Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

2013 High-Level Segment
Keynote Address 
01 July 2013, Geneva, Switzerland
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Geneva this morning.

The theme of this year’s Annual Ministerial Review could not be more appropriate: ‘Science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the MDGs’.

The key to success, I believe, is to bring all the world’s people online, so that everyone can benefit from the wealth of applications and services enabled by the Internet and other interconnected technologies.

In terms of global communications, we are living through the most exciting period in human history, and we have already made incredible progress since the start of the Millennium.

Indeed, today, 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.

Nonetheless, as we go into 2014, we should remember that almost 70% of people in the developing world will still be offline.

Today, ICTs are fundamental building blocks of social and economic progress – so it is not only our duty, but our obligation to bring safe, secure and affordable broadband access to all the world’s people – and not just the richest third of humanity.

This obligation will take on even greater importance as the UN system defines the sustainable development goals beyond 2015: indeed, affordable broadband access will be the key enabling infrastructure to ensure we achieve all three pillars of sustainable development – social inclusion, economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Ladies and gentlemen,

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.

Every time you make a phone call, or watch television, or go online, you do so thanks to the work of at least two of ITU’s three sectors.

Our work – as 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.

ITU was also instrumental in setting up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010 with UNESCO, and I am delighted to see my co-Vice-Chair and co-founder of the Commission, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, here as a fellow keynote speaker this morning.

As a high-powered platform of key policy pioneers, industry executives, thought leaders and academics, the Broadband Commission has campaigned actively to raise awareness of the social and economic benefits enabled by broadband networks, applications and services – including improved health and education services; a better standard of living; greater empowerment; and enhanced national competitiveness.

At the end of 2011, at the Broadband Leadership Summit here in Geneva, the Commission endorsed a set of advocacy targets covering broadband policy, affordability and uptake.

Later today, we are pleased to launch a new report from the Commission that closely examines the first target, which calls for broadband policy to be made universal by 2015.

The report – prepared in conjunction with Cisco – demonstrates the importance of national broadband plans in helping to bring the benefits of broadband to all of the world’s people.

Today, there are 134 countries that have a broadband plan, strategy or policy in place – up from just 17 countries back in 2005.

It is not enough to have a plan, however; the full benefits of broadband are not likely to be realized unless there is strong partnership between government, industry and other stakeholders – and where governments engage in a consultative, participatory approach to policy.

After factoring out the impact of income and urbanization, the presence of a national broadband plan is associated with fixed broadband penetration some 2.5% higher than in countries without a plan. For mobile, the impact is even greater, with 7.4% higher penetration in countries with a national broadband plan.

The difference is greater than it may sound, especially for fixed broadband: 2.5% is a significant margin of advantage in an increasingly interconnected global economy, especially given that fixed broadband penetration globally averages 8.5%.

In such a fast-changing environment, where revenue, pricing and technology are all evolving so quickly, plans should be more regularly reviewed and updated than is currently the case.

Distinguished colleagues,

ICTs are redefining the objectives of development work, as well as how development objectives may be achieved, and I am a firm believer that delivering affordable, access to ICTs to all the world’s people will be a vital driver of development, and especially for the post-2015 agenda.

As an optimist, I am convinced that in the next twenty years we will see the benefits of broadband become available to everyone, wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances.

I am convinced that with political will and a strong social conscience, we are fully capable of making the world a better place for all.

And I am convinced that together, by leveraging the power of broadband, we shall do so.
Thank you.