Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

European Commission High Level Group on Internet Governance

 Keynote Speech

23 April 2013, Brussels, Belgium
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Brussels for this meeting of the European Commission’s High Level Group on Internet Governance.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the key outcomes of the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12, which took place last December in Dubai.

I would also like to take this opportunity look forward to the key ITU events over the next year and a half which will take the process forward – and of course to answer any questions you may have today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As many of you will know, the ITU’s 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 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.

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, and mobile penetration in Africa was under 2%.

Today there are some 6.4 billion active mobile phone subscriptions globally, and mobile penetration in Africa has reached 60%. Here in Europe, mobile penetration is now over 120%.

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 a long way to go.

Because two thirds of the world’s people – some 4.5 billion people – are still offline.

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

Can you imagine what life here in Europe would be like without the Internet?

In terms of bringing access to all the world’s people, especially in the developing world, mobile broadband is clearly going to be a vital part of the solution, and we must continue to mobilize to ensure that all the world’s people have not just access, but affordable, equitable access to the Internet.

And that means finding the investment to continue rolling out the telecommunications infrastructure which makes access to the Internet possible.

Because when we talk about access to the Internet, there is no other way of getting online than via telecoms infrastructure – whether that’s satellite, mobile or fixed infrastructure.

Central to the issue of access is the crucial issue of spectrum.

ITU’s membership already made some bold decisions during the World Radiocommunication Conference early in 2012, which lay the foundations for ensuring that the digital dividend is used effectively for mobile broadband.

As we look ahead to WRC-15, we must seize the opportunities to ensure that operators have what they need to deliver mobile broadband and to deliver on our responsibility to connect all the world’s people.

This is why ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development three years ago – 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.

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 our key commissioners of course is Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission – and a number of our other commissioners run some of the biggest and most influential companies in the telecoms sector.

Companies like Alcatel, Bharti, Cisco, Digicel, Huawei, Intel, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Telefonica.

Distinguished colleagues,

ITU firmly believes in the social and economic benefits of improved connectivity for all – and let me therefore move now to celebrate some of the key achievements and highlights of the new ITRs which were agreed at WCIT-12 in Dubai in December.

The new treaty contains a number of important revised and new provisions that represent a major improvement over the 1988 text.

So let me take a few minutes to go through the new treaty, article by article:

  • In the preamble we find the affirmation of Member States’ commitment to implement the treaty in a manner that respects and upholds their human rights obligations; and the right of access of Member States to the international telecommunication services.
  • Article 1 covers the scope of the ITRs – and I should draw your attention to two things here: firstly, that the ITR texts needed to be brought in line with the ITU Convention and Constitution, as these take precedence, and this is why changes were made to text concerning authorized operating agencies; and secondly that our membership was clear about its intent that the ITRs should not address content, and this was therefore clearly specified in Article 1.1.
  • Article 2, which covers definitions, was updated to bring the ITR definitions into alignment with the ITU Convention and Constitution.
  • Article 3, which covers several key issues such as quality of service, was revised to ensure the right to communicate at good technical quality; and that countries should coordinate how their infrastructure works: to prevent the misuse of international telecommunication numbering resources, to encourage the implementation of Calling Line Identification information, and to promote the implementation of regional telecommunication traffic exchange points.

These provisions should not only improve service quality but also help to bring down the cost of services to consumers.

Of course the more countries that are party to the new ITRs, the greater the benefits for all – and this is especially true in areas such as quality of service, where service quality outside a globally-agreed framework is only as good or as bad as the weakest link.

  • Article 4, which covers international telecommunication services, contains new provisions to improve transparency and accuracy in mobile roaming charges as well as promoting competition in the provision of mobile roaming services.

This will help to ensure: transparency of end-user prices for international mobile services; satisfactory quality; greater cooperation and competition to avoid ‘bill shock’; and the avoidance and mitigation of inadvertent roaming charges in border zones.

  • Article 5 gives improved access to emergency services, which will translate directly into saved lives. The new Articles 5A and 5B, for their part, will help to bring greater security by promoting international cooperation to ensure the security and robustness of international telecommunication networks; and to promote measures – not based on content-filtering – that will help combat unsolicited bulk electronic communications, or spam.

