Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Social Good Summit

 Broadband and Sustainable Development

22 September 2013, New York, USA

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you this afternoon to discuss a topic that is very close to my heart: Broadband and Sustainable Development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the past 20 years we have seen mobile cellular technology become nearly ubiquitous, with almost as many mobile subscriptions as there are people, and the vast majority of the world’s people are now within reach of a mobile phone.

Where the picture is dramatically different, of course, is the Internet.

By the end of this year, according to ITU estimates, global Internet penetration will be approaching 40%.

But two thirds of people in the developing world will still be offline; and over 90% of people in the world’s least developed countries will still have no access to the Internet.

This is important, because in the 21st century, broadband has become essential infrastructure, just like roads, railways and power networks.

It is our duty to ensure that we bring the benefits of broadband to all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their means.

This is not about technology for technology’s sake; it’s about technology for educating people; it’s about technology for better health care; it’s about technology for gender empowerment; it’s about technology as a means to reinforce environmental protection.

In short it’s about technology as the most incredible lever imaginable in terms of spurring on sustainable social and economic development.

Seriously: this is truly the opportunity of a lifetime – it is an incredible opportunity to improve healthcare; to improve communities; and to improve schools.

In 2010, ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development to help accelerate progress towards meeting the MDGs – and we are very pleased to have Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, as one of our most active Commissioners.

[Also mention Anne Bouverot, if present; she is also on the list of panelists (tbc)]

Hans has been leading the Broadband Commission’s Task Force on Sustainable Development, and has been one of the principal drivers behind the Task Force’s report, published this week, which calls for ICTs to be a clear and important part of the post-2015 development agenda, and makes a strong ad compelling case for the need for transformative solutions.

This is very important, because as you will know, the Report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons does not even contain a single mention of the word ‘broadband’.

I feel this is a grave mistake – and I sincerely hope that the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons takes on board the key message that broadband networks are vital and indispensable in all areas of human activity in the 21st century.

Indeed, I cannot imagine a sustainable future that is not built on broadband.

Thank you.