PP-14 Speeches

International Telecommunication Union

Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

20 October 2014 - ITU Plenipotentiary Conference Opening Ceremony

Your Excellency, President Park Geun-hye

Honourable Ministers,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

From today, and for the next three weeks, Busan will be the capital city of the ICT world.

As we all know, Korea is famous as a global leader in terms of ICT development, and is the perfect venue for ITU’s 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference.

Our Korean hosts will be truly inspiring here because of all they have achieved in less than sixty short years of nationhood.

Just one year ago, I was here in Busan celebrating the PP-14 D-365 event, and I was made an honorary citizen of this city on that occasion; and this is an honour I carry with enormous pride.

So it is both a pleasure and a privilege to be with you here today in Korea's proud 'second city', which has become one of the world's most vibrant international hubs.

On a personal note, I am looking forward to three weeks of serious work here. But I am also looking forward to many other diversions, including the 10th Busan Fireworks Festival at the end of this week – which will celebrate a new ITU Secretary-General, as well as a new leadership team.

I would like to thank:

  • President Park Guen-hye for the honour she bestows upon us with her presence today. As you know, President Park was the recipient of this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day Award, along with President Kagame of Rwanda, who will also be joining us later during this Conference;
  • Choi Yanghee, the Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning, for all the work which has been done to make this event a success;
  • Suh Byung-soo, the Mayor of Busan, for the wonderful hospitality that has been shown to ITU and to our membership;
  • The entire ITU membership, including Member States, Sector and Associate Members, and Academia, for bringing the wealth of your combined expertise to this conference;
  • And civil society, for your very constructive and welcome engagement with PP-14 – we have received your messages loud and clear.

Distinguished delegates,

Before I continue, I must say a few words about the Ebola crisis.

Already, close to 5,000 people have died, and WHO said last week that West Africa could face up to 10,000 new Ebola cases a week within two months, if the world's response to the crisis is not stepped up dramatically.

I think it is therefore very clear that everybody is going to have to do more than they are doing right now.

As the French writer Albert Camus said:

 “Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.”

I believe that we can do more to use the power of ICTs to save lives – by harnessing the power of information, and big data, as well as the ability to use ICTs to get important health-related messages straight to people on the ground.

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked all UN agencies to contribute towards addressing this crisis, and I would therefore like to arrange a meeting next week for interested stakeholders to come together and brainstorm, so that I can go back to the UN SG with proposals.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The work which will be undertaken here in Busan at ITU’s 19th Plenipotentiary Conference is of tremendous importance.

You are here to shape the future – and I am counting on you to do so with openness and generosity.

We are not just talking about the future of the ITU, but the future of the ICT sector – which now cuts across every business sector worldwide, and reaches into the lives of almost everyone on the planet.

I am counting on membership to be bold, to be visionary, and to dream – to dream big!

Let’s take the advice of that great dreamer, Marcel Proust:

 “If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less, but to dream more, to dream all the time.”

Distinguished delegates,

Since I was elected as Secretary-General eight years ago, the ICT sector has made extraordinary progress – and the increased demand for connectivity has been quite incredible.

The credit for this must go to you, our membership, which has tirelessly promoted the rollout of infrastructure, as well as creating the licensing conditions which have encouraged competition and growth, and brought connectivity to billions of people around the world for the first time.

Since the beginning of 2007, when I took office, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions globally has more than doubled, from 2.7 billion to 6.9 billion.

Progress in the developing world has been even more spectacular, growing in the space of just eight years from 1.6 billion subscriptions to 5.4 billion.

And even in the LDCs, the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries, we now see mobile cellular penetration approaching 60%.

This is quite remarkable indeed, especially when we consider that at the time the MDGs were formulated, in the year 2000, mobile cellular penetration globally was just 12%.

Over the past eight years we have also seen the number of internet users grow by 1.7 billion – rising from 1.2 billion at the beginning of 2007 to an estimated 2.9 billion at the end of 2014.

During the same period, developing world internet users have grown almost four-fold, from 500 million to 1.9 billion.

The most spectacular progress of all has been the growth in mobile broadband, and by the end of 2014 there will be around 2.3 billion active mobile broadband subscriptions – with more than half of them in the developing world.

This is not just a story of connectivity for connectivity's sake, however.

This is a story of real human progress.

In ultra-connected environments like Busan, it's too easy to forget that, for most of the world's people, phones and smartphones and connected computers are not playthings, or even productivity tools, but a lifeline.

Connectivity is bringing healthcare, education, employment, banking facilities and improved governance to more places and to more people than ever before.

And we are seeing so many of the best ideas about how we can use ICTs to improve people's lives coming up from developing countries – where practical solutions, demonstrating astonishing ingenuity, are being developed for real-life problems in extraordinary numbers.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The efforts made by you, our membership, have made available the radio frequency spectrum and satellite slots that make most of today's communications possible. And as a result, an increasing number of people are now living in an always-on, always-on-the-move, digital world.

The efforts made by you, our membership, have made technological convergence possible, through globally-agreed, interoperable standards.

The efforts made by you, our membership, have delivered spectacular and gratifying ICT development.

Distinguished delegates,

Over the next three weeks, at the end of one four-year cycle and the start on another, you will have the opportunity to review the past and look ahead to the future.

The main outcomes of the Conference will be the Strategic Plan and the Financial Plan, and I am pleased to report, as approach our 150th anniversary, that I leave an Organization that is stronger than it was four years ago.

On Thursday we will start the elections, and we will be electing a new Secretary-General and a new Deputy Secretary-General, as well as the Directors of the three Bureaux, the members of the Radio Regulations Board, and the Members of Council.

As we move forward, I promise a professional and institutional handover to the new team – and let me take this opportunity to thank my fellow elected officials for the work they have done over the past four years in the true ‘One ITU’ spirit; and let me also thank the staff, without whom our journey here would have been impossible.

Thank you all!

Distinguished colleagues,

I am very positive about the future of the Union – and I am confident that you will use this Conference to change the future shape of the world, and to make the world a better place for all.

And I invite you all to do that in the true spirit of ITU tradition; a tradition of consensus and transparency built over a proud history going back over almost 150 years.

I look forward to seeing the ITU culture of consultation, compromise and collaboration, and I look forward to seeing cooperation and friendship, which is the ITU way.

We can take advice here from the great Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi, who so wisely said:

 “You cannot shake hands with a closed fist”

Ladies and gentlemen,

You are here to dream, and to dream big.

Let me ask you to remember that each one of you, every day, is writing your own history book – and let me ask each one of you to think about what kind of history you would like your children and your grandchildren to read.

Over the course of the next three weeks, I hope you will take the time to dream, to imagine, to innovate, and to create a bright, long-term future for the ICT sector.

A future that will make our children and our grandchildren proud of the work we did here in Busan in 2014.

And on that note, let me close with a quotation from the German writer and philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

 “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”