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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

   Every Woman Every Child - Innovation Working Group  

University of Columbia 

Welcome Remarks  

25 April 2012, New York, United States

Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you this morning to participate in the first in-person meeting of Every Woman Every Child’s Innovation Working Group. My special thanks go to Tore, Jeff, and Scott for organizing this meeting.

As a champion of the power of ICTs, I am a strong advocate for remote participation – but I must say that I am also very much in favour of complementing teleconferences with face-to-face meetings.  I am happy to see that we have remote participation for this meeting too, and that my staff at the ITU in Geneva are indeed participating.

I think we all agree that in a world of seven billion people, in a world where populations are ageing, and in a world where resources will always be limited, we will need all the power of ICTs to improve the delivery of health services around the world, in countries both rich and poor.

I am therefore particularly pleased to be able to participate in this initiative which is working on ‘Scaling Innovations for Impact on Women’s and Children’s health’ – because healthy women and children will help deliver social progress and prosperity for all the world’s people.

The complementary areas of e-health and m-health continue to be growing priorities for ITU, and our membership has been very active in putting forward health-related resolutions at our major institutional conferences – resolutions which have received strong support from all quarters.

This strengthened mandate has allowed us to reinforce our e-health and m-health activities.

We do this in the Development Sector, of course, but also at a more technical level – through standardization and interoperability initiatives, for example, as well as working to ensure that there is sufficient spectrum available for the mobile and wireless applications without which e-health and m-health would be impossible.

These activities are aimed to address specific challenges, including:

  • the information-driven health system transformation process;
  • the development of global e-health standards;
  • the development of e-health strategies and solutions;
  • and advancing the establishment of ICT infrastructures for health.

ITU also continues to play a strong advocacy role, and I was honoured to act as co-Vice-Chair, along with WHO’s Director-General Margaret Chan, the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women and Children’s Health. Flavia was a key driver in that Commission.

This Commission, as I am sure you all know, proposed a framework for global reporting, oversight and accountability – all essential activities in ensuring that targets are met and goals are achieved.

Also concerning advocacy, ITU set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development together with UNESCO, which recognizes that broadband will be absolutely essential in helping us accelerate progress towards meeting the MDGs.

Within the Broadband Commission we have a Working Group on e-health, which was set up and led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs – and we are very grateful for his active and continued support.

The e-health Working Group is now exploring how to better integrate m-health and e-health into the work of the Broadband Commission, and how to support a number of specific ongoing national e-health and m-health initiatives.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In preparing for this meeting and reviewing the background documents, I was pleased to see that the prominent role of technologies was clearly recognized, as I truly believe that ICTs can dramatically improve the delivery of health services around the world, and in particular save the lives of both pregnant women and new-born babies.

We all know that e-health and m-health have huge potential – but now we need to work closer together to turn successful pilots and projects into scalable, mainstream applications.

We are aiming to hold a special session on ‘Maternal and Child Health’ as part of the e-health track at ITU Telecom World 2012, which is being held in Dubai in October – and I would encourage you to attend this event.

In closing, let me just say once more that ITU is committed to work with you to ensure that the UN SG’s Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health becomes a reality.

Thank you.