriously indeed.

We regularly update and maintain the radio regulatory provisions and the associated operational procedures at the World Radiocommunication Conferences. This provides and protects appropriate frequency spectrum resources to ensure the continuity of maritime satellite distress and safety communications services for the GMDSS.

A general review was undertaken by the latest WRC (WRC-07), and the forthcoming WRC in early 2012 is also going to review a certain number of maritime regulatory provisions. These include the proposed re-arrangement of some maritime frequency bands in order to implement new digital technologies, and the consideration of frequency allocation issues related to the operation of Port and Ship safety systems.

Within the GMDSS, it is recognized that the provision of satellite services forms one of the basic elements of the system, and are key elements in ensuring safety of life at sea. Indeed, they play a vital role in enabling maritime distress and safety communications to be available to ships at all times, and provide the capabilities of transmission and reception of distress and safety communications.

As we move forward, we may need to consider new approaches and new technologies on an ongoing basis to further enhance the existing systems and to cope with increasing communications requirements.

Distinguished colleagues,

In closing, let me say just a few words about one other area where satellite services are absolutely indispensable.

That area is emergency communications.

We are facing an unprecedented increase in vulnerabilities – stemming from population growth, environmental degradation and, most significantly, climate change – and both the frequency and the impact of disasters has dramatically increased in recent years.

We cannot prevent most disasters. But hopefully, with the power of space technology, we can get much better at predicting them and warning people in advance.

And when disasters do occur, and terrestrial networks get damaged, satellites continue to do their job, far off in space, keeping people connected. So we can quickly help to restore vital communications on the ground – via the use of mobile satellite services in particular. And we can help coordinate vital relief efforts, saving lives, and protecting communities.

ITU is regularly one of the very first agencies to arrive in disaster zones with emergency telecommunications equipment, with rapid deployment being made possible under the ITU Framework for Cooperation in Emergencies.

This allowed us to step in quickly earlier this year after the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, for example, allowing government and other humanitarian agencies to coordinate search and rescue operations; to facilitate the delivery of logistics; and to set up telemedicine facilities.

Let me therefore thank IMSO for inviting me here today, and wish you a successful 21st session of the assembly of parties – and encourage you to keep up the good – and vital – work.

Thank you.