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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

ITU-Impact and Member States Meeting

 Keynote Speech
10 October 2013, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso



Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honour and a real pleasure to be with you here in Burkina Faso today for this important meeting. Indeed, I am sure that it will constitute a major milestone towards the consolidation of an international effort to achieve global cybersecurity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before we talk about cybersecurity, let us first take a moment to look at the quite extraordinary progress that has been made in terms of ICT development in the past decade or so.

Back in the year 2000, around half the people in the world’s richest countries had a mobile phone and mobile cdellular penetration here in Africa was under 2%.

By early 2014 there will be nearly as many mobile phone subscriptions globally as there are people on the planet, and mobile penetration in Africa will surpass 63%.

Even more spectacular has been the rise of mobile broadband, which is bringing Internet access to more people than ever before, and which continues to show the fastest growth of any technology in human history, with growth rates of over 30% per year.

Indeed, by the end of 2013, ITU expects there to be almost 2.1 billion active mobile broadband subscriptions globally, giving a global mobile broadband penetration rate of almost 30%.

Africa is catching up fast – and mobile broadband penetration here by the end of the year will be close to the mobile broadband penetration rates seen in the Arab States and the Asia-Pacific regions just two years earlier, at the end of 2011.

Dear colleagues,

At the same time, major recent events in the news have highlighted the inherent tensions arising on a global scale when an ever-increasing proportion of human activity happens online.

Like all tools, the Net has its good and bad sides. Like all tools, it can be used for positive, constructive development, or it can be used destructively and maliciously by criminals looking to pray on the innocent and unsuspecting.

A new report just out from security specialist McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates global losses due to cybercrime being as high as 500 billion US dollars annually, and hundreds of millions of people are directly affected by cybercrime every year.

The growth in cyberthreats and cybercrime is not the result of some strange epidemic, or a sudden change in human behaviour; it is simply a natural consequence of so many of the world’s people embracing the evident advantages that ICTs bring into our world.

What makes this even more complex is that measures intended to protect, and deliver security and safety, sometimes end up causing harm.

In this context, a fundamental – if somewhat rhetorical – question is how to maximize the benefits of new opportunities, while minimizing corresponding risks?

There is no question that we need to do more to ensure security in the use of ICTs at all levels – local, national, regional and most importantly international.

It is not just criminals engaging in cybercrime.

As the effectiveness of advanced threats becomes more obvious, activist groups, corporations, and even governments will find themselves tempted to use similar approaches to achieve their goals.

Clearly, we need to reduce the risks posed by the illicit use of ICTs as much as possible – with a forward-looking vision and, most importantly, in a multilateral but also multi-stakeholder fashion.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our collective efforts to improve the security of ICTs globally have a positive impact on our ability to enjoy new opportunities online and on the protection of our rights – including privacy.

Recently, however, the debate has gone beyond that.

It is no longer simply about how to protect ourselves from harm; it is also about finding the right balance between individual rights and collective protection.

It is clearly essential to protect:

  • the right of the freedom of expression;
  • the right to communicate;
  • and the right to privacy.

It is also important to ensure that we are protected from threats – but is it possible to do one thing without affecting the other? Where is the right balance?

These are not new questions; indeed, humanity has been looking for answers to them for centuries.

What has changed is that ICTs have become both pervasive and ubiquitous, and deliver unprecedented capabilities for both good and evil.

In July last year, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations unanimously adopted a resolution affirming that the same rights people have offline must also be protected online.

Just last month, Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, discussed concerns about national security and criminal activity. He noted that these may justify the exceptional and narrowly-tailored use of surveillance; but he also added that without safeguards to protect the right to privacy, surveillance hampers fundamental freedoms.

Distinguished colleagues,

At ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for ICTs, we take the task of building confidence and security in the use of ICTs very seriously.

As you know, following the World Summit on the Information Society, WSIS, which was held in two phases in 2003 and 2005, heads of state and world leaders entrusted ITU to take the lead in coordinating international efforts in the field of cybersecurity.

When I was elected Secretary-General, this became one of my top priorities, and in May 2007 we launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, the GCA, which is a framework for international cooperation aimed at enhancing confidence and security in the information society.

We have made a great deal of progress in the six years since we launched the GCA, and it has attracted the support and recognition of leaders and cybersecurity experts around the world.

And indeed we are very grateful to President Blaise Campaoré for his continuing support of the GCA as its patron.

We established a High-Level Expert Group, the HLEG, on cybersecurity in 2007, comprising over 100 renowned experts from a broad range of backgrounds, sectors and geographical regions. These experts worked tirelessly to formulate proposals on strategies to curb cyberthreats, combat cybercrime and promote cybersecurity.

The HLEG outputs include the Report of the Chairman, which is a set of strategic proposals, and the HLEG Global Strategic Report, which summarizes the work of the HLEG in seeking to promote cybersecurity around the world.

As you know, two of our key initiatives under the GCA are:

  • ITU-IMPACT, the world’s first comprehensive alliance against cyber threats which brings together governments, academia and industry experts to enhance the global community’s capabilities in dealing with cyber threats. It has now been formally endorsed by – and is offering services to – 145 countries. We are also very grateful to President Compaoré for his support as the Chairman of IMPACT’s International Advisory Board.
  • Child Online Protection, an international collaborative network for action to promote the online protection of children worldwide. With a growing number of partners, COP provides guidance on safe online behaviour in conjunction with other UN agencies and partners, and has already reached a very wide audience.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are here today to discuss ways of achieving the long-term sustainability of ITU-IMPACT.

We will shortly be hearing from the Director of the Development Bureau, my colleague Brahima Sanou, who will discuss the significant achievements of ITU-IMPACT, and he will ask for your advice and guidance on how ITU can carry on in assisting its Member States through ITU-IMPACT.

In conclusion, therefore, let me reiterate the need for collective hard work to make the Internet safer for everyone.

We also need to ensure that fundamental human rights are not sacrificed when responding to new risks, or when using ICT capabilities to address real-world threats.

ITU has been playing its role in bringing stakeholders from across the globe together, but it is clearly evident that no single entity can achieve this task alone.

So we all need to work together with other intergovernmental bodies and ensure the active participation of all stakeholders, including local and regional bodies; the private sector; and civil society organizations.

And here I can give you ITU’s full commitment to the process of collaborating and working together – this is truly a multi-stakeholder effort.

Thank you for your attention – and I wish you a very successful meeting.

Thank you.