Nº 2 2014 > Editorial
Broadband and development
Synergies for success
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré ITU Secretary‑General
We are honoured that the Government of the United Arab Emirates is once again hosting, in Dubai, a major ITU event – the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-14). In 2012, four ITU global events were held in Dubai: ITU Telecom World 2012; the Global Standards Symposium; the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly; and the World Conference on International Telecommunications. This is a clear testimony of the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to the development of information and communication technologies worldwide. WTDC-14 opened with a record 1650 registered participants, including more than 60 ministers and high-level delegates from around 150 countries and 100 private-sector entities and civil society.
The overarching theme of WTDC-14 is “Broadband for Sustainable Development”. In the United Arab Emirates itself, almost all home Internet subscriptions are to broadband services. Mobile-cellular telephone penetration had already reached 170 per cent by the beginning of 2013. A household survey conducted by the country’s Telecommunication Regulatory Authority confirmed that virtually all residents use a mobile phone and that 85 per cent of the population uses the Internet regularly, mostly through a high-speed connection.
Worldwide, much progress has been made in the information and communication technology sector, with over 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions globally by the beginning of 2014, and more than 2.7 billion people using the Internet.
The great news for WTDC-14 is that almost all of this growth has been in the developing world, which over the past four years has added two billion new mobile cellular subscriptions (90 per cent of the global increase). The same pattern is true of the growth in Internet users, where 817 million of the one billion new internet users over the past four years have come from the developing world.
Meanwhile, social media continues to skyrocket. At the time of the Hyderabad Conference, four years ago, there were around 30 million users of Twitter, and 400 million users of Facebook. Today, hundreds of millions of tweets are sent every day, and Facebook has over 1.2 billion users.
Governments are striving to bring information and communication technologies to everyone. Recent efforts to increase international connectivity include the deployment of additional international submarine cables along the coast of Africa.
Broadband could be the universal catalyst that puts access to health care, education and basic social services within the reach of all. This was a clear message from the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which met in Dublin, Ireland, on 23 March 2014.
The Commission called for recognition of the transformational potential of high-speed networks and for broadband penetration targets to be explicitly included in the post-2015 sustainable development goals to be approved by the United Nations.
The output from WTDC-14 will be fed into the ITU Strategic Plan, which our Member States will endorse during the Plenipotentiary Conference in the Republic of Korea in October/November 2014. What will be decided in Dubai will shape not just the future of ICT development over the next four years, but the future shape of the very world we live in. So let’s be bold – and let’s dream big.