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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

New York, 21 September 2014 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks to the Broadband Commission for Digital Development

It is a great pleasure to be with you today.  I convey best wishes from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

I am very honoured to be at this table with President Kagame and other distinguished Commissioners, and of course my colleagues Hamadoun Touré and Irina Bokova from ITU and UNESCO. I’m very glad also that the Carlos Slim Foundation is represented here and I thank them for their support.

First of all, I wish to thank President Kagame for his leadership role as a Co-Chair of the Broadband Commission.  I also want to thank him for his leadership of the Millennium Development Goals Advocates Group, to which I belonged before taking up the Deputy Secretary-General position.  I greatly appreciated our friendship and cooperation.

Also, Mr. President, Rwanda is showing the world how technology, and clear and consistent decision making and policy making, can lead to remarkable development gains.  By creating private-public partnerships, which I’m sure that you have talked about here a lot, that stimulate investment in infrastructure, we can unleash the potential of communication technology for development. 

Your support of the ITU’s Connect Africa initiative and hosting the Transform Africa event last year have already resulted in more than 50 billion dollars in investment commitments. That’s huge. Moreover, we have taken a giant leap forward in bringing the benefits of connectivity to the citizens of Africa.

This progress is crucial because Information and Communication Technologies are essential features of progress in modern life. You know it all: ICTs play a key role in delivering everything from clean water and power supplies, to education and healthcare. 

ICTs are essential in providing good governance and public services.

ICTs are essential in reducing poverty and inequality, and ensuring the inclusion of marginalised groups.

ICTs are essential in preserving our environment and our cultural diversity.

And ICTs are essential in driving entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth.

Here broadband plays a central role.  As Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon said recently, and I quote:

“Broadband connectivity is a transformative tool to achieve the three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth, social inclusion and environmental balance.  It is a key element for the post-2015 development agenda.” End quote.

Today virtually all of humanity is within reach of mobile cellular communications.

But we still have far to go in fully connecting the world.  Two thirds of humanity, including far too many women in the developing world, are still off-line and without access to internet.  This makes the call by the least developed countries for 100 per cent access to the internet by 2020 a priority for the United Nations.

I would like to leave you with a concrete, human reminder of the enabling power of broadband technology.

Malala, whom you all know, Malala Yousafzai, started as a global advocate at the age of 11 by connecting with the BBC Urdu service. Using her single point of connectivity, she was ultimately able to successfully take her message of girls’ rights to education to a global audience.

In 2013, having survived the despicable and cowardly assassination attempt by the Taliban, Malala celebrated her 16th birthday with us here in New York.  Those of you who were here will never forget it, I’m sure. She visited the United Nations again last month to mark 500 days to the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.

And it was at the United Nations that Malala reminded us of how just how powerful a single globally connected voice can be. As she said on her 16th birthday, in a speech transmitted around the globe – and I quote it profusely in Sweden, other parts of the world and here: “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

Maybe we could from this meeting today collectively and humbly add “and one point of connectivity”.

We should remember that the true power and potential of connectivity lies in its ability to give the least fortunate or most oppressed a chance to be empowered. 

Let me close by thanking the Chairs and the Members of the Broadband Commission for your extremely important work in helping to build a more sustainable, a more equitable and an empowering future for all – a Life of Dignity for All. The UN family is at your side. I know the leadership of UNESCO and ITU are already committed to that, and I am proud to add my voice and my support to yours.  

Thank you very much.

Statements on 21 September 2014