Excellencies, distinguished guests, and all participants, it is an honour and pleasure to speak on behalf of the International Chamber of Commerce and its BASIS initiative, Business Action to Support the Information Society, as well as the GSM Association.
And, as the first woman to speak today, I wanted to start with a recent statistic from the GSMA that highlights one of the many challenges where technology intersects with the sustainable development goals, here gender equality. Worldwide, 200 million fewer women than men own a mobile phone across low and middle income countries. In South Asia alone, women are 38% less likely to own a phone, with all that implies in terms of information access and personal autonomy.
It is my great privilege to join such distinguished speakers today, and I want to thank the coorganisers UNDP, UNCTAD, UNESCO and ITU for hosting this important opportunity to check in on all of our collective efforts following the WSIS +10 review last year.
It is my privilege to speak, and it is all of our privilege to be here, helping to move forward the WSIS action lines and bring the liberating power of the information society to the next several billion people.
History is moving fast. GSMA and ICC BASIS members are privileged to have built the mobile bridge for the digital world, and already mobile operators around the world provide access to the internet at a rate of nearly one million new customers every day, with 90% of the growth coming from developing markets.
But we all know there is so much more to do.
I was lucky enough to witness first-hand the early flourishing of the internet as it moved beyond an academic project thanks to the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. I was employee number 899 at Yahoo, back in its glory days. My Twitter handle is so short, because I was one of the first to get one, that users still sometimes confuse me with a famous rapper – and probably wonder why he is so interested in Internet governance.
We are all familiar with what happened there. The internet developed not under a top-down plan, but emerged in a way that can only be described by Nobel Laureate economist Friedrich von Hayek’s term, spontaneous order.
I have just one plea for this meeting, on behalf of the billions of people, men and women, who are waiting silently for the opportunity to join the information society. As we share views from all our broad efforts toward our common goal of a people-centred, inclusive and developmentoriented information society, we must not let the fatal conceit of top-down management or narrow politics come between us and our goals.
It will take all stakeholders to meet the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, in the context of the information society, industry can lead the way in some – and many – areas, including:
Inclusion – digital, social and financial – requires the development of infrastructure, fostering local content, education and access.
The need for capacity-building in lesser- and underdeveloped areas means we must continue public-private partnerships to accelerate investment.
And to maintain the growth and permission less innovation that drives our miraculous global communications network, we must allow the continued collaborative development of interoperable, practical standards and protocols that are industry-led and developed in a transparent, accountable way.
The multistakeholder model is how we will connect everyone and everything to a better future. Thank you very much