Dr Hamadoun Touré is the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, the ITU. He served as the Director of the ITU-BDT from 1998 until 2006 where he played a significant role in the WSIS process by launching numerous projects in partnership with international organizations, governments, civil society and the private sector. Prior to his election as Director of BDT, Dr Touré was Africa’s Regional General Manager for ICO Global Communications. Dr Touré served with the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT) as Group Director for Africa and the Middle East, as Director for the Africa Region, and with INTELSAT’s Assistance and Development Programme (IADP). Prior to Intelsat, Dr Touré headed the Satellite Communications Section at Mali’s Office des Postes et Télécommunications (OPT). Hamadoun Touré holds a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Technical Institute of Electronics and Telecommunications of Leningrad (LEIS, USSR) and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) from the University of Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics of Moscow (MTUCI, Russia).
Access to information and communication technology (ICT) empowers people to achieve their aspirations; we have the means to use the vast potential of ICT to accelerate meeting the targets of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, now a mere eight years away. We have a lot to achieve in the time remaining to remove the scourges of poverty, hunger and ill health, generate wealth, ensure environmental sustainability, promote gender equality, improve literacy, reduce child mortality, empower citizens, help governments and businesses through e-health, e-agriculture, e-learning, e-government, e-business, and other ICT-based applications. Bridging the digital divide is about including every citizen within the fold of the information society and ensuring the development of a more peaceful, just and prosperous world. ICT is the catalyst that empowers people with information and knowledge to achieve their development aspirations. We have the technical capacity to connect the world. The strings are there; it is up to us to use the resources at our disposal to pull it all together. Indeed, we have no option but to do so. We need to bring global human, financial and technical resources to bear on achieving these goals, in a sort of Marshall Plan for ICT connectivity. We have begun with Africa where the need is greatest, and continue to reach out to other underserved regions of the world. In order to stimulate the needed investment in ICT infrastructure and services, the Connect Africa initiative, launched in Kigali, Rwanda in October 2007, will also help expand efforts to develop an enabling environment across the continent, through policy and regulatory modernization and harmonization, strengthened cyber-security, enhanced support for migration to next-generation networks and capacity building. Telecommunications is a key component of the global village. As people talk to each other more easily, age-old barriers inevitably come down. A few years ago, making an international call was difficult and prohibitively expensive. Today, we can make free calls on the Internet to virtually anywhere in the world - while seeing the person we’re talking to on a webcam. The watchword is ‘convergence’. It’s changing the nature of what we once called telecommunications services, it’s reshaping the way we consume and access those services - and it’s transforming the networks that deliver them. These so-called next-generation networks bring together the whole gamut of information and communication technologies, such as mobile phones, television, computers and the Internet, promising seamless global connectivity over any network, any device, any time and anywhere. Even devices will be communicating more and more with us and with each other in order to simplify complex tasks. The basis of our social and economic life - and our lifestyles - is increasingly dependent on these new, state-of-the-art information and communication technologies. The ITU is at the forefront of this next digital revolution. Our standards for telecommunications and radio communications already underpin the entire global communications framework - and will serve as the platform for a whole range of as yet undreamt-of services. Our Telecommunication Development Sector will ensure that no one is left out of the digital revolution. The ITU is dedicated to ensuring access to communications anytime, anywhere and at an affordable price. It is imperative that vulnerable sections of the world’s population have access to the benefits of ICT; we must focus on women, young people, the elderly and the disabled. A priority is to ensure that emergency communications for disaster prevention and mitigation are strengthened. While both developing and developed countries are equally vulnerable to natural disasters, poorer nations are hardest hit because of their already fragile economies and lack of resources. The issues of cybersecurity and cyberpeace are the most critical concerns in an increasingly networked world. The magnitude of the issue calls for a coordinated global response. In a significant step forward, the ITU has launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda and will act as a catalyst and facilitator to bring public and private partners together to share experiences and best practices, both online and in physical meetings, and to fast-track a global response against cybercrime. Nanotechnologies point the way towards multifunctional terminals, enabling people to communicate anytime, anywhere and at the lowest price. More will be achieved in the near future by speech recognition technologies, breaking all language and literacy barriers, making the world a true ‘knowledge society’. The future is wired - and wireless; more mobile applications and an exponential growth of the Internet - today still in its infancy - will connect the world to the full potential of ICT.