Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

   Global leaders Broadband and USF Forum

Promoting Broadband - Why & How ?

23 May 2012, Istanbul, Turkey

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you this morning in Istanbul – the only city in the world which spans two continents.

This makes it a great venue for any discussion on broadband – which of course is set to span every continent, and affect everything that we do in the 21st century.

I am especially pleased to be here with you for this Forum, because I spend much of my time advocating the benefits of broadband – both in my role as Secretary-General of ITU, the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies, and also in my role as co-Vice-Chair of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

It is great to have John Davies from Intel here with us today, as he also serves on the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission, and is very active in advancing the business case for broadband and in lobbying for the main messages of the Commission on digital inclusion.

John and I are not alone here, of course, and we are both aware that many if not most of you are already dedicated to deploying broadband for the public good.

So allow me to begin by briefly outlining the benefits of broadband and describing the work of the Broadband Commission, before addressing some of the issues and what we know about universal service and USFs, after some twenty years’ experience.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the past twenty years, the ‘mobile miracle’ has brought the benefits of ICTs within reach of nearly everyone on the planet, and today there are well over six billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide.

But even though we now have some 2.4 billion Internet users today, that still leaves two thirds of the world’s people with no access to the Internet – let alone broadband.

So the next crucial step must be to replicate the mobile miracle for broadband, and deliver broadband for all.

I say this, because broadband is not just about high-speed Internet connectivity and accessing more data, faster.

Broadband is a set of transformative technologies, which are fundamentally changing the way we live.

Broadband is helping deliver essential services in health, education and government. It is also helping us address some of the biggest issues of our time – including the digital economy, climate change and environmental sustainability.

Broadband will help Turkey – and every other country on earth – compete in the new online world of e-commerce, Internet transactions and virtual goods.

Broadband is bringing mobile banking to those without bank accounts – in their millions across the developing world.

Broadband can help bring education and knowledge to remote and rural areas, opening up people’s minds to new possibilities and choices they may not even have known they have.

Broadband is also helping us accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals through applications to help improve people’s lives and livelihoods in rural and agricultural areas.

These are the key messages coming from the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which was established by ITU and UNESCO in 2010. 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 leaders in their field – representing governments, industry, academia and international agencies, and they are doing great work in advocating the importance of policy leadership.

We are working hard to combine our advocacy work with research and analysis, providing concrete evidence of the tangible benefits of broadband – and I am pleased to announce in this regard that ITU and the Broadband Commission have recently launched a new series of case studies, which will be made available via the Commission’s website.

Distinguished colleagues,

Given what we know about the real and tangible benefits of broadband to empower people, how can we make sure that everyone gets access?

One answer is policy leadership – and I was pleased to learn that Turkey developed its ‘National Broadband Vision’ last year through a collaborative process involving the private sector.

According to your ‘National Broadband Vision’, broadband could boost the economic growth of Turkey by 0.8-1.7 percentage points per year, and the economic momentum generated by an enhanced broadband ecosystem would create 180,000-380,000 new jobs in Turkey annually.

In a time when unemployment – and particularly youth unemployment – is such a preoccupying issue, this is tremendous news.

The question remains however: how can we roll out broadband and deliver all the benefits it brings to remote and rural areas?

We know that in some countries the private sector has ‘cherry-picked’ when rolling out services, prioritizing the delivery of ICT services to profitable, high-income, urban or business markets – with less attention given to remote or rural areas.

There is clearly a role here for Universal Service Funds, USFs, in helping promote and finance the roll-out of infrastructure to more remote areas, which are potentially less profitable when judged on a purely commercial basis – if we don’t take into account the broader social and economic benefits.

In the past, USFs in some countries have occasionally received bad press coverage for being bureaucratic, slow-moving institutions – with a reputation for being good at accepting money, but not always so good at disbursing or sharing it.

This year’s ITU Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2012 report specifically addresses and reviews what has been learned from our experience with USFs.

Looking at success stories, it seems clear that good USFs benefit from clear rules; effective public consultation processes; transparent administrative processes; and good governance.

These are good guidelines for a USF, or indeed any other institution, and I am pleased that Turkey’s USF has clearly been engaged in effective public consultations and partnership between the public and private sectors, and has been working to support Turkey’s inspired policy leadership.

Indeed, where Turkey has the courage to lead, others may follow your example.

I understand Turkey is also giving special emphasis to education. Today, your government is pioneering the ‘Movement to Increase Opportunities and Technology’, which is also known as the ‘FATİH’ initiative.

This was launched in February by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in conjunction with Minister for Education and the Minister for Transport and Communications.

This is a bold initiative, which aims to radically change education here in Turkey by bringing ICTs right into the classroom – for example, through the bold target of distributing 15 million tablet PCs to students, including primary school students.

I understand that this project has already sparked considerable interest among IT companies looking to benefit from Turkey’s huge domestic market, as well as your strategic position as a bridge between West and East, between Europe and Asia.

So that is great news, and there is clearly an important task here ahead – and I would strongly urge you to keep up the momentum you have already achieved here.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is deeply gratifying to see that broadband remains at the top of the global political agenda. For this indeed, is the key mission and aim of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

This is important, because broadband and digital inclusion are bigger and broader than the efforts of any single nation.

Your ability to roll out broadband to remote and rural areas of Turkey will help bring the light of knowledge and education to underserved communities.

Your work will help realize digital inclusion, which will determine the future competitiveness of Turkey, and its ability to integrate with – and participate in – our future online world.

The key to Turkey’s future success lies in your hands – and I encourage you to have the strength to forge ahead.

Let’s keep up the momentum, in the conviction that we are doing the right thing at the right time.

With political will and deep commitment, 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!

Thank you.