And again – just as for quality of service – the more countries that are party to the treaty, the better the chances we have of achieving genuinely enhanced international cooperation at the global level, especially for issues of a clearly global nature, such as network security.

  • Article 6, which covers charging and accounting, will help to encourage investment in international telecommunication networks and 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.

  • Article 7, which covers suspension of services, remains unchanged. The provisions under this article will ensure that the ITU Secretary-General will be immediately notified by a Member State when it suspends its international telecommunication services (or restores it afterwards). The Secretary-General shall immediately bring such information to the attention of all other Member States.

And let me remind you at this point that I have consistently been among the very first to condemn the actions of countries in cutting off communications and/or Internet access to their citizens – and notably in the cases of Myanmar and Egypt in recent times.

  • Article 8, which covers the dissemination of information, includes new text to give Member States more flexibility in managing this according to national needs.

It also includes new Article 8A, which will help to improve energy efficiency and reduce e-waste, and new Article 8B, which will help bring the benefits of ICTs to the 650 million people worldwide who are living with some kind of disability.

As with many of the other new provisions, these articles demonstrate the clear emphasis that ITU’s membership is now placing on human development and empowerment, and we should be proud to be part of a process which is actively working towards making the world a better place for all – through digital inclusion, respect for the environment and ongoing sustainability.

  • Finally, Articles 9 and 10 cover special arrangements and the entry into force of the treaty.

The ITRs also contain five new Resolutions, which as you know 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 bring improved access to ICTs to all the world’s people.

Three in particular should be noted:

  • We have a resolution on special measures for landlocked developing countries and small island developing states for access to international optical fibre networks – which will help bring services to some of the most under-served people on the planet.
  • We have a resolution on the use of one of the globally harmonized national numbers for access to emergency services – which will help save lives in emergency situations.
  • And we have a resolution on fostering an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet. This Resolution calls for greater broadband investment and expresses support for the multi-stakeholder model – goals that I believe we can all agree with.
  • As you may already know, the treaty is open for accession. Many Member States are still analysing the results of WCIT-12 and some have requested the Secretariat for information that could assist them in their analysis.
  • I understand that the European Union is also pursuing a legal analysis of the revised treaty and its relation to EU legislation. As part of our duties, ITU Secretariat is of course available to assist EU Member States with any additional information they may need in this regard.
  • You should also be aware that while expressing Reservations is no longer possible, Member States at the time of accession are still free to make unilateral interpretative declarations. The purpose of such a declaration, in principle, is not to exclude or limit the application of a treaty provision but merely to clarify a State’s understanding of it.

Ladies and gentlemen,

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

Broadband in particular will be central to future social and economic development, and this was really one of the most important outcomes of WCIT-12: global agreement on this issue.

As an institution, ITU has successfully been an influential and neutral global convener throughout its long history, and we are firm believers that only open, transparent and inclusive processes will lead the way towards successful policy making.

This is why we continue to act as a bridge builder, promoting a multi-stakeholder approach to dealing with telecommunications and ICTs.

Let me therefore take this opportunity to look forward over the next 18 months to three key ITU events which will move this process forward and during which we expect to see ongoing discussions concerning the main issues surrounding the future of telecommunications and ICTs – these include areas for discussion such as Internet governance and cybersecurity, among others.

These three events are the World Telecommunication Policy Forum, taking place in just three weeks; the World Telecommunication Development Conference, taking place next April; and the Plenipotentiary Conference, taking place at the end of October 2014.

WTPF-13, the first of these three events, takes place in Geneva from 14 to 16 May, and will provide a global forum for our members to examine international Internet-related public policy matters, at their request – and let me stress here that WTPF is a forum, not a treaty-making conference.

The WTPF exists precisely so we can have a global debate on key issues in the world of ICTs. WTPF-13 is therefore a unique opportunity to air the issues as they are seen among fellow experts, and the Forum will enable all stakeholders to contribute their unique perspective to the discussions and help the global community chart a common course forward.

