Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Moldova ICT Summit 2013
Ministerial Session - Digital Agenda For Development
Keynote Speech
17 April 2013, Chisinau, Moldova
Mr Prime Minister,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a tremendous pleasure to be here with you in Chisinau this morning for the Ministerial Session of the Moldova ICT Summit.

This session addresses the theme of the ‘Digital Agenda for Development’ – and this is a subject which is very close to my heart.

At the ITU, as many of you will know, our 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. This we do together with our 193 member states and more than 700 sector members drawn from industry, academia and civil society organizations.

I firmly believe that if we can succeed in achieving our mission, then we will see unprecedented social and economic improvement for all, and that we will continue to make bold steps in accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals – and indeed other sustainable development goals as we move forward.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have made the most extraordinary progress in the first twelve years of the new Millennium.

In the year 2000, around half the people in the world’s richest countries had a mobile phone but average mobile penetration here in the CIS region was under 2%.

Today there are around 6.4 billion active mobile phone subscriptions globally, and this region has the highest mobile penetration of all the regions in the world, at over 160%.

At the beginning of the Millennium, around 280 million people used the Internet worldwide. In not much more than a decade that figure has grown almost ten-fold to reach just over a third of the world’s population.

And yet we still have far to go.

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 still denied the extraordinary opportunities now available to the other third.

I am therefore delighted to see the positive efforts that Moldova is making in this regard, and full credit should be given to those behind the new draft strategy on IS development here – ‘Digital Moldova 2020’.

Moldova has of course already made extraordinary progress in ICT development, and particularly in mobile – with a twelvefold increase in penetration in the space of just a decade, from under 10% at the beginning of 2003 to over 120% today.

The contribution of ICTs to Moldova’s GDP continues to increase and today more than half the population here is online.

But Moldova rightly recognizes that every single citizen and every single business in the 21st century needs to have access to fast, affordable and reliable broadband infrastructure – and is planning to ensure that this happens before the end of the decade.

Indeed, Moldova is admirable in recognizing that broadband development is a core pillar of the information society, and I applaud its efforts to improve access and rollout infrastructure; promote digital content and electronic services; and strengthen digital skills and literacy.

Distinguished colleagues,

The importance of this approach is one of the main reasons why ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development three years ago.

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.

The importance of broadband to all countries was also made very clear at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12, which took place in Dubai last December.

And I am pleased to note that the new International Telecommunication Regulations – the ITRs – which came out of WCIT contain important new provisions, notably in Article 6, which will encourage investment in international telecommunication networks and which will promote competitive wholesale pricing for traffic carried.

This is one of the most important articles in the revised ITRs, and I am confident that it will play a very important role in furthering broadband rollout around the world – and in bringing the Internet within reach of the 4.5 billion people globally who are still offline.

The revised ITRs also contain several new resolutions, which do not require any ratification, acceptance or approval process, and are not inherently binding for Member States.

They are nonetheless important texts and will themselves help to promote improved access to ICTs to all the world’s people, and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Internet.

In this regard I would like to draw your attention to the third resolution, which addresses the fostering of an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet.

The resolution specifically calls for greater broadband investment and expresses support for the multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

ITU is committed to connecting the world, and works closely with all Member States, as well as with the private sector, to bring the benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people.

We are not ourselves a content organization – other agencies such as UNESCO are mandated to deal with this – but we recognize the vital importance that content plays in creating the information society and building the knowledge society.

In particular, we are very conscious that technology on its own is meaningless if people do not know how to use it, and I am proud of ITU’s work in capacity building worldwide, and notably through the ITU Academy, which has now brought training and expertise to many thousands of people in developing countries.

Distinguished colleagues,

I have already mentioned our positive role in creating an environment conducive to telecoms infrastructure investment and rollout, but let me also mention another area where ITU is working to make a positive difference.

Ubiquitous, interconnected ICTs offer us the opportunity to address every single one of the biggest issues facing humanity today.

Issues such as monitoring and adapting to climate change.

Issues as big as global poverty.

Issues as big as bringing affordable healthcare and education to all the world’s people.

But of course hyperconnectivity comes with risks, too, and notably the issue of cybersecurity, and the risk of creating a two-tier Internet.

The most recent statistics suggest that losses of over 100 billion dollars annually are being caused by cybercrime, and that some 550 million people are being targeted by cyberattacks every year.

In financial terms, this is the equivalent of the entire GDP of a country like Morocco, Slovakia or Bangladesh. In population terms, it is the equivalent of more than all the inhabitants of Europe.

Cybersecurity has already clearly become one of the greatest issues of our times, and it will continue to grow in importance. It is a global issue, which can only be solved with global solutions.

This is why we must work together to set international policies and standards, and to build an international framework for cybersecurity and cyberpeace.

At ITU we are proud of the ITU-IMPACT initiative, which is the first truly global multi-stakeholder and public–private alliance against cyberthreats, which already brings together more than 140 countries – including of course Moldova.

To be truly effective, however, such initiatives must also include participation from all stakeholders, including both the public and private sectors, as well as international organizations.

They must also be complementary, and avoid creating silos, which risk fragmenting a coherent, coordinated approach to ensuring global cyber-resilience – our common goal.

Let me therefore ask you – as we pursue the Digital Agenda for Development – to consider how we can also ensure that we create not just a hyperconnected world, but a cyber-resilient, and cyber-peaceful world too.

Thank you.