Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Inauguration of Elected Officials

14 January 2011, Geneva, Switzerland

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, and let me give you a very warm welcome to our inaugural meeting.

It is an enormous personal honour for me to be re-elected as ITU Secretary-General, and I am grateful to be celebrating this occasion with such a distinguished group of guests and colleagues.

I am also very much aware of the great burden of responsibility which has been placed upon my shoulders.

In a moment, it will be my pleasure to hand the floor to each of my co-elected officials – but first let me express my gratitude to the ITU Member States who put their trust in me, and in the rest of the management team, by electing us.

Let me assure you that we will be spending the next four years proving our worth and honouring the responsibility vested in us.

It might be tempting to imagine what the world will look like in four years time.

But in a sector as vibrant, as exciting, and as fast-moving as information and communication technologies, that would almost certainly be a mistake.

Just look at the last four years, to see why.

Over the past four years, we have made astonishing progress in connecting the world, and we have witnessed quite extraordinary technological advances.

Four years ago, there were fewer than three billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide; today, we have well over five billion. Regions such as Africa and Asia Pacific have seen the number of mobile subscriptions nearly triple in the past four years alone.

The number of Internet users globally has come close to doubling in the past four years, and now surpasses two billion. Today there are close to a billion mobile broadband subscriptions – up from 160 million when I took office at the beginning of 2006.

In the past four years we have also seen the astonishing rise of social networking; the widespread adoption of smartphones and tablet computers; and a paradigm shift away from the idea of ICTs as a luxury, to ICTs as essential drivers of social and economic progress.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have seen extraordinary successes over the past four years, but there is still so much left to do.

The next four years will bring us very close to the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals and the WSIS targets.

But how can we meet these, when most of the world’s people still have no access to the Internet?

This is our great challenge. And it is therefore time to redouble our efforts, and bring affordable broadband access to all.

Because broadband is the vehicle that will transport society from the ‘Internet of Things’ to the ‘Internet of Everything’.

I cannot tell you how quickly ICT markets will grow, or which new technologies will emerge over the next four years, but I can assure you that ITU will continue to work right at the heart of the ICT sector, and will continue to play a vital role in ICT development worldwide.

The most important task immediately facing the new management team will be to implement the resolutions agreed by our members at the Plenipotentiary Conference in Guadalajara, in October.

These resolutions cover a wide and diverse range of subjects, including:
  • Accessibility;
  • ICTs and climate change;
  • Strengthening regional presence;
  • Measures to help prevent the illicit use and abuse of telecommunication networks;
  • Conformance and interoperability;
  • Emergency communications and humanitarian assistance;
  • The admission of Sector Members from developing countries;
  • Bridging the standardization gap;
  • Special measures to assist Small Island Developing States and Landlocked Developing Countries;
  • Electronic meetings;
  • A number of key Resolutions on Internet issues;
  • and many more, including opening up the way for the participation of academia in the Union’s work. On that note, I am delighted to be able to let you know that a dozen institutions have been officially accepted as new members and we will be holding a special ceremony here at ITU this afternoon to welcome some of them.

Distinguished colleagues,

This year will also see us continue our ongoing – and I must say crucial – work in cybersecurity, a subject that increasingly affects all countries, and all the world’s people.

We will also be continuing our work in partnership with UNESCO on the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which got off to a very good start last year. This year we will be holding a meeting of the Commission in Paris in April, and a second meeting in Geneva in October, in conjunction with a Broadband Summit.

This second meeting and Broadband Summit has been scheduled to coincide with the ITU Telecom World 2011 event.

As many of you will know, this is the 40th anniversary ITU Telecom event, and we are expecting world leaders at the highest level to attend, along with top executives from many of the world’s most powerful players in the ICT sector.

I strongly encourage you to mark the dates – 24-27 October – in your calendars now, and I look forward to seeing you there.

ITU is also partnering with another of our sister UN agencies, the World Health Organization, on another initiative entitled the ‘Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health’.

The Commission is co-chaired by Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania, and Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada. I am very proud to be acting as co-vice-chair of the Commission, along with Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO.

Initiatives such as these demonstrate ITU’s continuing commitment to the ‘One UN’ concept, which has been strongly championed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and to which we are all accountable.

As a refreshed leadership team, we are also committed to ‘One ITU’, and we are most fortunate in having a new management team that brings together a healthy mix of continuity and experience on the one hand, and fresh thinking and new ideas on the other.

Let us therefore now ask each of the elected officials to introduce themselves and say a few words.


(Interventions by elected officials and ministers)

As we hoped and expected, the Plenipotentiary Conference has given us tremendous opportunities to improve and enhance the work of ITU, and we, as a management team, are looking forward to the challenges ahead.

It is my sincere hope – and one that I am sure we all share – that when we reach the end of our mandate, four years from now, the world will be a better place.

A world where most of the world’s people have affordable access to the Internet.

A world where the social and economic benefits of ICTs have reached all the peoples of the planet, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.

And a world where social and economic justice prevails.

We have a very busy four years ahead of us. But we also have a very exciting four years ahead of us – full of tremendous opportunities and giving each and every one of us the chance to play our part in making the world a better place through the wider use of ICTs.

Thank you.