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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Broadband Commission for Digital Development

 Eighth Meeting

 Opening Remarks

21 September 2013, New York, USA

Distinguished commissioners,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me offer you a very warm welcome to the Yale Club for the eighth meeting of the Broadband Commission. I would very much like to thank each and every one of you for joining us here today and for your continuing passion, participation and involvement. Without you, the Broadband Commission could not succeed.

Let me thank the Co-Chair of the Commission, Carlos Slim, who so generously hosted the last meeting; we all had an excellent and insightful time in Mexico.

Today, as always, we have an exciting and very full agenda, and we will be hearing about the tremendous progress being made in broadband; we will also be launching the ‘State of Broadband 2013’ report, to which so many of you contributed.

I very much want to make sure we have time for fruitful and interactive discussions today, so as usual I will keep my opening remarks as brief as possible.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to say that we are witnessing growing interest in our work and that the Broadband Commission is clearly gaining momentum.

This has been an especially busy year for the Commission, with several of the Working Groups in particular being very active, and a number of strong conclusions and position statements coming out of these groups.

The Working Group on Education published its seminal report in February, which generated extensive interest.

The Working Group on Gender and Broadband has been engaged in considerable debate, with a very stimulating and productive meeting yesterday, and will publish its report today.

Meanwhile the Task Force on Sustainable Development has been very busy as well, and also has a report that will be published this week, calling for ICTs to be a clear and important part of the post-2015 development agenda.

I was also delighted to see the pivotal new research into national broadband plans that was published earlier in the summer by ITU and Cisco, which provides real, concrete evidence of the tangible impact of such plans.

This research gained wide recognition, justifying the Commission’s focus on national broadband plans, and was published in the Economist magazine. It was also cited by the World Bank, Telecompaper, TechCrunch, and various other industry media.

Finally, the Commission is also in the process of publishing a joint report and global survey on ICTs and people with disabilities.

All of this demonstrates the value of the Commission and is a good reward for your efforts and investment.

I am delighted to announce that the British Commonwealth approached us with a view to citing the work of the Broadband Commission, with a call for all Commonwealth Member States to consider developing a National Broadband Plan in its Communiqué which is to be published by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this November.

So we are seeing some very positive results from our advocacy work.

Distinguished Commissioners,

As many of you will know, we are just back from the BYND 2015 Global Youth Summit, which was held in Costa Rica, and was a completely amazing event.

The Youth Declaration resulting from the Summit is a powerful statement from young people, and it is being taken by President Laura Chinchilla to the General Assembly this week.

The Broadband Commission should be proud of its role in making the Global Youth Summit happen – the Summit was inspired by the Broadband Commission Working Group on Youth and Broadband, which was proposed by Muhammad Yunus – thank you Muhammad! – and which I had the honour to chair.

I would like to take this opportunity to give special thanks to the companies that sponsored the Global Youth Summit, and especially those on the Commission as well as to the UN agencies that participated.

The Summit demonstrated a new way of working, with a special role being played by connected youth around the world at over 40 networked hubs, and also reinforced the incredible power of social media in charting the way forward.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is ironical, then, that this year was also notable for the publication of the Report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons.

It was ironical, because an event as vibrant, powerful, innovative and influential as the Global Youth Summit could never have taken place without the power of broadband.

So I was personally somewhat disappointed by the UN report: as you will remember we published an Open Letter, emphasizing the importance of broadband, but in the end the report itself did not contain a single mention of the word ‘broadband’.

I feel this is a grave mistake – the equivalent would perhaps be publishing a report at the end of the nineteenth century without mentioning trade in manufactures or exports, or without mentioning the power of vital transport networks including roads, waterways and railways.

Broadband networks, the arteries of our digital economy, are today vital and indispensable to nations’ economic competitiveness. So we hope that the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons can take this message onboard.

And indeed, later today we will be hearing from the Task Force on Sustainable Development, chaired by Ericsson, about how the Commission is planning to take this key message forward, with the report on ‘Transformative Solutions’.

And we would encourage you all to sign the Broadband Manifesto which will be circulating in the room later, to emphasize the importance of broadband in the UN framework for sustainable development.

Distinguished Commissioners,

Later on today we will be launching this year’s ‘State of Broadband’ report, and we will have time for a separate discussion of that, but let me just highlight one important finding from the report – and this is that extra effort that will be needed if we are to achieve all of the Broadband Commission’s advocacy targets by 2015.

Target 1 for broadband policy suggests that policy-makers have responded well to the policy challenge, and have been busily engaged consulting and formulating policy, with strong growth in the number of countries with a national broadband policy.

However, the industry is at a critical juncture, trying to fund extremely expensive next-generation broadband networks, at a time of flat or even declining revenues.

This is why we are devoting extra time to listening to industry at this meeting, to hear what they have to say in terms of what needs to be done to ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of universal broadband.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I conclude, let me offer a very special welcome to the newest members of the Broadband Commission, Anne Bouverot of the GSMA, and Suk-Chae Lee, the CEO of Korea Telecom.

A very special welcome to you both, and we look forward to hearing from each of you very shortly.

Thank you.