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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

First African Preparatory Meeting For ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-14) 
 Opening Address
19 February 2014, Lusaka, Zambia

Your Excellency, Yamfwa Mukanga, Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications
Your Excellency, Abdoulkarim Soumaila, ATU Secretary-General, Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a real pleasure to be here with you for this very important meeting. I am always delighted to visit dynamic and beautiful Zambia, and I would like to thank our hosts for their kind invitation and generous hospitality.

Let me also express my thanks to the ATU for organizing this First African Preparatory Meeting for ITU’s 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference, PP-14, which will be taking place in Busan, Korea, from 20 October to 7 November.

ITU has always enjoyed an excellent relationship with the ATU, and we greatly appreciate the work that the ATU does across this fine continent.

We particularly appreciate the efforts of the ATU Secretariat, and my dear friend Abdoulkarim Soumaila.

Since his election, he has worked tirelessly to organize and coordinate the African positions on a wide range of issues, and has helped ITU and the ATU to reach the highest level of efficiency and cooperation together.

I have particularly appreciated his efforts during our last major global events: WRC-12, WTSA-12, WCIT-12, and WTPF-13.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Africa’s ICT sector has experienced extraordinary growth in recent years, especially in the terms of mobile cellular communications, with penetration rates in sub-Saharan Africa more than doubling in the past five years to reach 63.5%, by the beginning of 2014.

We have also seen solid progress in terms of increased use of the Internet in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than two and a half times as many people online at the end of 2013 as there were at the end of 2008.

However, there is no denying that we still have far to go. More than 80% of people in sub-Saharan Africa are still offline, and denied access to the incredible wealth of knowledge and riches that the Internet can bring into our lives. And even for those who do have access, it is still far too expensive, with mobile broadband still costing 40-60% of average income in sub-Saharan Africa.

Our continent also needs to be ready to address the challenges that accompany ICT growth – including cybersecurity in particular.

I am proud of Africa’s progress to date, and its commitment to do even better in the future.

Our host provides a perfect example of what can be delivered, when visionary leadership is combined with effective collaboration from the private sector and other stakeholders.

Last month, I was delighted to hear of the launch of LTE services by Zambia’s major operators.

I would also like to commend Zambia’s Government, particularly President Michael Sata and Minister Yamfwa Mukanga, for their commitment, announced just last week, to invest 24 million US dollars to boost mobile coverage in underserved rural regions.

Zambia was recognized as one of the most dynamic countries in the world in ITU’s ‘Measuring the Information Society 2013’ report, and further new initiatives will continue bringing the benefits of ICTs to everyone in Zambia, including those in the remotest parts of the country.

Distinguished colleagues,

ICT development of course is not just about where countries stand in statistical league tables. It is about businesses, jobs, lifestyles, education, healthcare, and government – and so much more.

ICT-driven Africa shall and will be a place where people prosper; where communities enjoy strong bonds; where businesses thrive; and where governments enable strong and sustainable development as well as efficiently and effectively serving their people.

ITU has long been – and will continue to be – a place where African countries collaborate among themselves and with other regions to turn such visions into reality; and I am proud of ITU’s role in supporting Africa’s ICT development.

Let me cite just a few examples.

The Transform Africa Summit, co-organized by ITU and the Government of Rwanda in partnership with AfDB, WB, GSMA, Korea Telecom and others was held in Rwanda last October and attended by 7 Heads of state from Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Gabon, South Sudan, Kenya and Mali, 46 Ministers and over 2000 other participants from all walks of life.

The principle outcome which was adopted by the summit was the SMART Africa Manifesto and its implementation framework, the SMART Africa Alliance both of which were subsequently endorsed by the African Heads of State at the recent African Union Assembly in Addis Ababa. I am pleased to say that next month, I will convene the inaugural meeting of the SMART Africa Alliance including the World Bank, AfDB, UNECA, NEPAD, GoR, AUC and ATU to map-out the way forward in the “Connect–Innovate–Transform”, Africa’s agenda to transform Africa through ICT.

