Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

The South-South News - High-Level-Meetings 

 ICTs and Cybersecurity

Keynote Speech

16 April 2012 , Hong Kong, China

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Hong Kong this morning, and to have the opportunity to say a few words about information and communication technologies – ICTs – and cybersecurity.

It is a particular pleasure to see so many familiar faces and old friends here – including of course:
  • Ambassador Francis Lorenzo, President of South-South News, who was kind enough to invite me here today;
  • Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations, Special Advisor on Africa, and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States;
  • And of course Ambassador John Ashe, who will be Co-Chairing the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development in just a few weeks time.

Let me just say a few words about ICTs and Rio+20 before I go into more detail on ICTs and cybersecurity.

Rio+20 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future – and in particular to work together to start defining the post-2015 agenda.

It is very clear to me – and I am sure it is very clear to you too – that the Rio+20 outcome document, ‘The Future We Want’, should recognize ICTs and ICT networks as an essential catalyst for the achievement of all three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental.

Indeed, in the hyperconnected world of the 21st century, ‘The Future We Want’, will lack credibility if it does not reflect the fact that ICTs are all around us, and that a more sustainable future is already being created through the proliferation of ICTs.

ICTs as a development imperative have always been supported by the Group of 77, and I was pleased to see that last year’s Istanbul Plan of Action for the LDCs identified ICT networks as critical infrastructure on a par with water, energy and transportation.

This message absolutely needs to be carried through into ‘The Future We Want’. ICT networks are basic and essential infrastructure in the 21st century.

This is another good example of how the developing world continues to show us the way forward, and how the developing world maintains a leadership role on so many important issues – including this one. We should never forget that when I t comes to ICT for development, ‘the least among us often show us the way.’

So let me ask you today, and over the coming weeks, to keep ICTs high on the Rio+20 agenda, and to make sure that ICTs feature in the appropriate texts, both going into and coming out of the Conference.

And let us be reminded that the LDC Conference last year already called for 100% access to the Internet by 2020. This is an achievable goal, and one which should be enshrined in all the important texts coming out of the United Nations from now onwards.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you will know, I am passionate – both as an individual and as leader of the International Telecommunication Union – about ‘Connecting the World’, and in particular about ensuring that the digital divide is not allowed to become a broadband divide.

Over the past twenty years or so we have seen an extraordinary transition from a world where most people did not have access to even basic telecommunications, to a world where we have more than six billion mobile cellular subscriptions, and where 2.4 billion people use the Internet.

Today we are seeing the Internet and convergence bringing people – and things – together in ways that we could never even have dreamed of just a decade or two ago.

We should not forget however that two thirds of the world’s people still do not have access to the Internet, and that the number of people worldwide with broadband access is still relatively small – even with the very rapid growth of new technologies such as mobile broadband.

Broadband has the power to radically transform society and to deliver sustainable social and economic progress.

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.

In the process, broadband will also help us accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, now only just three years away.

And it will help us move sustainably forward in the post-2015 agenda.

We must therefore work hard to ensure that everyone – wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances – has access to the benefits of broadband Internet.

This is not just about delivering connectivity for connectivity’s sake – or even about giving people access to the undoubted benefits of social communications.

It is about leveraging the power of connected technologies to make the world a better place.

We are already seeing this with the extraordinary wealth of apps which are available for mobile devices and whose number increases by tens of thousands every day.

This could never have happened without the Internet and convergence, which have brought two crucial new forces into play: the death of distance, and the democratization of information and knowledge.

This is the true beauty of the Internet: it finally makes the world’s riches accessible to everyone, at any time, and wherever they are.

Distinguished colleagues,

This is why ITU, in conjunction with UNESCO, launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010 – 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, President of the Carlos Slim Foundation.

We have some 60 Broadband Commissioners – all top-level leaders in their field – representing governments, industry, academia and international agencies – and including, I am delighted to say, Cheick Sidi Diarra, who is here with us today.

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

These targets – which of course were not present in the setting of the MDGs, because broadband itself was so new – need to be a key part of the sustainable development goals which will be defined at Rio+20.

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

Why do I say this?

Because while broadband services cost less than 2% of monthly income in 49 mostly rich-word economies, it still costs 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.

I am also confident that the Broadband Commission will continue to be a powerful actor in its advocacy role, and I am pleased to report that one of the main outcomes of our most recent meeting, in Macedonia, just two weeks ago, was an open letter from the Broadband Commission to the Rio+20 Conference, which is now in the process of being finalized.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have made tremendous strides forward, and we are well on the path to a world where everyone can benefit from the advantages brought by broadband networks, applications and services.

Unfortunately, however, hyperconnectivity has not come without risks and disadvantages – and I think we are all well aware of the growing issues of cybersecurity and cybercrime, which already take a huge toll on the global economy:
  • In online fraud, identity theft, and lost intellectual property;
  • On governments, companies and individuals around the world;
  • Inflicting damage on the innocent, on the vulnerable, and on our children.

We need to address these issues, because in the world today everything depends on ICTs – and particularly on the networks which underpin them.

This includes emergency services; water supplies and power networks; food distribution chains; aircraft and shipping; navigation systems; industrial processes and supply chains; healthcare; public transportation; government services; and even our children’s education.

In a world where it is now predicted that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, securing cyberspace has become one of the most critical issues to be tackled on a global scale.

And they need to be tackled on a global scale – because they are global issues!

Cybersecurity and cybercrime affect every country, every business and each and every agency and programme of the United Nations. As we push forward the UN agenda for peace and safety, we must remember that cyberpeace and cybersecurity are part of this.

Let me therefore encourage the remaining nations which have not yet come on board to join the 140 countries which are already a part of the ITU-IMPACT initiative – the first truly global multi-stakeholder and public–private alliance against cyberthreats.

Let me also encourage the private sector to come on board too, along with intergovernmental agencies and non-governmental bodies.

Distinguished colleagues,

We must work together to set international policies and standards, and to build an international framework of norms and principles for cybersecurity and cyberpeace.

As a specialized agency, ITU provides a global forum for discussing cybersecurity, and has been entrusted by world leaders to facilitate international dialogue and cooperation.

Within a global framework, the international community could recognize international norms and principles which are aimed at building a common understanding on ways of ensuring peace and stability in cyberspace.

In addition, other recommended actions, such as creating a code of conduct on countries’ use of information technology, could help to create a cybersecurity culture at the international, regional and national levels, and create the possibility of having a harmonized and comprehensive approach to cybercrime.

Let me therefore invite you to continue doing what we all do best – which is to work together, listening to all the different stakeholders, and building a better future for all the world’s people.

A world where cyberpeace and cybersecurity replace cyberthreats and cybercrime.

Thank you.