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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

ITU Telecom World 2012 

 Leadership Summit Opening : Forging The Future

 Panelist Opening Remarks 


14 October 2012, Dubai, UAE

Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is real pleasure and a great honour to be with you here this afternoon for the opening of the Leadership Summit at ITU Telecom World 2012.

Under the banner of ‘Forging the Future’, the Leadership Summit will be addressing three different strands of the conversation: the nature of communications in the future; funding the future; and protecting the future.

To me, one thing seems to clearly bring these three strands together, and that is broadband.

Broadband is already an essential part of the fabric of life in the 21st century, and I can only see this importance growing as more and more people gain access to the benefits of broadband.

Let me give you just a few examples of why this is the case.

Firstly, broadband is going to be an absolute game-changer in terms of the way we deliver health services and education to present and future generations – especially in the developing world.

This was brought home to me at the most recent meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, in New York, just three weeks ago.

Jeff Sachs, the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, reminded us that malaria is 100% treatable if you reach the child within 24 hours of the symptoms appearing.

With broadband and smartphones – and community healthcare workers on the ground – we can.

And this means that we can save the lives of 700,000 children a year – because of broadband.

And it costs just 80 cents for the rapid diagnostic test, and about another 80 cents for the course of drugs needed – so this is something we can afford to do.

And this is why ITU is right behind this initiative.

Looking at education, broadband brings the same educational opportunities to kids in rural and remote schools as their fellows get in the big cities.

We have all seen the extraordinary success and popularity of the Khan Academy, which now has well over 3,000 video tutorials available online, and which has delivered 200 million lessons worldwide – for free!

And again, that’s down to broadband.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Broadband opens up the most extraordinary opportunities for sustainable social and economic progress.

But without broadband, citizens will quickly be left behind.

I was recently reminded by Julius Genachowski, the Chairman of America’s Federal Communications Commission – who is also a Broadband Commissioner – that the costs of digital exclusion are rapidly rising.

It wasn’t very long ago – in developed countries – that if you were looking for a job, you would buy the newspaper, look at the listings and get on the phone or send in your resumé. Or you would go to the job centre and talk to someone there about the opportunities available.

But today, 80% of the Fortune 500 companies do all their job postings online and require online digital applications. This is true of ITU, too, by the way – so this spreads right across the employment market.

And increasingly students are set assignments which require them to have access to online resources, and to do their research and submit their work online.

So if you don’t have a broadband connection, you’re already at a huge disadvantage – and that’s only going to get worse as time goes on.

This is precisely why ITU set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development with UNESCO two years ago – which advocates for increased broadband rollout globally, to help accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

Because although we have successfully brought most of the world’s population within reach of a phone line – something widely considered impossible just 25 years ago – there is still very much a broadband divide.

Let us not forget – here in hyper-connected Dubai – that almost two thirds of the world’s people still have no access to the Internet.

So let’s make it our noble goal to ensure that nobody – wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances – suffers from digital exclusion.

Let us make it our noble goal to deliver on our promises to future generations to create a world that is fair and equitable.

Let us make it our noble goal to shape the communications landscape of the future; fund the communications landscape of the future; and protect the communications landscape of the future.

Thank you.