Committed to connecting the world

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

ITU WSIS Forum 2013

Thematic Workshop - Azerbaijan

 Opening Remarks
15 May 2013, Geneva, Switzerland
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to welcome you to this afternoon’s workshop focusing on Azerbaijan, and in particular on the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway project, TASIM.

This is one of three key initiatives being implemented by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies in order to further increase the role of the ICT sector in the national economy and ensure long term sustainable development.

As Secretary-General of the ITU, I am pleased to note that President Ilham Aliyev has regularly stressed his ongoing commitment to the development of ICTs – both in Azerbaijan and across the region.

Indeed, I am reminded today of the President’s speech at the first phase of WSIS here in Geneva almost ten years ago, when he had only recently been elected to the office.

Back then, President Aliyev called on participants to use ICTs to ‘convert black gold to human gold’.

In 2013, after almost ten years of converting black gold into human capital, we live in a very different place from the world we knew back in 2003.

And I am confident that with Azerbaijan’s constant commitment and strategic guidance, we will be able to create the new vision for the information society, beyond 2015, which is expected from the WSIS+10 Overall Review.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Azerbaijan stands out as a very positive example of ICT development, and this promising growth trend seems set to continue through the present decade.

Mobile cellular penetration in Azerbaijan stands at well over 100%, more than half the population in Azerbaijan is online, and mobile broadband penetration is growing very rapidly.

This has of course been driven in part by Azerbaijan’s impressive GDP growth – but it can also be argued that the rapid uptake of ICTs in Azerbaijan has itself been a major driver in that GDP growth.

Indeed, it is interesting to note that the ICT sector is now the second fastest developing sector of Azerbaijan’s economy, after the energy sector.

Distinguished colleagues,

The next major step forward will be to ensure that everyone in Azerbaijan, and indeed across the region, has access to broadband.

This is why ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development three years ago – to mobilize for the increased rollout and adoption of broadband worldwide, as a means of accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Altogether we have a total of almost 60 very high-profile Commissioners from the public and private sectors – and we are very pleased to have Minister Abbasov as one of our most active Broadband Commissioners.

In 2011, the Broadband Commission set four ambitious but achievable targets, and the most important of these, in my opinion, is the one concerning affordability.

The Commission wants to see entry-level broadband services cost under 5% of monthly income in every country in the world by 2015.

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

I am very pleased to note at this point that the affordability message is one which Azerbaijan has very clearly received and understood.

Because one of the most dramatic changes in the world, in terms of affordability, happened in Azerbaijan – which registered one of the biggest increases in affordability in ITU’s ICT Price Basket between 2008 and 2011.

So that by last year, access to entry-level broadband services in Azerbaijan cost just under 3% of average monthly income – bringing it well within the targets set by the Broadband Commission, and well within the reach of most Azerbaijani households.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me close by thanking Azerbaijan for its tremendous support to our work – both here at the WSIS Forum and of course right across all of the activities of ITU.

We hugely appreciate Azerbaijan’s increase in its contribution to the Union, and we look forward to many constructive and productive years of enhanced cooperation ahead.

Thank you.