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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Broadband Commission Working Group on Youth
Young People’s Solutions to Global Challenges

17 May 2011, Geneva, Switzerland


sg-bb-youth.jpgDistinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

As co-vice-chair of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, and chair of the Working Group on Youth, it is a great pleasure to be with you here this afternoon for this inaugural meeting.

I would very much like to thank all the high-level participants in advance for your guidance in encouraging constructive and engaging discussion.

I would also like to thank the young participants for giving their time to be here this afternoon – we are counting on you to inspire us today!

These Broadband Commission thematic Working Groups offer a valuable opportunity to focus on specific issues and concrete outputs within the greater broadband theme.

The working groups will present an outline of their work to the third meeting of the Broadband Commission in Paris in June. They will then deliver their outcomes at the Broadband Leadership Summit in October, here in Geneva.

As I am sure you are aware, 2011 is the UN Year of Youth, which makes the work of this particular group even more relevant and timely. There are a number of youth events scheduled in the UN calendar during the year, and we will attempt to dovetail our work with these special occasions.

Indeed, it is my intention that the document being prepared today, on the basis of your inputs, should be taken to and shared at other UN Youth events this year, so that we continue to build a truly collaborative, inclusive vision together.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We need to bring the benefits of the broadband revolution to everyone – wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. Broadband is the most powerful tool we have to accelerate progress towards meeting the MDGs, and to drive social and economic progress on a global scale.

In the 21st century, broadband networks will be considered basic infrastructure, like roads, water or energy networks are today.

But if broadband access is to become ubiquitous, and deliver tangible benefits to all, it will first need to be accorded top priority on the development agenda of all governments.

And it will need to become much more affordable. This is especially true in the developing world, where broadband access still costs more than 50% of average monthly income in some 32 countries worldwide, according to the latest ITU data, released yesterday.

This is why ITU launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development with UNESCO last year.

And I am very glad that we did – because I look around the room here today, and I see nothing but possibilities. With your combined talents and enthusiasm, there is no obstacle we cannot overcome.

As any parent knows, education represents the best way for their children to get ahead and create a better life for themselves. But in the modern world, education doesn’t amount to much if it doesn’t include access to and expertise with ICTs.

Access to broadband networks implies access to information, which is a crucial factor in any young person’s development. So if you’re connected, it no longer matters if you’re geographically or socially isolated; you’re still connected to the information society.

While young people stand to benefit enormously from ubiquitous broadband, the world also stands to benefit hugely from young people’s ideas, inspirations and innovations.

Already, at work and at home, we are seeing young digital natives coaching their elder digital immigrants, and I am convinced that it is you, not us, who will be deciding the future of broadband applications and services.

Young Internet giants like Facebook, Google, Skype and Yahoo were not created by old people, but by young and enthusiastic entrepreneurs – as indeed were slightly older technology giants like Apple and Microsoft.

My friends and colleagues,

I would like to see this working group creatively brainstorm ideas – especially concerning ways of increasing broadband access in under-served populations – and to create a young people’s visual vision statement.

Let’s take this document and expand on it at other UN youth events this year. Let’s see if we can get it endorsed by the Youth Assembly in August, as a fully collaborative vision statement focusing on Youth and ICTs. And let’s share it with the UN General Assembly in September, in the hope that it generates a UN declaration on Youth and ICT – emphasizing amongst other points, the importance of accessibility.

Let me therefore encourage you to get to work this afternoon, and to combine the power of youthful vigour and enthusiasm with experienced and knowledgeable experts.

I expect you to be smart, and to be creative, and I look forward not just to the outcomes from this afternoon, but to seeing how your work continues once this meeting has concluded today.

Thank you.