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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Global Social Business Summit 2012

Social Business - The Power of Innovation 


The Importance of Innovation and Technology for Social Development

Opening Address


09 November 2012, Vienna, Austria

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today in Vienna at the Global Social Business Summit 2012 – at the invitation of my good friend, Professor Mohammed Yunus, with such a panel of prestigious and inspiring speakers, and on such a vital topic.

To answer the question of why innovation and technology are so important for social development, I would like to start by reminding ourselves of why Professor Yunus won the Nobel Prize.

Professor Yunus won the prize because he “first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty” and showed “himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries”.

Professor Yunus was convinced that he could change the world for the better by making loans available to poor people without any financial security.

His achievements in pursuing this goal are a clear demonstration of how innovation and technology can help transform people’s lives, and drive forward social development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the second decade of the 21st century, information and communication technologies – and mobile in particular – are largely ubiquitous.

ICTs play an increasingly central role in our lives – not just as a means of communication, but also as a source of news, entertainment, information, and education. For an increasing percentage of the global population, ICTs are also a vital source of income, savings and employment opportunities.

And we are only just at the very beginning of this new era; a new era of unlimited possibilities.

As Professor Yunus said during the most recent meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in New York, referring to mobile devices: “we hold Aladdin’s lamp in the palm of our hand”.

In Africa and across the developing and developed worlds, I see a new generation of mobile entrepreneurs, apps designers, business people, commentators and experts developing new careers made possible by the unique catalyst of mobile connectivity.

The next step of course is broadband – and we absolutely need to make sure that access to broadband is equitable and affordable for all the world’s people, rich and poor, in developed and developing countries.

Broadband is the future. It is more important than the work of any individual person, company, or government – or even the United Nations.

We need to make sure that everyone gets online – wherever they are and whatever their circumstances.

This is why ITU and UNESCO, two years ago, set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, to advocate for increased global broadband infrastructure rollout, and equitable, affordable access for all.

And this is why ITU is working hard to create the technical standards and allocate the spectrum needed to ensure global and inclusive connectivity around the world.

But we need more than connectivity and ICTs.

We also need the burning new ideas, broad imaginations, and sincere commitment to bring our new ideas to fruition.

We need to invest in the enabling frameworks to help new businesses grow; we need to make sure our policy-makers are listening and responsive; and we need to be open to the new ideas coming from young people.

Because this is what will help drive social development forward, and will help provide answers to some of the most pressing issues of our age, which range from climate change, to sustainability, to youth unemployment.

Distinguished colleagues,

It is through the enormous power of these small devices – and the great networks spanning the globe that connect them together – that people everywhere can learn more about the issues affecting them; can experiment with answers; and can take their place on the global stage.

It is through the incredible enabling power of technology – in the hands of the masses – that we can move forward, realize our dreams, and fulfil our aspirations to make the world a better place for all.

Because innovation and technology is not just about being the next Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs. It is not just about being the next Sergey Brin, Larry Page or Mark Zuckerberg.

It is about social developments at the local level – with grassroots entrepreneurs finding local solutions to local problems for local people.

Because this is where social development can really happen. Not through foreign aid or overseas investment – but by letting people use the power of technology and innovation to create their own worlds, and their own futures.

That – I believe – is how and where social development will really happen. And that is where information and communication technologies can really make a difference.

And I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing the shape of the world change, as technology drives social development forward!

Thank you.