Committed to connecting the world

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

WTPF-13-Strategic Dialogue

 Session Two : Broadband Driving Development

 Panelist Remarks

13 May 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you, Raffaele. [Raffaele Barberio, Director, Key4Biz]

The first session this afternoon made it very clear, I think, that all the world’s citizens are going to need access to broadband in the 21st century – whether that is considered as a basic right or a fundamental need.

Broadband already affects every sector of human activity and endeavour, and is already a key driver for development – both in the developed and the developing world.

Broadband delivers access to the sum of human knowledge. It opens doors to the future. It helps lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty; brings the benefits of education and healthcare closer to rural and remote populations, and delivers social and economic benefits to all.

Broadband builds bridges between individuals, communities and nations.

And by leveraging the power of broadband, we can accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals and future sustainable development goals.

We need to ensure that all the world’s people have access to broadband, and can afford to communicate and participate in the digital information society of today and the digital knowledge society of tomorrow.

We still have a long way to go – with two thirds of the world’s people still offline – but I am confident that progress will now accelerate rapidly, with the introduction of new technologies and new business models.

The importance of bringing the rest of the world online 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, as well as the need for ingenuity and innovation in making broadband ubiquitous.

I am encouraged by seeing that Commission’s key messages about broadband driving development are increasingly widely accepted, and I am confident that broadband will be included in the post-2015 framework for sustainable development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before closing, I would briefly like to mention the two areas where I believe that broadband will make the most difference in real people’s lives over the coming decade, and especially in the developing world – namely education and health.

Concerning education, it is interesting to note that while one of the Millennium Development Goals directly addresses education – Goal number 2, achieve universal primary education – education is nonetheless a huge positive influencer on most of the other MDGs as well.

We will not improve maternal health or reduce child mortality without education. We will not achieve gender equality and empower women without education. And we will not eradicate extreme poverty or combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases without education.

ICTs have already transformed the way we look at education and learning, and over the coming years, I believe that we can expect to see an explosion of excellence in home-grown educational establishments right across the developing world. These will cater person-to-person for those who live close to schools and universities, and online for those who don’t.

The benefits are enormous.

Children who are introduced at a young age to the vast realm of knowledge that the Internet offers will expect to stay connected as they grow up.

And better-educated adults not only have more manageable-sized families, but their children have significantly improved survival rates, and better chances of an education, basic health care and stable, better-paid employment.

And that covers pretty much the entire list of MDGs!

Concerning health, I am personally convinced that a combination of education and technology will allow us to make huge advances in the provision of healthcare services worldwide – and especially in the developing world, where the gap between healthcare availability and healthcare provision still remains the widest.

We are already seeing the benefits that can be achieved with ICTs, in areas such as:

  • Access to health advice;
  • Training for healthcare workers, especially in remote areas;
  • Patient monitoring, patient information, and management of patient records;
  • Disease surveillance and data collection;
  • Telemedicine;
  • Transparency and accountability; and
  • Access to emergency services.

ICTs and especially broadband can do more than any other single tool to improve the provision and delivery of health services, and have the potential to save millions of lives a year.

So let me close by challenging each and every one of you to go out and become ‘broadband ambassadors’ – ready to advocate for increased broadband access and rollout across your country, across your region, and across the world.

As many of you will know, I am an optimist, and I am happy to say that my optimism has been generously rewarded.

We have achieved much, together.

And together, we will achieve much, much more.

Thank you.