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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

CANTO – 27th Annual Conference & Trade Exhibition 2011

10 July 2011, Paramaribo, Suriname

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am greatly honoured by this opportunity to be with you today in the fine city of Paramaribo for the opening of CANTO’s 27th Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition.

With over 100 members from more than 30 countries, CANTO is not only the leading telecommunications trade organization in this region, but also plays an important role in ITU – and we are very grateful for CANTO’s support for and participation in ITU’s work.

As the Secretary-General of the UN specialized agency for ICTs, it is a great pleasure to see that CANTO’s focus at this year’s conference is on ‘the use of ICTs for social and economic development’.

Here in the Caribbean, quite exceptional progress has been shown in ICT development, particularly in mobile cellular communications. Indeed, many of the countries in the Caribbean now have mobile penetrations of well over 100%.

Here in Suriname, the extraordinary figure of 170% was surpassed at the beginning of this year, placing Suriname right up amongst the global leaders in mobile cellular penetration – and making Suriname, along with other Caribbean nations, likely to be one of the first handful of countries in the world with an average of more than two mobile phone subscriptions per inhabitant.

With progress like this, we have successfully brought basic communications within reach of most of the world’s people over the past decade or so.

And I am very pleased to see efforts in this region to improve ICT harmonization between countries – with significant benefits already being derived from the ITU / European Commission Project on the ‘Harmonization of ICT Policies, Legislation and Regulatory Procedures in the Caribbean’, HIPCAR.
The second phase of HIPCAR is currently under negotiation, and I am confident that it will deliver further benefits to the region.

The big challenge now of course for this region, as for others, is to repeat this mobile miracle for the Internet, and in particular for broadband.

Broadband needs to reach everyone, in all nations, because it is absolutely key to furthering social and economic development in the 21st century, and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We live in an extraordinary era, where a combination of fixed, wireless and satellite technologies have given us the power to reach every corner of every country, regardless of geography or topography. This, of course, is essential in a region like the Caribbean, with its great geographic diversity.

We have the technical means to bring advanced ICTs to all the world’s people – and I am pleased to see that in the Caribbean, as in other regions, we find that:

Governments are ready to allocate resources to bring everybody into the Information Society;

Companies are willing to invest where benefits can be obtained, and are also willing to contribute to enabling universal access; and

Citizens continue to demonstrate a remarkable appetite for ICTs in every form, even at times of economic downturn.

At ITU, we are prepared and eager to work to help fulfil everyone’s fundamental right to communicate, and their desire to play a meaningful role in the information and knowledge society.

Two things need to happen, however, before everyone can have access to the vast benefits of broadband.

First, it needs to become much more affordable.

Among the data we publish at ITU is what we call an “ICT Price Basket” – and this reveals the huge gaps that still exist between the haves and the have-nots, particularly where broadband is concerned.

In the 31 countries at the top of the broadband list – those where broadband is most affordable – a fixed broadband subscription costs less than 1% of average monthly income.

But at the other end of the scale, for people who live in the 32 countries where broadband is least affordable – most of them UN-designated Least Developed Countries – a fixed broadband subscription costs over half of average monthly income.

We must do everything in our power to reduce this glaring inequality, and make broadband affordable for all.

Second, we need to bring broadband to the top of all national development agendas.

This is why ITU, in conjunction with UNESCO, launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development last year – to encourage governments to implement national broadband plans and increase access to broadband applications and services.

The Commission is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and myself serve as co-vice-chairs.

We also have over 50 Broadband Commissioners – all top-level leaders in their field – representing governments, industry, academia and international agencies.

They have defined a vision for accelerating the deployment of broadband networks worldwide, with the aim of improving the delivery of services across a huge range of social and business sectors, and accelerating progress towards the MDGs.

This is a great example of how partnerships between UN agencies can really deliver results.

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

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

The Commission has now delivered its final report, which will be presented to the UN General Assembly in September.

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

Ladies and gentlemen,

As more and more of the world’s people get online, and as we all – from governments to enterprises to individuals – become more dependent on technology and particularly the Internet, we also need to recognize the growing importance of cybersecurity.

ITU is therefore proud to have forged a strong and highly supportive relationship with IMPACT – the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats.

