Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Columbia Institute For Tele-Information (CITI)

The Future Of Internet Governance After Dubai

 Keynote Speech (Via Webex)
20 June 2013, New York, USA
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be able to join you remotely in New York today via WebEx – using the power of technology to bring us closer together.

In terms of global communications, we are living through the most exciting period in human history. We are on the brink of seeing as many mobile cellular phones as there are people on the planet, and by the end of this year some 2.7 billion people will be using the Internet; with 2.1 billion active mobile-broadband subscriptions.

At the same time, as we come into 2014, almost 70% of people in the developing world will still be offline – with no access to the world’s greatest library, the world’s most active marketplace, and the world’s greatest social gatherings.

This is something we must all work hard to change – because it is clearly a matter of social and economic justice and fairness.

We should also remember that increasing access to the online world benefits everyone – including those who already have access, by expanding markets, opening up new opportunities for communication and richer dialogue and content.

In the 21st century, the Internet is a global resource, a basic commodity, and a valuable international platform for exchange and learning.

Distinguished guests,

ITU – with our mission to ‘Connect the World’ – continues to work in helping to bring the world online, as well as to ensure that the global infrastructure underpinning telecommunication networks and the Internet runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

All three sectors of the ITU make a difference – through spectrum allocation and satellite coordination; through new standards; through policy development; and through the delivery of technical assistance to countries.

Our work – defined by our membership – covers a very wide range of issues: from accessibility to e-health; from gender empowerment to interoperability; from cloud computing to machine-to-machine communications; and from basic access technologies to high-speed mobile broadband.

We are proud of our joint achievement with UNESCO in creating the Broadband Commission for Digital Development – which advocates for increased broadband rollout and access globally as a means to help accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, now just two years away, and which provides input into the post 2015 agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the world increasingly comes online, we also need to ensure that we meet one the most urgent challenges of our generation, which is of course cybersecurity – and let me be clear here that this means not just ensuring that the online world is safe and secure, but also that freedom and privacy are ensured and protected.

We need to reduce the risks posed by the illicit use of ICTs as much as possible – with a forward-looking vision and, most importantly, in a multilateral but also multi-stakeholder fashion.

This means working together with intergovernmental bodies and ensuring the active participation of other stakeholders such as local and regional bodies, as well as civil society organizations.

Good progress is being made:

  • With big countries like the USA and China realizing the importance of dialogue;
  • With the EU establishing a framework on cybersecurity endorsed by all EU Member States;
  • With the new International Telecommunication Regulations, the ITRs, having a specific provision that provides an international framework on security;
  • And with initiatives such as ITU-IMPACT, which has now been formally endorsed by 145 countries, and Child Online Protection, which has now reached a very wide audience and has a growing number of partners.

I believe that in the fullness of time a global framework on governing cyberspace is possible, with full participation of governments, the private sector and civil society.

But we will need to continue working hard to improve coordination and collaboration – and of course trust – between all the different stakeholders.

Distinguished guests,

Let me return to the main topic of today’s programme.

At ITU we strive to act as a facilitator and a neutral forum, so that countries – together with other stakeholders – can seek solutions to contemporary challenges.

This is what we have done over the course of nearly 150 years, as we continuously adapted to keep up with technological evolution – from the telegraph to the telephone; from fixed to mobile; from analogue to digital; and from dial-up to broadband.

And I am proud to say that we have been very successful in this regard.

As we move forward, ITU will continue to offer a place for members and other stakeholders to find solutions that help everyone to be part of – and to benefit from – the connected world.

We do this through a wide range of activities and events – ranging from major global conferences to regular annual events to our ongoing work across the three sectors.

Our major work includes:

  • The four-yearly World Radiocommunication Conference and Radiocommunication Assembly, a treaty-making conference, last held in early 2012, which allocates spectrum globally. The decisions of WRC-12 will enable new generations of mobile broadband, and sent a clear message to governments and industry of the importance placed by membership on the role of wireless technologies in making broadband accessible to all;
  • The four-yearly World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly, last held at the end of 2012, which defines the four-yearly work plan for our Standardization sector. Here we saw a trend towards defining ICT standards for vertical sectors – such as enabling e-health, intelligent transport systems, mobile banking, and the smart grid;
  • The four-yearly World Telecommunication Development Conference, which does the same thing for the Development Sector (the next edition is in March 2014), refining its programmes to better serve the needs of countries – and especially developing and least developed countries;
  •  Our annual WSIS Forums, which follow up on the progress made since the World Summit on the Information Society was held in 2003 and 2005, and give a clear annual snapshot of what still needs to be done;
  • Other annual events range from:
    •  the popular Global Symposium for Regulators (taking place in early July in Poland), where participants examine the regulatory challenges of the moment;
    • to our ground-breaking ITU Telecom World events, which are a global platform for high-level debate, knowledge-sharing and networking for the global ICT community (the next one is in Thailand in November);
    • to the influential regional ITU Connect Summits, which aim to mobilize human, financial and technical resources (the next one, for the Asia-Pacific region, will also be held in Thailand);
  • We also hold important one-off or more irregular events, such as:
    • The World Conference on International Telecommunications, which took place at the end of last year to review the ITRs, which serve as the binding global treaty designed to facilitate international interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, as well as ensuring their efficiency and widespread public usefulness and availability;
    • And the World Telecommunication Policy Forum, which took place just last month to exchange views between all stakeholders on the key policy issues concerning Internet governance;
  • There is also, of course, the ongoing work of the three sectors, which includes important Study Group work, featuring strong participation from the private sector, and which leads to new global standards and recommendations being created. To give you just one example, ITU experts recently started working on ways to meet user and operator demand for a standardized methodology for measuring Internet access speeds. The establishment of such a framework would inspire greater consumer confidence in advertised speeds and would ensure that accurate comparisons can be made between offerings from different operators.