The preparatory process towards WTPF-13 has been open and inclusive. It was led by an informal expert group that was open to all stakeholders, irrespective of whether or not they were members of ITU.

The multi-stakeholder expert group concluded its third and final meeting in February, and approved a number of draft Opinions, by consensus, for further discussion at the Policy Forum next month.

These include:

  • Promoting Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) as a long term solution to advance connectivity;
  • Fostering an enabling environment for the greater growth and development of broadband connectivity;
  • Supporting multi-stakeholderism in Internet governance;
  • Supporting operationalizing the enhanced cooperation process;
  • Supporting capacity building for the deployment of IPv6; and
  • Supporting IPv6 adoption and the transition from IPv4.

These opinions cover a wide range of Internet-related global public policy issues of significant relevance in today’s world – and I am confident that they will serve as a good basis for fruitful high-level discussions at WTPF-13.

The views contained in the opinions address some of the key policy issues arising from today's fast changing information and communication technology environment in a constructive and forward-looking manner – which is precisely the intended purpose the WTPF.

Europe has been very active throughout the preparatory process for WTPF-13, with the Chair of the Informal Expert Group, Petko Kantchev from Bulgaria, leading the group with great ability, and the European private sector and civil society both being well-represented.

In addition, both the European Commission and ICANN were part of the informal expert group.

We are confident that Europe will continue to play a very constructive role in the discussions at the Forum – and after wide consultation, I have decided to propose the Minister from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ivo Ivanoski, to chair WTPF-13. Given his clear commitment to the future of the global information society, I am confident that he will guide the Forum to a successful outcome.

On 13 May, the day before WTPF begins, we will be hosting a high-level Strategic Dialogue to discuss the importance of investment in infrastructure and the changing nature of ICT regulation.

The focus will be on broadband, and we have planned two sessions to discuss different facets of this issue.

  • The first session, ‘Building out Broadband’, will explore the broadband revolution and will examine the role of broadband as critical infrastructure in the modern global economy. One of the key questions which will be explored in this session will be: Is broadband Internet access today a basic need, a public utility, a fundamental right or a privilege?
  • The second session, ‘Broadband Driving Development’, will consider the benefits of broadband for accelerating development, and will consider the applications of broadband infrastructure and services for improving people’s lives and accelerating the achievement of the MDGs.

One of the crucial challenges facing our sector is the surging growth of data which is putting unprecedented pressure on existing telecom networks. Governments and industry must therefore work together to ensure that emerging business models generate sufficient return on investments made on network upgrades.

So, the question then, is who pays for what?

Whatever your view, one thing is for certain: this is a question worth asking and a question that requires answering. It is critical for all of us that the right balance should be reached.

Some say the market will fix this; others are calling for a larger role for regulators to set a fair playing field – and this is exactly the kind of debate we will be having at the forthcoming Global Symposium for Regulators in Poland in July, when we will bring together regulators and industry leaders from around the world to discuss the issues.

Distinguished colleagues,

Next year, we will be holding our four-yearly World Telecommunication Development Conference in Egypt, at the beginning of April.

The WTDC serves as a forum for free discussion by all concerned with the Development Sector, and in addition reviews the numerous programmes and projects undertaken by ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, BDT.

Results are reported and new projects are launched, with the WTDC setting the agenda and the guidelines for the following four-year cycle.

Ahead of the WTDC we hold Regional Preparatory Meetings and Conferences, which review work-in-progress towards the overall objectives and ensure that goals are met.

Later next year, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference will be held Republic of Korea from 20 October to 7 November 2014.

The Plenipotentiary Conference is the key event at which ITU Member States decide on the future role of the organization, thereby determining its ability to influence and affect the development of ICTs worldwide.

As the top policy-making body of the ITU, the Plenipotentiary Conference sets the Union's general policies; adopts four-year strategic and financial plans; and elects the senior management team of the organization, the members of Council, and the members of the Radio Regulations Board.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me close on that point, and thank you once again for your time and attention.

I welcome any comments or questions from your side, and will be happy to spend some time engaging with you on these and any other issues you would like to bring to the discussion.

Thank you.