Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Broadband Commission for Digital Development

 Eighth Meeting

Closing Remarks

21 September 2013, New York, USA

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Once again, I am deeply impressed by the energy and enthusiasm you have all shown.  This has been a truly incredible meeting, I am still taking in all the rich insights and ideas I have heard today.

I should like to thank our Chairs.  Firstly, a big thank you to His Excellency President Kagame.  I know he is very much in demand during this week, in the run-up to the General Assembly, so I should like to thank him for the time he has spent with us, and for sharing his experiences with us so frankly.

And thanks again to Carlos, who brings his incredible energy and commitment to the Commission once again.  Carlos, you mix philosophy, philanthropy and business in equal measure, and I know I speak on behalf of all us when I say, you are an inspiration to us all.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’ll be brief, as we have covered a lot of ground today.

We’ve had some incredible inputs from Commissioners, and quite a debate – I am still struggling to digest it all.

Our two new Commissioners, Anne Bouverot of the GSMA, and Suk-Chae Lee, the CEO of Korea Telecom, bring huge expertise and wisdom to the Commission in its mission to bring broadband to all to achieve the MDGs and sustainable development.

We have raised some fairly fundamental questions, including:

  • What is the right level of competition?
  • What is the right level of taxation?
  • And how much is an acceptable profit margin?

I think we drew and redrew the battle lines between Government and industry on spectrum, taxation and investment several times.  In places, it seemed to be suggested that commercial incentives are at odds with concepts of social good.

I say battle lines, but I don’t really mean that, because if there is one thing that is clear to me today, it is that there are no divisions.  When we talk about connectivity and broadband for all, we are all winners here – or we all lose out together.

And I would like to suggest, as our two Chairs show so well, it is possible to combine commercial incentives with social good.  Not just possible – but necessary – I would argue we have to combine commercial incentives with principles of social good, in order for our business models to be sustainable.

As His Excellency President Kagame observed, we can’t assume that industry is always wrong or correct – or that Governments always have the right or wrong answer. President Kagame called for people to come together, and to negotiate in an open-minded and flexible way, in good faith, to find solutions.

And I’d like to think that that is what we are doing here - the Commission is a unique forum where industry and policy-makers can maintain a joint dialogue on our mutual concerns, share an understanding of answers, and come together in joint effort.

Distinguished Commissioners,

As we enter this final critical year in the countdown to the culmination and review of the MDG process, it is more important than ever to prioritize broadband as infrastructure underpinning the delivery of other applications and services.

As Jeff argued so eloquently, the time is now – it is now or never – we are approaching a make-or-break moment for development, where we’ll choose between two paths – business as usual, with much the same results, or embracing ICTs and broadband as a path to a new future, built on broadband, giving voice to us all.  I know which path I would choose, and I look forward to hearing from you as to which path you are prepared to advocate.

I should like to commend Irina Bokova, my co-Vice-Chair, who brought her insights and views, and the valuable inputs of UNESCO to this meeting today.

I should like to thank Denis O’Brien for volunteering to take us all on next March in Dublin, on 23 March.  Denis, we look forward to working with you and Digicel to ensure that we continue this conversation, and find answers to some of the major questions raised here today.

And last, but not least, I would very much like to thank each and every one of you here today and for your involvement and investment.

Thank you very much.