Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

ITU Telecom World 2011
Forum Opening – Pathway to a Connected World

25 October 2011, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the opening of the Forum at ITU Telecom World 2011.

And let me say a special welcome to everyone who is following us remotely. There are tens of thousands of you out there, and we are delighted to be able to offer this opportunity to follow the debates here in Geneva online for the very first time.

It is not just a question of following the debates, of course, but also of participating in them – you are all invited to participate in polls, and to feed in your questions using social media.

ITU’s mission is to ‘Connect the World’, and this particular ITU Telecom event – the 40th anniversary edition – is very much a physical manifestation of that.

The main outcome from this event will be a ‘Manifesto for Change’, which will be built up this week from contributions and ideas as they come in.

So if you have a short, tweet-length recommendation on how to get us closer to a fully-connected world, please share it with us. We will integrate the best ones into a genuinely useful manifesto!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Information and communications technology – ICTs – may be the fastest-moving industrial sector in history, and it is worth noting a few dramatic statistics.

It took 125 years from the granting of the telephone patent to Alexander Graham Bell to achieve the first billion telephone lines.

But it took just 11 years from the launch of GSM to reach the first billion mobile cellular subscriptions.

And today of course we are well above the five billion mark – and we are adding another billion roughly every year and a half.

Already we have around 100 countries in the world where mobile cellular penetration exceeds 100% – which means on average more than one active SIM card per person.

Text messaging – not even 20 years old yet – is not just ubiquitous, today, but massively abundant, too, with over six trillion messages sent in 2010.

The key now is to achieve the same success for broadband as we did for mobile.

We have made extraordinary progress already. It took about 15 years to get the first billion people online, and just five years to get the second billion online.

Just five years ago, only a quarter of Internet users had a broadband connection. Today, the great majority of users access the Internet via broadband networks. In fact dial-up will, quite soon, I believe, be a thing of the past.

But we must work harder than ever to bring the benefits of broadband to the places where it is needed most – which very often means to rural and remote areas, especially in developing countries.

And we must make broadband more affordable, too. Indeed, we must make it a whole lot more affordable – and here, my message goes straight to governments and leaders in the developing world.

Because in 2010, according to the latest ITU data, there were still 32 economies in the world where broadband access cost more than half of average national income.

Compare that to the 49 economies in the world – mostly rich-world economies – where broadband access costs less that 2% of average income.

At the Broadband Commission’s meeting yesterday, we set several broadband targets for 2015. One of these covers affordability, and we will be hearing more about these targets at the press conference this afternoon.

Personally, I am an optimist, and I am confident that we will see prices come down rapidly.

I am confident, too, that we will see broadband proliferate this decade, driven by new business models, such as prepaid broadband; new regulatory frameworks; and massively increased fibre capacity.

So let me close now with my own contribution to the ‘Manifesto for Change’:

‘Broadband access needs to be affordable, everywhere in the world. So let’s find ways to make that happen!’

Thank you.