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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium 2013

 Opening Ceremony : Opening Speech

04 December 2013, Mexico City, Mexico


H.E. Mr José Ignacio Peralta, Undersecretary of Communications and Transport, Mexico.
Mr Gabriel Contreras Saldivar, President, Federal Institute of Telecommunications, Mexico,
Dr Eduardo Sojo Garza Aldape, President, National Institute of Statistics and Geography, Mexico,
H.E. Mr Makame Mnyaa Mbarawa, Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Tanzania
Mr Brahima Sanou, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU
Dr Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India

Distinguished colleagues
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure and a great honour to be with you here today at the Opening Ceremony of the World Telecommunication and ICT Indicators Symposium-2013.

I want to thank His Excellency Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Secretary of Communications and Transport, Mexico, for inviting us to this great country which is well known for its hospitality. Mr Gabriel Contreras Saldivar, President, Federal Institute of Telecommunications, Mexico, and his staff have worked very hard to make this meeting a reality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we meet today, we should be celebrating the incredible progress that governments and industry have made over the past decade or so.

In 2003, when the WSIS process began, there were 1.4 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, and there were 780 million people using the Internet.

Today, there are now almost as many mobile cellular subscriptions as there are people on the planet – 6.8 billion subscriptions. There are some 2.75 billion individuals using the Internet.

True, that still leaves almost two thirds of the world’s population excluded from the extraordinary benefits brought by the online world.

But looking at the trends, I am personally confident that over the next decade or so we will see every household, village, school, and hospital fully connected to the Internet, and that Internet will be affordable.

This resonates with the targets that we have set in the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, namely; Target 1: Making broadband policy universal. Target 2: Making broadband affordable. Target 3: Connecting homes to broadband. Target 4: Getting people online.

This is not just a pipe-dream, but a reality we need to achieve.

Some of you might have already received and read a Manifesto that the Broadband Commission released in September, signed by 48 members of the Commission, along with other prominent figures from industry, civil society and the UN family.

The manifesto explicitly states that broadband infrastructure, applications and services have become critical to driving growth, delivering social services, improving environmental management, and transforming people’s lives.

The vital role of broadband needs to be acknowledged at the core of any post-2015 sustainable development framework, to ensure that all countries – developed and developing alike – are empowered to participate in the global digital economy.

I think all of us gathered here in Mexico City this week recognize the importance of measuring the information society. Without measurement we cannot track progress or identify gaps which require our attention.

In underscoring the importance of the work undertaken by the WTIS, let me borrow the wise words of H. James Harrington who said: “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can't measure something, you can't understand it. If you can't understand it, you can't control it. If you can't control it, you can't improve it.”

I want to say that we can measure ICTs, we understand the technology, and we can control it. So, we can improve it. That is why we are here today.

Distinguished colleagues,

I am gratified to see that this Symposium has grown big and successful.

For the first time, it has brought together Ministers, CEOs, and Director-Generals from both Telecommunications and National Statistics entities, and high-level United Nationals officials.

This is a great milestone.

ITU relies on the cooperation of Member States, industry, and experts in ICT measurement to ensure the production of comparable, adequate and reliable ICT statistics.

Our data – ICT statistics for 200 economies and over 100 indicators – comes together as a result of strong commitment from our Member State administrations. I say this guided by the lessons we have learned since 1889, when ITU started to collect and process telecommunication statistics.

I would like to congratulate Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, and his team who have worked hard to transform what used to be a small technical meeting into such a great annual Symposium.

I want to assure him of my support as he continues to innovate for development. As you may know, he also recently launched three initiatives that have a far-reaching impact to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

I am also very happy that the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the m-Powering Devleopment initiative, Dr Sam Pitroda, is here with us today – this is a great honour.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This brings me to a very important issue. The revolutionary potential for ICTs was not properly foreseen in the Millennium Development Goals – and we must not let the opportunity slip away this time around.

ICTs must be given much greater prominence in the UN’s post-2015 development agenda as catalysts of broad social and economic development.

And that will mean setting new goals and new targets, and measuring these with new indicators.

So let me ask this community to actively engage with this issue here in Mexico, and to send a strong message to the world, and to those who are directly involved in setting the post-2015 development agenda.

It is essential that everyone recognizes that ICTs will continue to play an even greater role in the post-2015 agenda than they have over the past 15 years – and we need to ensure that they are specifically included, referenced and measured as we move forward.

The WTIS this year is particularly important, coming as it does as we are preparing for the final reviews of the MDGs and the World Summit on the Information Society, and as we look at the development process post-2015.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are at a tipping point in our global society; a tipping point where the pace of technological innovation has the potential to change the world for good – and for the better.

Our discussions here at the WTIS are an important part of that change.

I am very grateful to the government of Mexico and to the Federal Institute of Telecommunications for accepting to share the Mexican experience, as they will tomorrow take us on a tour to showcase some of their successful ICT projects.

Finally, I look forward to interacting, exchanging views, and debating with the many experts in the room over the next two days.

Thank you.