ITU and Craig and Susan McCaw’s Broadband Wireless Network project for Africa continues to implement broadband wireless networks and develop ICT applications to provide free or low cost digital access for schools and hospitals, and for under-served populations in rural and remote areas. The Broadband Wireless Network is already operational in Burundi, and is ongoing in Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Mali and Rwanda.

Our ITU Academy has trained thousands of Africans in areas as diverse as regulatory best practice, the digital dividend, IXP installation, and fibre-optic training – and we have been working most recently with administrations in Chad, Congo and Gabon, as well as many other countries in the region.

We have supported Africa’s cybersecurity readiness by assisting in establishing Computer Incident Response Teams – most recently in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Tanzania. We have also been helping to protect children online in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda and here in Zambia.

Next month, from 26-28 March, ITU IMPACT is organizing a workshop on developing a National Strategy Framework for Child Online Protection, COP, in Livingstone, Zambia, in collaboration with the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority, ZICTA, as well as COP experts and regional partners. The workshop is designed to develop a practical and effective framework based on Zambia’s needs, and to facilitate related capacity building efforts aimed at empowering experts and policy makers in Zambia.

These are just a few examples of ITU’s Africa-specific activities – but it is also important to note that Africa of course benefits from the global work of all three ITU’s sectors as well.

This includes the effective and efficient management of radio spectrum and orbital resources; international standardization; the benefits of a global ICT knowledge base, and especially ICT statistics; as well as opportunities to share experiences and best practices at events such as the Global Symposium for Regulators and ITU Telecom World.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is a special year for ITU as we are holding two important four-yearly global conferences: WTDC-14, and PP-14.

As you know, the World Telecommunication Development Conference, WTDC-14, is just around the corner, and will be held from 30 March to 10 April, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Yesterday, you concluded Africa’s second preparatory meeting for this conference, and I am glad to see very valuable input coming from the region to WTDC-14.

My brother, Brahima Sanou, the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, BDT, has been doing a great job of leading the WTDC preparations, and you can rely on all of us to assist you throughout your regional preparations.

The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, PP-14, will fulfil its mandate by – among other activities – reviewing ITU’s Constitution and Convention; establishing ITU’s Strategic and Financial Plans; determining general policies for fulfilling the purposes of the Union; and electing its new management team, Council Members and members of the Radio Regulations Board, the RRB.

Distinguished colleagues,

ITU is you. The Union is your Union. It is therefore up to you – in collaboration with other countries around the world – to determine how ITU can assist in meeting your priorities over the coming years and how ITU can deliver the most value to you.

Africa has always been one of the most active regions at ITU, and the continent’s contribution to our work has continued to increase over recent years, with Africa providing very valuable contributions to our recent world conferences, as I mentioned earlier.

Two representatives of our region, Brahima and myself, are serving in the current management team, and our 2014 session of ITU Council will be chaired by Aboubakar Zourmba from Cameroon. Meanwhile I am pleased to report that the number of ITU professional staff from Africa has increased by a third since 2008.

And we continue to see strong support from the region in our work – not just in terms of African Member States, but also in terms of sector and academic membership, as well as the very active participation of regional organizations – such as the ATU, of course. Indeed, I am very pleased that we now have over 80 Sector Members, Associates and Members from Academia within the ATU Member States.

Last year, Nigeria’s First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, took up duties as ITU’s Champion for Child Online Protection, and we have benefitted from President Kagame’s very able co-chairing of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which was set up by ITU and UNESCO in 2010.

Africa’s achievements in ITU have been grounded in clear vision, dedicated work, able people, and speaking as a united ‘One Africa’ – and I am confident that this shall continue.

It is important to build on Africa’s successful record in ITU, and further enhance this great continent’s contribution to providing both guidance to the ITU’s work and the people to do such work.

In this regard, this preparatory meeting is very important, as it is an opportunity for us to discuss plans and strategies for the region, and coordinate positions in preparation for PP-14, so that Africa can speak as one.

I encourage all of you here to contribute to and benefit from this opportunity to realize your visions, and I look forward to very productive discussions here in Lusaka.

Thank you.