Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

World Economic Forum (WEF 2013) 

 Shaping Norms and Values in Digital Media
25 January 2013, Davos, Switzerland
Ladies and gentlemen,

What is my vision in terms of having a very healthy digital ecosystem?

It’s a very interesting question, and I’d like to spend just a couple of minutes answering it.

We can discuss the norms and values being changed by digital media, and we can discuss the areas of convergence in opinions here – but arguably the most important thing, in terms of having a healthy digital ecosystem, must be its universality, its ubiquity.

And here we still have a very long way to go.

In spite of the enormous progress made in terms of connecting the world – with over six billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide – it’s important to recognize that two thirds of the world’s population is still offline.

So before we can have any sensible discussion about what constitutes a healthy digital ecosystem, we have to work out what we’re going to do about bringing the rest of the world into the digital, online era.

Contrary to many media reports, this was what WCIT-12, which took place in Dubai last month, was all about: connecting the unconnected.

The Member States present at WCIT-12 represented over 90% of the world’s population, and I am very pleased to note here that the 89 countries who signed the revised ITRs in Dubai represent not just most of the world’s people, but the great majority of the world’s unconnected people.

Many other countries will be likely to sign up to the treaty between now January 2015, when it comes into force.

The new ITRs chart a globally-agreed roadmap that promises to bring the digital era within reach of the 700 million people around the world who still don’t have mobile phone network coverage and the 4.5 billion people not yet online.

Connecting the unconnected is at the heart of what ITU does, and is fully-consistent with the significant role we have played in enabling the Internet – through standards, spectrum, fibre optic networks, satellites and much more.

The revised ITRs contain a number of very important provisions which will benefit businesses – including provisions which improve transparency in mobile roaming charges; provisions which improve security; and provisions which enable a favourable investment climate.

And that’s what WCIT-12 was really all about – creating the right environment for telecommunications infrastructure investment and rollout, so that everyone can have access to the Internet.

It was disappointing to see attempts to derail the conference by those who were persuaded that Internet governance or control was an issue for discussion, when it was not; and by those who were concerned that the ITRs would stray into the domain of content, when content was specifically excluded in the treaty.

Thanks to WCIT-12, a healthy digital ecosystem – where everyone on the planet can participate – is within our grasp, and all stakeholders, including governments and businesses, must do their utmost to ensure that we deliver on this promise.

We must do everything in our power to bring the remaining two thirds of the world’s people online – so that they can create, share and benefit from the wonderful world of digital media.

Thank you.