Throughout these and other activities, ITU is part of the complex framework that deals with various aspects of Internet governance. We participate in the global debate – and where appropriate help to facilitate it – adding value wherever we can with our expertise and strengths.

We are, however, just one of the very many stakeholders involved in Internet governance – and we very much appreciate and fully commend the work of all the other stakeholders in the process – including ICANN, the IETF, the Regional Internet Registries and many others.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In 2003 and 2005, ITU worked with the entire UN family, as well as with many international bodies, in the organization of the two phases of WSIS – which was the first truly multi-stakeholder summit, with participation from the bottom-up, from grassroots civil society to private companies, to governments from around the world.

WSIS also offered us the first internationally-negotiated working definition of ‘Internet governance’.

Discussions have been ongoing since the second phase of WSIS in 2005, and many of the issues raised continue to be addressed at our annual ITU Council meetings, and our four-yearly Plenipotentiary Conferences.

At the end of last year, we had an important opportunity to progress the debate even further, in the form of the WCIT; and this year’s WTPF progressed it even further, and allowed for the bridging of some gaps.

Events such as these demonstrate the vital value of multilateral discussions – because although much can be achieved through bilateral meetings, only multilateral meetings can help decide global policy for global resources.

And frankly, both at the WCIT, and even more so at the WTPF, I was delighted to see all stakeholders coming together and working together in such a positive spirit – in spite of differences of opinions, which were quite natural given the nature of this complex and truly global debate.

Distinguished guests,

Both the WCIT and the WTPF delivered important, tangible, achievements.

The WCIT concluded with a treaty in the form of a new set of ITRs, which chart a roadmap that promises future connectivity for all and ensures sufficient communications capacity to cope with the ongoing exponential growth in voice, video and data.

It was the first conference of its kind at which the developing world was a fully-empowered player at the table – and unlike the previous ITRs, the new treaty text reflects many developing-country concerns, and is a richer and more powerful document for doing so.

The WCIT was the most open and transparent treaty-making conference ever held – with millions of people able to participate remotely via webcast in the six UN languages; social media and interactive briefings; and stakeholders from government, the private sector and civil society all represented in the negotiations.

To conclude, let me reiterate my conviction that thanks to the WCIT, and in spite of some important differences of opinion, a healthy digital ecosystem – where everyone on the planet can participate – is now within our grasp.

For its part, the output of the WTPF, achieved through multi-stakeholder consensus, provided guidance for ITU as well as other stakeholders in such important areas as: IXPs; an enabling environment for broadband connectivity; IPv4 and IPv6; multi-stakeholderism; and enhanced cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In spite of the progress that has been made, there are still of course areas that remain unresolved – some of them related to ITU’s activities, and others which are beyond ITU’s remit.

Right now, for example, some of the hottest issues concern the Internet, and in particular how (or even if) it should be governed; and what is the role of governments in the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance, especially concerning their roles and responsibilities in policy making – which has traditionally been the purview of national administrations.

There are clearly disagreements and differences of opinions. This should not be unexpected, given the nature of the rapidly-changing and increasingly complex world we live in. And open, multi-stakeholder discussions remain a very healthy way for the international community to seek solutions to contemporary challenges.

And this is a very important point that I would like to make in conclusion.

In a fast-moving, rapidly-evolving environment, there are no permanent or even long-term solutions. What works today will very likely no longer work tomorrow.

So this needs to be a continuous process, bringing all stakeholders to the table in an inclusive dialogue.

This is a road we are travelling along together, not a destination we are trying to reach.

And I look forward to continuing to benefit from our shared journey together along that road – I could not hope for better-qualified or more positive travelling companions!

Thank you for you attention.