Busan, 28 October 2014
I am pleased to be here at this important conference, that is charting the way of the union into the future. It is pertinent that this meeting is taking place in the Republic of Korea, which is an exceptional model of technological development in general, and ICT in particular.
Allow me to congratulate Secretary General Elect Houlin Zhao, and the team that has just been elected, to steer the ITU for the next four years.
The world, particularly we in developing countries, have seen the immense opportunities of a connected and borderless world. Our collective aspirations is to further extend these possibilities to all of mankind. In this undertaking, I want to reiterate to the new ITU leadership, Rwanda’s commitment to remain a fully engaged partner among others.
In returning four of the outgoing members of the team, an important statement has been made: that the excellent work of ITU will continue and even be taken to a higher level. This is a resounding endorsement of the work this leadership has done.
I would, therefore, like to thank Dr. Hamadoun Toure and his team, for pushing the frontiers of ICTs and relentlessly advocating for access even in the most remote areas. Their tremendous work has contributed to Africa’s ability to leapfrog into the future.
This has been in large measure due to his vision and ability to mobilise private sector investment in ICT in the developing world. For example, at the time of planning for the Connect Africa Summit, $55 billion had been pledged, but in the end over $70 billion was actually invested.
In the last two decades, the continent has moved rapidly from concerns about connectivity, to concrete efforts to increase broadband capacity, and initiate smart applications and the effects of this transformation have been felt across all sectors, particularly agriculture, education, health, business and infrastructure.
In governance, too, ICT has increased communication between governments and their citizens, making leaders more accessible and promoting accountability.
But even beyond Africa, ICT is supporting openness between peoples, paving the way for real trust and greater understanding.
As a result of more open borders and removal of other barriers globally, markets are expanding, productivity and competitiveness are also rising, and more significantly, there are more opportunities for individuals, corporations and nations.
Everyone has played a role in this digital revolution. We in Rwanda are firmly invested in this effort and are happy to be associated, in a modest way, with the spread of ICTs regionally and globally, mainly to the usually underserved.
Domestically, we have placed ICTs at the centre of our education and development programmes. But in an increasingly integrated and borderless world, more is required. Capacities for utilisation and innovation have to be built at regional and global levels, and we continue to engage in these efforts.
In conjunction with the African Development Bank, an ICT Centre of Excellence for the East African region has been established in Kigali. We partnered with a US university, the Carnegie Mellon University, to set up a campus in Rwanda to provide in-country world class training for students from the region. Rwanda also hosts the East African Commission for Science and Technology.
We have been closely involved with continental and global initiatives to enhance the transformative impact of digital technology. Rwanda was honoured to host the Connect Africa and Transform Africa summits. The most recent offspring of these summits is the Smart Africa Manifesto, that is shaping the future of ICTs on the continent. I have also been privileged to co-chair, with my brother and friend Carlos Slim, the Broadband Commission.
ICT has always been a future-looking technology. And so today we must look to the next development agenda, in line with ITU’s own 2020 Vision and Smart Africa Manifesto.
Allow me to say a few things about the Smart Africa Initiative.
This strategy is founded on a future where the world’s people are connected among themselves, and with their environment, powered by emerging technologies such as Internet of Things, Big Data and Cloud Computing.
It is a future in which ICTs continue to help humanity make advances in education, healthcare and ensure food security.
It is a future where ICTs fuel economic growth through deeper financial inclusion, innovation, job creation for the youth, as well as empowerment for women.
This is a future to which we are committed and one that we owe to future generations: one that is sustainable, inclusive and secure.
ICTs have been a great enabler for critical areas like MDGs and will certainly continue to be a key prerequisite for sustainable development. For this to happen, it is critical that there is constructive and mutually beneficial partnership between all the key actors in the industry.
From my close involvement with the Broadband Commission, I have no doubt that the ITU will continue to play a crucial role. Its ideals are still alive and relevant 149 years after it was founded. Although it is still a year too early, I think it is in order to wish you a happy 150th anniversary.
Returning to the Broadband Commission; for its entire existence, it has been advocating for broadband to be integrated into the development process. In the last one year and a half, we have taken this a step further and ask that it form part of the post-2015 development agenda, so that all member states can harness its power, for future growth.
So, before I conclude, I wish to request Dr Toure, as Vice Co-Chair of the Commission, to read a statement of the Commission.
I thank you very much for your kind attention.