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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

The Serbian National Commission for Broadband and Digital Development 

Global Challenges and the Broadband Commission

04 April 2012, Belgrade, Serbia

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Belgrade this morning – and let me welcome this important initiative to further broadband development and the Digital Agenda here in Serbia.

We all know that the past twenty years has been an extraordinary time for the development of information and communication technologies – and with the ‘mobile miracle’ we have brought the benefits of ICTs within reach of virtually all the world’s people.

This is driving an extraordinary wealth of innovation, which we can see through the number of apps – increasing by tens of thousands every day – which are now available for mobile devices.

This is a demonstration of the amazingly beneficial outcomes resulting from one of the most successful marriages of modern times – the marriage between mobile and the Internet.

Mobile works anywhere, anytime.

The Internet makes the world’s riches accessible to all.

Together they make for ubiquitous connectivity.

The next crucial step will be broadband for all.

Why do I say this?

Because broadband will change the world in a million ways. And as it does so, it will help us accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, now only just three years away.

In a more populous, ageing world, broadband will be vital in helping to deliver essential services such as health, education and good government.

It will help us address the biggest issues of our time – such as climate change and environmental sustainability – and it will revolutionize the way goods and services are created, delivered and used.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are those who argue that we do not need high-end technology at all to solve the world’s most pressing issues – such as hunger and poverty – and that these can be addressed by having enough people willing to help, and through the use of simple technology, such as 2G mobile phones.

But without broadband infrastructure humming away in the background, and without the power of large servers and big data storage capabilities, we can achieve very little.

SMS messages to remote and rural patients only work if there is a proper broadband network – and powerful computers – running in the background.

The same is true for enabling applications such as mobile banking, which is proving so successful in many parts of the developing world.

With political will, a strong social conscience, and a profound desire to fulfil a humanist mandate, we are fully capable of making the world a better place for all – and I am absolutely confident that together, by leveraging the power of broadband, we shall do so.

This is why we launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, in conjunction with UNESCO – to encourage governments to implement national broadband plans and to increase access to broadband applications and services.

The Commission is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim, President of the Carlos Slim Foundation.

We have almost 60 Broadband Commissioners – all top-level leaders in their field – representing governments, industry, academia and international agencies.

I am sure you are aware that we have just come from the Broadband Commission’s fifth meeting, which was held not far south of here, on the shores of Lake Ohrid, in Macedonia.

We were honoured at that meeting to welcome Jasna Matić, your State Secretary for the Digital Agenda, as a new Commissioner.

Distinguished guests,

Last October, at the Broadband Leadership Summit in Geneva, we set ambitious – but achievable – broadband targets covering policy, affordability and uptake.

Of these, the most important in my view concerns affordability – or unaffordability – which today is still the biggest challenge to increased broadband uptake globally.

It is important to note that while broadband services cost less than 2% of monthly income in 49 mostly rich-word economies at the end of 2010, it still cost more than half of monthly income in 32 developing countries.

The Broadband Commission’s goal is to see broadband services cost under 5% of monthly income in every country in the world, by 2015.

With the help of enlightened regulation, increased user demand, and new technologies – such as mobile broadband – I am confident that we will succeed.

Indeed, in many countries we have already succeeded – as we can see from Serbia’s wonderful example.

Serbia recorded one of the most dramatic changes in broadband affordability in the world between 2008 and 2010, as reported in ITU’s ‘Measuring the Information Society 2011’ report.

Access to entry-level broadband services in Serbia cost just over 3% of average monthly income, by 2010, down from over 6% two years earlier, bringing it well within the targets set by the Broadband Commission – and well within the reach of most households in this fine country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Broadband Commission has made excellent progress over the past two years, and it is very gratifying to see that broadband continues to be at the top of the global political agenda. Indeed, this is why we are meeting here in Belgrade this morning!

Globally, there are now 112 countries worldwide which have broadband policies in place, and broadband continues to become more affordable everywhere.

Another very important recent development has been the results of the Radiocommunication Assembly and the World Radiocommunication Conference, which took place in Geneva earlier this year.

These two events will help pave the way forward for great advances in mobile broadband:
  •  Through the approval of the Recommendation and Resolutions that establish the IMT-Advanced technologies;
  • Through decisions made concerning sharing issues in the 800 MHz band, which were successfully resolved and which give the green light for the deployment of mobile broadband in this band in Europe and the rest of the world;
  • And through the decision to allocate the 700 MHz band to mobile services in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, effective by the end of 2015.

These decisions concerning the ‘digital dividend’ open the way for the worldwide harmonization of both the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands for mobile within a timeframe which is compatible with the general objectives of analogue switch-off.

That said, there are still a number of barriers to taking advantage of the digital dividend in different regions and different countries, and I am aware that this is an issue for Serbia which needs to be resolved.

Distinguished guests,

I think we all agree that broadband is going to continue to be transformational throughout the 21st century.

This makes it much bigger than individual nations’ efforts, or even the e United Nations.

This is an issue that affects everyone on the planet.

So let’s keep up the momentum.

We are doing the right thing at the right time.

So let’s look at what we can achieve in the next three years, and let’s also look at the post-2015 agenda – and how we can work together to make the world a better place for all.

Thank you.