Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Conference on Wireless Sensors Technologies for Environmental Monitoring

10 March 2011, Trieste, Italy


The role of ITU in a world of ubiquitous connectivity 

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here in Trieste this morning.

Today, we truly live in a world of ubiquitous connectivity.

I am not referring simply to the fact that there are more than five billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, or that there are now over two billion people online – although these facts are of course very significant.

No, I am referring instead to the fact that in the second decade of the twenty-first century, almost everything we encounter in our professional and personal lives is now inter-connected in one way or another.

People talk to people. Machines talk to machines. Information is collected, stored, transmitted and shared in quantities which human minds can barely comprehend.

We are already in the process of moving from the ‘Internet of Things’ to the ‘Internet of Everything’.

Connectivity, or inter-connectedness, will shape and define the future. I will go further and state that this is not just game-changing, but life-changing. And not just for some of us, but for all of us.

What does this mean for my organization, ITU?

Personally, I think that we are incredibly fortunate at ITU to be very much in the right place at the right time.

The rather dry and arcane world of telecommunications has been transformed quite suddenly into a fast-moving and exciting landscape of smartphones, satellite tracking and monitoring, social networking, cloud computing, tablet computing, 3D TV, and so much more.

Distinguished colleagues,

In October last year, we held ITU’s 18th Plenipotentiary Conference, PP-10, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

As we hoped and expected, PP-10 gave us tremendous opportunities to improve and enhance the work of ITU.

Our membership passed many resolutions which will have a direct effect on connectivity and the way the future of the ICT sector is shaped. Some key examples include resolutions on:
  • Accessibility;
  • ICTs and climate change;
  • Reviewing the International Telecommunication Regulations, one of ITU’s four Treaty Instruments;
  • 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;
  • The admission of members from Academia;
  • Bridging the standardization gap;
  • Special measures to assist Small Island Developing States and Landlocked Developing Countries;
  • Electronic meetings;
  • And a number of key Resolutions on Internet issues.

We will also be continuing to focus on broadband over the coming four years, and you will hear more on this subject tomorrow morning from my good colleague Mr Mario Maniewicz, from ITU’s Telecommunication Development Sector.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I will not attempt to steal Mario’s thunder, but I will just highlight a couple of important points about broadband, particularly in the context of the importance of connectivity and inter-connectedness.

I think in places like Trieste and Geneva, we have a tendency to forget how important the Internet has become in our daily lives – or indeed how difficult it would be for any of us to live and work without it.

Yet two thirds of the global population is still offline, and even when they do have access to the online world, only a tiny fraction of people in developing countries have anything other than a dial-up connection.

Does this matter, when billions of people might arguably be more preoccupied by the daily lack of safe drinking water, rising food prices, and a chronic shortage of healthcare?

It matters very much indeed.

Because broadband is the most extraordinary enabler, especially in the developing world, and especially in countries with large rural and remote populations.

It has the potential to massively expand the effective delivery of vital services – such as healthcare and education – to distributed populations which could never be properly served by traditional, centralized models.

It has the power to get people connected – and inter-connected – wherever they live.

Broadband infrastructure also has the power to massively enable connectivity between objects and machines.

To cite just one example – which is particularly relevant to this meeting – I think we can very soon expect to see sensor and sensor-network applications being used in sectors from energy and transport to industrial applications, precision agriculture and smart buildings.

We can also expect increased connectivity to help enable more sustainable production and consumption. This has the potential to deliver both product-specific improvements, such as embedded ICTs for energy-efficient vehicles, and improvements across entire systems, such as smarter transport management.

And of course we will also see interconnected ICTs being increasingly widely used to both monitor and improve the environment, through the use of embedded wireless sensor technologies.

The need to highlight the importance of broadband globally, and particularly at the national level, is the main reason why ITU set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development last year, with UNESCO.

We will be holding a Global Broadband Summit in Geneva in October, in conjunction with the ITU Telecom 40th anniversary edition.

So if you haven’t already done so, please do mark 24 to 27 October in your diaries – we will look forward very much to seeing you there!

Distinguished colleagues,

I firmly believe that this will be the decade when the Internet becomes truly pervasive and truly ubiquitous – creating a world of ubiquitous connectivity.

The Internet will spread everywhere – not just connecting people, but connecting objects, machines, cars, households, factories and governments, in hitherto unimagined ways.

This will be very largely brought about by the rapid proliferation of advanced mobile technologies.

This is something we can all celebrate.

We are fortunate not just to be working in a sector that is right at the heart of everything that happens in the modern world, but in a sector that has the potential to make real and lasting improvements to the lives of all the world’s people.

A few weeks ago, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I challenged government and industry leaders to put all this connectivity – all these amazing mobile devices and incredible mobile technologies – to good use.

I asked them not just what they are doing today but what they will be doing tomorrow to ensure that ubiquitous connectivity plays a real and tangible part in improving global health, global education, and global entrepreneurship.

And I asked them what they are going to do in terms of getting the right content onto the right devices in the hands of the right people – wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances.

I am convinced that the right answers will be found, and that we will see not just billions of mobile apps, but perhaps trillions of ways of connecting people, devices and objects for the benefit of humanity as a whole.

And that the world in 2020 will be a better, fairer – and more environmentally friendly – place than the world in 2010.

Thank you.