Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Mexico City - Digital Village        
Keynote Address
Working Together To Achieve Broadband For All
16 March 2013, Mexico City, Mexico
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Mexico City this afternoon – and let me say how impressed I am with the Digital Village project. This is something we should all be proud of.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This afternoon, as leader of the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, I would like to share with you my passion to ‘Connect the World’ – and in particular to ensure that the digital divide is not allowed to become a broadband divide.

Connecting the unconnected is right 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.

And we have made the most extraordinary progress in the first years of the new Millennium.

So much so, in fact, that we now have mobile penetration in this region at over 100%, and there are more than 6.4 billion active mobile phone subscriptions globally.
But we still have far to go.

Because while almost everyone now has access to mobile telephony, almost two thirds of the world’s people – some 4.5 billion people – still do not have access to the Internet.

This means that:
  • Almost two thirds of the world’s people are still locked out of the world’s biggest and most valuable library.
  • Almost two thirds of the world’s people are still refused access to the world’s biggest market place.
  • And almost 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 humming away in the background, and without big data storage capabilities, and without smart data mining and aggregation, we can achieve very little.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Broadband will change the world in a million ways – and as it does so, it will help us accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, now only just two years away.

In a more populous, ageing world, broadband will be vital in helping to deliver essential services such as education, health, and good government.

Broadband will also play a crucial role in ensuring the world’s seven billion people have affordable and equitable access to adequate food supplies, at every step of the process: from delivering the right information to farmers; to helping them improve yields and prices; to improving supply chain efficiencies; to ensuring that consumers understand nutritional needs, both for themselves and for their children.

Similar principles apply to smart water management and distribution, and here too, broadband will play a vital role in the 21st century, as water resources become more scarce, and much more valuable.

We will also see broadband helping drive the transition to a low carbon economy, and helping us better adapt to the effects of climate change, through smart grids; environmental sensors; intelligent transport systems; the dematerialization and digitalization of goods and services; and new ways of improving energy efficiency.

Broadband will not just help us address the biggest issues of our time, such as climate change and environmental sustainability; it will also revolutionize the way goods and services are created, delivered and used.

We are already seeing this with the extraordinary wealth of apps – increasing by tens of thousands every day – which are available for mobile devices.

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.

Distinguished guests,

At the end of 2011, at the Broadband Leadership Summit in Geneva, the Broadband Commission set four ambitious but achievable broadband targets covering policy, affordability and uptake.

Perhaps the most important of these is the affordability – or unaffordability – of broadband, which today is still the biggest challenge to increased broadband uptake globally.

Why do I say this?

Because while entry-level fixed broadband services cost less than 2% of monthly income in 49 mostly rich-word economies – and around 2.5% of monthly income here in Mexico – it still costs more than half of monthly income in 30 developing countries.

The Broadband Commission’s goal is to see broadband services cost under 5% of monthly income in every country in the world, by 2015.

And with the help of enlightened regulation, increased user demand, and new technologies – such as mobile broadband – I am confident that we will succeed.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are at the beginning of a journey towards an extraordinary new world – a broadband world.
  • A broadband world – where individuals rich and poor are connected to the global knowledge society.
  • A broadband world – where what matters is human ingenuity, not simply where you were born, or how wealthy your parents were.
  • A broadband world – offering sustainable social and economic development for all.

So let us embark on that journey together and start building that broadband world, right now.

And let us go out, all of us, into the world, as broadband ambassadors.

Thank you.