As the world’s first comprehensive alliance against cyberthreats, IMPACT is the key organization fulfilling ITU’s cybersecurity mandate in an operational sense, providing our 192 Member States with access to expertise, facilities and resources to effectively address cyberthreats, as well as assisting UN bodies in protecting their ICT infrastructures.

Already more than 130 countries are now formally part of the ITU-IMPACT operational deployment, and I would encourage all remaining Member States and UN bodies, as well as regional organizations, to join this global endeavour, so that they too may benefit from the services and capabilities provided.

As well as the ITU-IMPACT partnership, we are also joining forces with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – UNODC – to collaborate globally on assisting Member States in mitigating the risks posed by cybercrime.

We have also signed an MoU with Symantec Corporation, which will provide ITU with expert intelligence reports on current and future trends in ICT security, to be shared amongst all ITU Member States.

In parallel, we are also considering issues of child online safety. To address the global challenge of protecting children online ITU launched the Child Online Protection initiative, COP, in 2008, as a multi-stakeholder coalition within the framework of ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda.

Since then, ITU has been offering a platform for global cooperation where different constituencies can share their views and best practices. I would like to refer to the global COP Guidelines, for children, parents, industry and policy-makers, which were developed by a multi-stakeholder group of COP partners, as one example.

Moreover, with our new patron, President Chinchilla of Costa Rica, our COP initiative is now working to transform the COP guidelines into concrete activities which will deliver significant national benefits, such as the development of national strategies on child online protection, the establishment of national hotlines, or the development of interoperable standards and related recommendations to protect children online.

Starting with Costa Rica, we are focusing on Latin American countries’ activities in this important area. I would like to call upon countries of the region and all interested stakeholders to work together with ITU in making the online experience for children everywhere a more secure and a safer one.

Distinguished colleagues,

Let me close with a few words on a subject that is especially important in this particular region: emergency communications and disaster response.

ICTs are not just essential to social and economic development, but also play a crucial role in several different areas, including monitoring and warning; disaster preparedness; and emergency communications. Let me address these one at a time.

Concerning monitoring and warning, enormous progress has already been made, especially in terms of being able to take action ahead of extreme weather events, and especially hurricanes and cyclones. Advance warnings made possible by satellite tracking and monitoring systems regularly save many lives.

Remote sensing is of course also very important in terms of environmental monitoring and climate change mitigation.

Turning now to disaster preparedness, ICTs play a dual role, firstly in giving people on the ground a much better chance of survival, and secondly in allowing for a better, faster and more efficient and effective response, when disasters do occur.

Small improvements in technological progress can make a huge difference in this regard – for example getting more accurate and timely weather data, or even something as simple as today’s communication devices having much-improved battery-life.

Finally, looking at emergency communications, we may not be able to prevent catastrophes from occurring – and in the case of earthquakes it is often impossible to provide any warning they are about to occur – but ICTs can play an absolutely vital role when disasters do happen.

Most notably, we can help to restore vital communications on the ground – via the use of satellite phones and mobile base stations, for example – even when existing physical communications network infrastructure has been destroyed.

And we have seen the incredible benefits of this when disasters have occurred in recent years – from helping families to get news of missing loved ones, to helping medical staff know when and where they are most urgently needed, to helping coordinate search and rescue teams and the provision of relief supplies.

ITU provides assistance at all phases of disaster management, and in this region we were quick to provide communications equipment to Haiti and Chile immediately after the earthquakes that affected those countries last year, in order to help their administrations mitigate the effects.

Furthermore, both ITU’s Standardization and Radiocommunication Sectors are working on this issue – in developing specific standards in the case of the former, and identifying spectrum resources to be allocated to deal with emergency communications in the latter.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, let me remind you of the 40th anniversary celebration of the ITU Telecom World event, which will also feature a Broadband Leadership Summit.

ITU Telecom World 2011 will take place in Geneva in October, and will bring together world leaders at the highest level along with top executives from many of the world’s most powerful ICT players.

Let me therefore urge you to note the dates in your diaries – 24 to 27 October – and encourage you to come to Geneva and to play your part in the debates and discussions which will help shape the future of the ICT sector.

In the mean time, let me wish you all a profitable and successful conference here in Suriname. There is an exciting programme ahead of us, and I am confident that we shall leave here enriched by the experience, and encouraged in our determination to bring the benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people.
Thank you