Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

CITEL: High-Level Forum

8 March 2010, Mexico City, Mexico




Amb. Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Secretary of Foreign Affairs,

Mr. Juan Francisco Molinar Horcasitas, Secretary of Communications and Transport and Mexico,

Amb. Oscar Maúrtua de Romaña, Representative of the OAS,

Ms. Hannia Vega, Vice-Minister of Telecommunications of Costa Rica and Chairperson of the Permanent Executive Committee of CITEL,

Cloud of Words: Conferene, Plenipotentiary, Mexico, organization, ICTs, Secretary...Mr. Clovis Batista, Executive Secretary of CITEL,


Distinguished colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The first months of the new year have seen two devastating earthquakes strike this region, first in Haiti in January and then just ten days ago in Chile. Our thoughts go out to all of those who have lost loved ones or seen their homes or businesses destroyed by these terrible catastrophes.

We cannot stop earthquakes happening, but with ICTs we can hopefully get much better at predicting them and warning people in advance.

And when earthquakes do occur, we can quickly help to restore vital communications – via the use of satellite phones and mobile base stations, for example.

Many organizations have contributed to these efforts, including CITEL. ITU has also been active, with the aid of partners including Iridium and Qualcomm, and financial support from Canada, and we will do all we can in terms of helping with humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts.

Before I return to today’s agenda, I would also just like to draw your attention to the fact that today is International Women’s Day, and that this year the suggested theme is ‘Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all".

Let us therefore use today to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future – this is truly something worth celebrating.

Returning now to today’s agenda, I would like to say how pleased I am to have been offered the opportunity to speak to you a little later on this morning about a subject which is very close to my heart: the subject of the future of ICTs, and in particular the need to roll out affordable, accessible broadband networks.

It is a pleasure to be here today, and I am very much looking forward to returning for a much longer visit in just a few months, when Mexico will be hosting the ITU’s 18th Plenipotentiary Conference from 4-22 October, in Guadalajara.

The Plenipotentiary Conference is the ITU’s top policy-making body and is held every four years. It sets our general policies, adopts four-year strategic and financial plans, and elects our senior management team.

In other words, it is the key event at which ITU Member States decide on the future role of our organization – and thereby determine our ability to influence and affect the development of ICTs worldwide.

I cannot stress how important this is.

When ITU was founded, almost 150 years ago, life was very much simpler. ICTs hardly existed, and very few people had access to them – or indeed the benefits they bring.

Today, things are very different. We have brought ICTs within reach of most of the world’s people. By the time of the Plenipotentiary Conference in October, we will be very close to – if not already past – the five billion mark, in terms of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide.

The modern world is unthinkable – and would be quite unworkable – without ICTs, which have become the cornerstone of everything we do: always on, always connected, always on the move.

ICTs are the engine of social and economic development and will soon be the primary channel for services in every area of the world we live in.

From health to education; from government to social interaction; from environmental management to running modern transport systems or power networks.

This 18th Plenipotentiary Conference promises to be a landmark. What we achieve at the Plenipotentiary Conference here in Mexico will not just affect the future of ITU and ITU’s work: it will affect the lives of everybody on the planet, in one way or another.

I have extended an invitation to the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon whom I will meet in New York next Monday. Mr. Ban is very supportive of ITU’s activities and I am personally very proud of his personal commitment to ICTs.

I will be extending invitations to a few Heads of State which will provide PP with an opportunity to have Policy statements from world leaders. I will be discussing the details of this with President Calderon when we meet later tomorrow.

The issues on the agenda for the Plenipotentiary will shape the future of our organization. I must say that over the past three and a half years since I have been elected Secretary General I have worked closely with the other elected officials to increase the efficiency of our organization. We succeeded mostly due to increased transparency (something you have always demanded) and a more intensive use of the ICT tools that we are promoting world-wide.

The organization has taken a leadership role in all major issues that the world has faced over the past few years: digital divide; food crisis, the financial crisis, climate change, cybersecurity, and emergency communications.

I can safely say that come October 4 this year I will present you in detail the State of the Union -- that I believe reflects the way you wanted our organization to evolve, and certainly reflects the fulfilment of my promises to you.

CITEL and all the Member States and sector members of the Americas region are strong partners for the ITU. Your active participation in ITU and contributions to our events have helped to keep this organization in a leading position in our industry.

I would like to note in particular the Mexican government and to thank you for your excellent organization of this CITEL Assembly. Mexico joined the ITU in 1908 and has always been active in Council and the work of the three sectors.

So let me close now by encouraging your attendance and participation in the Plenipotentiary. It promises to be a truly groundbreaking event.

Thank you.