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[Check Against Delivery]
Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Creating a Connected World: ICT must be at the centre of the development agenda
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)
New York City, 21 May 2014
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The Post-2015 Development Agenda is described as the most far-reaching and comprehensive development related endeavour ever undertaken by the United Nations in its entire history.
I hope we deliver on that ambition, and I am honoured to make the European Union’s contribution to that end.
But let us be clear to each other and to voices from other sectors and issues. If we want to eradicate poverty and deliver a sustainable future for our world, we need to fully use the digital tools at our disposal.
Access to mobile devices and networks and big data processing are two of strongest enablers of economic opportunity. We know for certain now that digital inclusion is directly linked to increasing GDP.
This is already recognised by the High-Level Panel of eminent persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
We must push this forward in the final agenda and actions.
ICT is no longer a side issue or someone else's job.
These technologies enable the entire development agenda. And because digital drives development, promoting ICT is now everyone's job and everyone's responsibility.
We should aim high.
We should have the objective of getting every person digital.
I think, one of the ultimate aims for the post-development agenda 2015 should be, to create a “connected world”.
Not because ICT is a goal in itself – but because it is the means to our other goals, from health to education, from inclusive growth to gender equality, and more.
We speak of connectivity and a connected continent in Europe because we believe in “inclusive infrastructure” – accessible to 100% of Europeans.
We believe that without inclusive infrastructure it is impossible to successfully address the other elements of the digital divide related to affordability and skills.
Getting there takes coalitions of industry, governments and investors to roll out broadband infrastructure and pool investments. That is how we were able to achieve 100% affordable broadband coverage in Europe as of October 2013.
I dream of the world as a network of connected continents, countries, cities and regions, and people.
Maximising opportunity, regardless of where you live, what you look like or who your parents are has been the driving force of my life and career. And that is why the internet is so exciting to me.
I always say: People make the difference. You can set up any structure or target, invest big sums of money. But without the goodwill of people and open mindset for change, you are lost.
That’s why I choose an approach centred on people who want change. In Europe we have tackled our fragmented market and continent by bringing industry and civil society together in coalitions for creating growth and jobs. We asked national leaders to appoint visible role models to act as multipliers. These champions force attention, identify gaps, push investment and teach skills. … All at local level.
You can think of the closing the digital divide as the 5 ‘i’ s.
I am convinced Europe has as much to learn as to share with the world.
I don’t want the South to merely catch up with the North. I want the South to be global leaders. And many developing countries have already demonstrated their enormous potential in ICTs. Something that can be shared from a South-South perspective.
Kenya’s mobile leaderships shows us that mobile can allow the South to leapfrog the world. We see similar patterns in Europe, where the fastest broadband is in Lithuania and Romania. Where the most digital country is Estonia.
Big or small, South or North – digital levels the playing field in a way few other tools can.
We speak a lot about grassroots change in United Nations forums. We speak a lot about inclusive processes. Rightly so.
But we need to marry those ideals with the reality of our world. The Internet has started to become the best tool the world has known for inclusion and enabling grassroots change.
So this precious and seamless gift needs to be central to our whole development agenda.
And it must remain our shared open platform for inclusion and innovation. This work is underway thanks to Brazil’s internet governance leadership at the NETmundial conference last month.
Because digital is everywhere – we need to put digital thinking and digital policies everywhere.
Visible across the UN agenda, ambition, and structure.
From sustainable development – to gender equality.
We an alliance, a virtual coalition of people will push this change once the discussions on new post-2015 framework are finished. Digital champions across the world uniting for a better, connected world.
I am doing it for my grandchildren – 4 and 6 years old – who are you doing it for?
A connected world is the global basis for sustainable inclusion, growth and environmental protection.
Connectivity empowers, and empowerment is our goal.