Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Recipco capacity Exchange Briefing

 Beyond Money

23 September 2013, New York, USA

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you this afternoon to discuss this very exciting project, and I would like to thank James and Lois for making this briefing happen.

Before I go on to talk about why the Village Broadband Infrastructure project is so significant – and indeed quite revolutionary – let me say a few words about the broadband infrastructure access gap, and why that’s so important.

Let’s look at some numbers.

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 inhabitants are now within reach of a mobile phone, even if they don’t necessarily have one of their own.

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 as we come into 2014; 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 chance of a lifetime – it is an incredible opportunity to improve healthcare; to improve communities; and to improve schools.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, and it is our mission to ‘Connect the World’.

And I am convinced that Beyond Money can help us achieve our mission.

I am particularly excited about the Village Broadband Infrastructure project, as this is all about getting infrastructure to where it is most needed, and where it can be of the greatest benefit.

For many years now, I have been looking for ways to deploy broadband at the village level – and I think that Recipco provides a compelling new form of infrastructure finance through loans of its global trading currency that can be dedicated to this purpose.

Interestingly, this initiative advances not just one but several key interests of the ITU:

  • It creates broadband infrastructure at the village level, so smaller communities can be served with high-speed Internet, helping to bridge the digital divide and delivering the full benefits of ICTs for sustainable social and economic development;
  • It helps to deliver relevant and valuable content, facilitating access to the Recipco Capacity Exchange. With that, villagers have the opportunity to trade goods and services more broadly, expanding the footprint of trade from very local to regional – and potentially nationally and internationally;
  • And it empowers women and girls – not just through the undeniable benefits of access to the knowledge and power of the Internet, but also through enabling them to be trained as facilitators of trade on the Recipco Capacity Exchange, for villagers seeking to buy or sell goods or services.

So as you can see, this initiative really supports our mission to ‘Connect the World’.

In that context, it also supports the ‘Transform Africa’ event which is being held in Rwanda at the end of October to measure progress since the very first ITU Connect event was held in Kigali in 2006, and which aims to mobilize human, financial and technical resources to create connectivity in targeted regions by 2015.

It also supports the goals of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which promotes the deployment of high-speed, high-capacity broadband connections to the Internet as an essential part of modern infrastructure for countries at every stage of development.

Indeed, the Broadband Commission met here in New York on Saturday, and launched its latest publication, ‘The State of Broadband 2013’, which is essential reading for everyone involved in this field. The report is available free, online, on the Broadband Commission’s website.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me close by saying that, after many years of thinking about how it could be achieved, it is terrific to see the potential for a bandwidth exchange finally being realized, with the ability to see real-time availability of capacity and to have a mechanism for immediate transactions – thanks to Recipco.

I would therefore like to encourage you all to work together to collaborate on this project – whether you come from the corporate, NGO or government worlds – and to bring it up to scale.

So let’s see where we could start, and let’s get some concrete commitments on the table!

Let’s get the ball rolling!

Thank you.