Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Beyond Money Roundtable
 Welcome Remarks
7 February 2013, New York, United States
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you in New York this afternoon for the Beyond Money Roundtable, which is being kindly hosted by the UN Office for Partnerships and our good friend Amir Dossal.

As the Secretary-General of the ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, my mission is to connect the world, and to bring the benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.

I firmly believe that if we can succeed in achieving our mission, then we will see unprecedented social and economic improvement for all.

Because in the 21st century, technology – and particularly information and communication technology – has become a great driving force to further human progress.

Indeed, ICTs have become key enablers in every facet of human activity – from healthcare and education to energy, transportation, government, entertainment, innovation and enterprise.

In the process, ICTs are bringing the sum of human knowledge within reach of all the world’s people – wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances – for the first time in human history.

As a result – increasingly, and in all countries – ICTs are no longer seen as a luxury, but as a basic necessity; as basic infrastructure.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have already made quite extraordinary progress, and today there are more than six billion mobile phone subscriptions globally, and around 2.5 billion people online.

We cannot rest on our laurels, however.

Because two thirds of the world’s people – some 4.5 billion people – are still offline. This means that:
  • Two thirds of the world’s people are still locked out of the world’s biggest and most valuable library.
  • Two thirds of the world’s people are still refused access to the world’s biggest market place.
  • And two thirds of the world’s people are denied the opportunities which are now available to the other third.

There are those who would argue that we do not need high-end technology at all to solve the world’s most pressing issues – such as hunger and poverty – and that these can be addressed by having enough people willing to help, and through the use of simple technology, such as 2G mobile phones.

But this misses two important points:
  • Firstly, the Internet is not just about hi-tech. Instead, it is the biggest, broadest and best information resource in history.
  • And secondly, without broadband infrastructure, and without the power of large servers and big data storage capabilities humming away in the background, we can achieve very little. Even the most simple services, like SMS messages, become so much more effective if there is a broadband network and powerful computers behind them.

This is why ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010 – to advocate for increased broadband access and rollout globally; not just for its own sake, but to accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

The Commission is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim, President of the Carlos Slim Foundation; Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and myself have the honour to serve as co-Vice-Chairs.

We now have close to 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.

One of them of course is Amir Dossal, who has made today’s event possible.

Distinguished colleagues,

The key to bringing connectivity to the un-served billions will be innovation – and the Beyond Money concept is just one such innovation.

We all know that on one side, in so many areas, there is huge surplus capacity, and yet there remains vast unmet demand – and it is great to see Recipco working to resolve this issue.

The Recipco Capacity Exchange could enable telephone network operators, mobile operators, satellite providers and other telecoms companies to trade capacity to more effectively manage peak periods. And those with unused capacity could create new sources of revenue and reduce costs through the sale of bandwidth before it expires.

Applying a capacity trading marketplace solution to the allocation of bandwidth could both improve efficiency and reduce prices.

And this could be an important step in helping to bridge the digital divide – a dream I think we can all share. Because if we all share a dream, it becomes a vision; and if we all share a vision; it becomes reality.

I will take the opportunity to go into more detail when we open up our discussions of the Applications of a New Economic Architecture in half an hour or so.

But for now, let me just say that this represents not just a great opportunity to reduce waste and increase efficiency, but also to generate funds which will be vital in terms of broadband infrastructure rollout – especially in the developing world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, let me encourage you to come up with innovative ideas and solutions through new forms of partnerships and alliances.

And let me thank both Amir Dossal once again, and James Fierro, the CEO of Recipco, who will now say a few words about the Beyond Money initiative, before we open up the floor for discussion.

Thank you.