Committed to connecting the world


World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, 17 May 2014

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

Broadband for Sustainable Development

16 May 2014, Geneva, Switzerland

Keynote Speech by Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Mr Aboubakar Zourmba, Chairman of ITU Council
Ministers, Ambassadors, ITU Councillors
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this ceremony on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. As you know, we celebrate this annually on 17 May to mark the founding of ITU in 1865. This year, it is the 149th anniversary of the Union, which analysts have quite rightfully recognized as one of the most resilient organizations in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are celebrating this event just one day after having concluded the last ITU Council for the cycle in preparation for the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference that will be held in Busan, Republic of Korea from 20 October until 7 November.

I take this opportunity to thank ITU Council Members for their presence at this ceremony.

Today, as our 193 Member States and all our partners and well-wishers in the ICT industry as well as people around the world celebrate this Day, we also recognize three eminent personalities who have contributed tremendously to the growth and development of ICTs and broadband.

Let me congratulate the laureates of this year's World Telecommunication and Information Society Award, who have been honoured in recognition of their leadership and dedication towards promoting ICT development and broadband connectivity as a means of achieving sustainable development.

I welcome His Excellency Mr Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda,

His Excellency Mr Choi Mun-kee, Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning as the representative of Her Excellency Ms Park Geun-hye, President of the Republic of Korea,

And Mr Carlos Slim, Chairman of Grupo Carso and President of the Carlos Slim Foundation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day we highlight the theme "Broadband for Sustainable Development", as adopted by ITU Council last year.

Our distinguished laureates are among the greatest champions of broadband in the world. They have supported our work with tremendous zeal, and together we have accomplished a lot – particularly in highlighting the key role ICTs and broadband play in the global economy as well as in leveraging sustainable development.

President Kagame, President Park and Carlos Slim are recognized today for their leadership and dedication towards promoting ICTs and broadband connectivity as a means of achieving sustainable development.

Their presence here is an inspiration for all of us and to our global audience – for whom high-speed connectivity has opened new avenues to communicate anytime, anywhere, with friends, family, colleagues, and even 'things' as we enter the era of machine-to-machine communications.

As you know, President Kagame and Carlos Slim are the two co-Chairs of the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development. Together they have placed this important agenda on the world map and have convinced Member States at the United Nations as well as experts, academics and citizens elsewhere that broadband and ICTs are critical for the future of our planet. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The right to communication is central to the information society; it is a key principle for equitable, affordable and universal access to information and knowledge that in turn empowers people to meet their aspirations and achieve their development goals.

The Right to Communicate is in fact the motivating factor and impetus that drives us from the information society to the knowledge society that we are now entering.

For nearly 150 years, ITU has been the one single organization devoted to making it possible for people everywhere – wherever they may be, even in the remotest corners of the world – to communicate. And it has been our endeavour to support the telecommunications and ICT industry with the latest, most advanced standards that are interoperable globally so that everyone has access to state-of-the-art information and communication technologies.

We have been doing this since our inception, since the days of the telegraph. And today, what a revolution we have seen!

Even ten years ago, we could not have imagined what we can do today at the flick of a fingertip!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Broadband connectivity is a critical element in ensuring that ICTs are used as effective delivery vehicles for health, education, governance, trade and commerce in order to achieve sustainable socio-economic growth.

ITU is therefore committed to achieving universal access to broadband connectivity – and to foster the political will needed to achieve this objective.

It is now well recognized that digital inclusion is a transformative tool to fast-track sustainable development. In order to realize its full potential, it is essential to roll-out high-speed broadband networks, making it affordable as well as universally accessible.

In this respect, ITU and the Broadband Commission for Digital Development are at the forefront of advocating the roll-out of broadband, which is today the world's economic engine as well as the catalytic agent to leverage sustainable development for the future well-being of our planet and its inhabitants.

ITU's commitment to push the broadband agenda for sustainable development highlights the dual goals of supporting the deployment of mobile broadband and the continued rollout of fixed-line technologies, while meeting the global challenges of our times, such as combating climate change.

As we embark on the post-2015 development agenda and set out more ambitious and inclusive goals to make the world a better place, we need to ensure that we have the necessary tools and mechanisms in place to make it a reality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Broadband-based ICT networks are powerful cross-cutting enablers to achieve the three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth, social inclusion and environmental balance.

We must therefore commit ourselves in the service of humanity to make broadband the central element of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

I call upon our partners and all of you gathered here today to identify key gaps in broadband research and development, infrastructure, and packaged development of applications and services; define policy priorities for action in the areas of allocating radio frequency spectrum for broadband, universal access obligations and innovative financing mechanisms; and to seek leading edge technological solutions, particularly in the extension of broadband access to rural areas, least developed countries and small island developing states.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends and colleagues,

Let us put our resources together to harness the catalytic role of ICTs in achieving sustainable development. It is the key to ensuring a better future for all.

Thank you.