Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Commission on the Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) :

Opening Ceremony
03 June 2013, Geneva, Switzerland
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here this morning at the 16th Session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development.

It’s been 10 years since the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society. It is simply amazing to look back at the situation in 2003 and the situation today.

We have been incredibly successful over the past decade or so in connecting the world and bringing almost everyone within reach of the benefits of ICTs, and particularly mobile – and indeed by the end of this year there will be almost as many active mobile subscriptions globally as there are people.

But we live in a world where two thirds of the world’s people still have no access to the Internet. This means that two thirds of the world’s people still have no access to the world’s greatest library; no access to the world’s most active marketplace; and no access to the world’s greatest social gatherings.

This is something we must work hard to change.

Today, we stand at a ‘tipping point’ – between the Internet as a vital enabler of social and economic progress in the industrialized world, and the Internet as a valuable global resource and a basic commodity of human life everywhere.

Broadband is changing 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. 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 – technology can make a difference.

In this context the Broadband Commission for Digital Development continues to advocate the critical importance of broadband as a means to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

There is a substantial body of evidence and research suggesting that the deployment of broadband networks and services contributes to economic prosperity, growth and productivity.

The recently concluded WSIS Forum 2013 highlighted many of these important aspects, so let me take this opportunity to provide you with a very short briefing on the outcomes.

During the WSIS Forum this year, more than 1,800 WSIS Stakeholders from 140 countries – including more than 60 ministers and deputies, CEOs and heads of Organizations – contributed passionately towards enriching the content of the Forum, and I am touched to see the commitment and dedication so many of you have put into making it a success.

The WSIS Forum 2013 proved to be the perfect platform for coordinating the implementation of the WSIS outcomes, and in particular the WSIS+10 Overall Review on the Implementation. 

In addition, with reference to the outcomes of the WSIS+10 Visioning Track at the 2013 WSIS Forum, we have issued a statement which may serve as an input to further discussions on the Overall Review of the Implementation of the WSIS Outcomes (WSIS+10).

Ladies and gentlemen,

During that intense week, all the WSIS Stakeholders, including Ministers, encouraged the WSIS process to think beyond 2015, while emphasizing the importance of the review process. They have also underlined the importance of in-depth evaluation and review, without which it will not be possible to properly define a new vision and objectives for the post-2015 decade.

This year’s WSIS Forum also saw the UN Group on the Information Society (UNGIS), endorse a Joint Statement on the Post 2015 Development Agenda for Sustainable Development. This triggered important discussions on the need to link the post-2015 and WSIS+10 processes.

Progress can only be determined through proper measuring and monitoring of the WSIS outcomes. I would like to encourage member states to respond to the survey that will be conducted next month by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development. This will be the last opportunity to contribute to the final Assessment Report on the Achievements of the WSIS Targets.  We plan to launch the report at the WSIS+10 High Level Event in 2014.

Increasingly, the WSIS Forum provides tangible examples and experience for ensuring that the vision of the WSIS – to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society for all – becomes a reality. A total of 18 concrete Project Prizes were awarded during the event, and I was simply amazed by the many innovative projects on the ground.

I can proudly say that this year’s WSIS Forum culminated with strong and renewed commitment and support to the WSIS review process – from governments, from the private sector, from civil society, and from international organizations.  This shows that after 10 years, the information society remains a top priority for all stakeholders.

Distinguished colleagues,

During the same week as the WSIS Forum, ITU held the fifth World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum.

WTPF was a fine example of achieving multi-stakeholder consensus on Internet governance related issues.

The Forum generated pragmatic discussions about what needs to be done to ensure that broadband is accessible and affordable for everybody, and not just to one third of the world’s population.

The output of the WTPF is not just an improved understanding of International Internet-related public policy matters; we also have some strong outcomes to support the ICT sector as it moves forward, in the shape of the Opinions:

  • Concerning IXPs, this Opinion will facilitate understanding of their vital role in promoting efficient interconnection, and reducing Internet connection charges.
  • I am also pleased that we have a strong Opinion on an enabling environment for broadband connectivity, a topic which is very close to my heart, and which will do much to improve broadband connectivity worldwide.
  • The two Opinions on IPv4 and IPv6 will help raise awareness of this important issue among ITU membership, and facilitate the transition.
  • Concerning the multi-stakeholder Opinion, it is clear that there are still differences in interpretation about what multi-stakeholderism means in reality; nevertheless, I am delighted that you all worked closely together, so we have a good opinion on that.
  • And as for enhanced cooperation, we all have an improved understanding of the importance of working together – and indeed, we are doing so in good spirits and with good intentions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last September, I contributed to the 67th session of the General Assembly by providing an update on the Plan of Action for the Overall Review, as well as on all activities related to WSIS+10.

Building on this input, the General Assembly’s Resolution on ICT for Development resolved that the modalities for the review process will be considered and should be finalized by the end of this year.

Our discussions on the review process build on open consultations as well as the initial requirements and means for review which were developed during the 2012 WSIS Forum last year.

Earlier this year, UNESCO hosted multi-stakeholder meetings on WSIS+10, co-organized by ITU, UNCTAD and UNDP.  The recommendations coming out of that meeting served as inputs during the WSIS Forum 2013.  Concrete proposals came out and are referenced in the WSIS+10 Visioning Statement.

Distinguished colleagues,

Last year, the ITU Council resolved to support a high-level event on the WSIS+10 Overall Review, to be held next year in conjunction with the World Telecommunication Development Conference, WTDC-14.

At the kind invitation of the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt, both events will be held in Sharm-el Sheikh.

The WSIS+10 High-Level Event starts on 13 April 2014, and will be an extended version of the WSIS Forum addressing the challenge of the Overall Review Process, while providing a regular platform for multi-stakeholder coordination of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes.

This event will build upon the multi-stakeholder inputs received during the WSIS Forum 2013, UNESCOs event, and regional views collected by the ITU on the process through the regional development forums and preparatory meetings for WTDC-14.

In addition, just last week at the ITU Council Working Group on WSIS, the ITUs membership provided strategic guidance on the preparatory process for this high level event. 

As we approach 2015, it is a time for all of us to take stock.

What have we achieved?

What worked right?

What didn’t work and why?

What more can be done to connect those that are still unconnected?

WSIS has shown us the power of multi-stakeholderism.

As Helen Keller once said: “Alone we can do so little – and together we can do so much.”

Let us work together to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society for all!

Thank you.