Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

High-Level Ministerial Meeting

    Addressing the Challenges of a Hyperconnected World 

Opening Remarks


5 November 2012, Baku, Azerbaijan

Mr President,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today for this High-Level Ministerial Meeting.

We are honoured by the presence of President Ilham Aliyev and Minister Ali Abbasov, who have both stressed their ongoing commitment to the development of information and communication technologies – both here in Azerbaijan, across the region, and around the world.

The Ministerial Forum provides a platform to discuss the opportunities and challenges of a hyperconnected world – and I personally have been very much involved in this, especially over the past six years, since being elected as ITU Secretary-General.

In the past two months alone I have seen these issues addressed at events as diverse as the UN General Assembly and the Social Good Summit in New York; the ITU’s Global Symposium for Regulators in Sri Lanka; and the ITU Telecom World 2012 event, which was held just two weeks ago in Dubai.

I am also expecting the issues of a hyperconnected world to become an important centre of attention during the creation of the vision beyond 2015, within the framework of the WSIS overall review process (WSIS+10).

Distinguished colleagues,

The next step in building the knowledge society will be to achieve ubiquitous broadband.

We have already been incredibly successful in bringing basic communications within reach of virtually all the world’s people, with over six billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, and mobile penetration now standing at over 100% in over 100 countries.

But in the 21st century, it is clear that we need more than simple mobile communications, and that broadband will be key to furthering social and economic development and delivering essential services such as health, education and good governance – as well as in being a real driver for sustainability.

This is why ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development two years ago – to mobilize for the increased rollout and adoption of broadband worldwide, as a means of accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

And we are very pleased to have Minister Abbasov as one of our most active Broadband Commissioners.

The importance of broadband will also be highlighted by the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12, which is taking place in Dubai next month.

The conference is taking place at the request of the ITU’s membership, and will revise the International Telecommunication Regulations, the ITRs, which date back to 1988.

The current ITRs were instrumental in ushering in the digital revolution and mass mobile communications, and it is our hope that WCIT-12 will help usher in the global knowledge society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One of the biggest challenges of an increasingly interconnected – indeed hyperconnected – world is cybersecurity.

It is worth noting that 2012 has already been a landmark year in this regard, and I think it will mark the start of a profound transformation in how we work together to combat cybercrime and increase our efforts to ensure that the cyberspace is safe for our businesses, our communications, and our children.

This year, as in previous years, we are continuing to experience an exponential increase in cyberthreats, from the discovery of several thousand new malwares, to new vulnerabilities in ICT systems which are immediately exploited by criminals.

The dramatic changes associated with the spread of ICTs also bring new risks and threats to safety and security – especially for children, who are among the most vulnerable members of our societies.

This year we have also seen initial attempts to disseminate what the experts might call cyberweapons. At ITU we were pleased to be able to contribute towards the mitigation of potential escalations in the usage and damage of such extremely complex malicious software.

At the same time, however, we have seen countries starting to treat cybersecurity as a priority.

Thanks to the contribution of organizations such as the United Nations, many countries have started to get organized, through bilateral and multilateral negotiations that I am confident will lead to the kind of agreements which will help to improve safety in cyberspace.

ITU is in the frontline in helping to ensure cyberpeace, through well-established programmes to assist countries in a variety of ways, from legal to technical and policy to regulatory.

We still have much to achieve, however, and here my personal efforts as Secretary-General of the ITU are highly-focused.

All stakeholders – from nations to multinational corporations to international organizations to end users – must realize that cooperation and collaboration is the key component to achieve cyberpeace and to ensure a safer online life for our children.

We need a concrete, real, and strongly committed process towards a global understanding on the importance of cyberpeace, and the related identification of common and agreed principles to be adopted by all countries.

Only then can we make sure that the potential risk of the misuse of ICTs will not degenerate in actions that would present risks to national and international stability and security.

Distinguished colleagues,

I believe that this global process must start as soon as possible – and while I am aware that this is a complex and highly-political issue, I am confident that it can be done and that it will be easier than many people expect.

Let me provide you with some specific elements here:
  • Several initiatives have already been undertaken at the national, regional and international levels. So we have a blueprint on the processes and the procedures; we just need to harmonize them.
  • Many legal instruments, principles, frameworks and guidelines etc have already been elaborated. If we look into each of them, we can see that there are some basic principles that are common to every single one of them.
  • Multilateral platforms such as the United Nations, as well as regional organizations, can provide useful mechanisms for discussion and cooperation to advance the work and to facilitate the decision-making process. The goal is to make sure that the work is harmonized, and above all shared.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, let me share with you ITU’s experience of the potential of global cooperation.

The ITU-IMPACT initiative now comprises some 144 countries that have decided to cooperate at the highest level. This is a unique alliance in today’s world, bringing together so many countries as well as industry experts.

We are delighted that Minister Abbasov has agreed to become one of the members of the International Advisory Board of IMPACT, together with companies such as Symantec and Kaspersky Lab, and international organizations such as CTO and OIF, and under the chairmanship of the President of Burkina Faso.

The Child Online Protection initiative, in line with ITU’s mandate to strengthen cybersecurity, is establishing the foundations for a safe and secure cyber world for future generations – in conjunction with partners from civil society, international organizations and the private sector.

These are demonstrations of the level of commitment that the international community around the world is giving to the matter – and I mention this to show that global cooperation can indeed be achieved.

It is simply a matter of willingness and commitment.

Thank you.