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Provocative Statement of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh in the UN Commission for Science and Technology for Development

By on May 25, 2009 in Policy with 3 Comments

before the session in CSTD

I was really impressed by Talal Abu-Ghazaleh statement in the UN Commission for Science and Technology for Development. While most of the speakers in the the opening ceremony were very ceremonial, he was provocative. He kindly gave me his speech and allowed me to post it here. Here it is:

“1. Allow me to start by admitting that I come from business, and for the developing world – proudly so. Thanks for inviting me in both capacities.

2. To begin with we do not live in one world. The divide, in more than one way, is our major challenge. A WSIS in Geneva and in Tunis I spoke of the unfair race between Lions and Gazelles. The gap between the developed and the developing seems to grow rather than to narrow.

3. Accordingly, we need to develop different paradigms for the developed and for the developing and to be courageous about it. Yes, there are variations in each of the two worlds. But they have one thing in common: being on one side or the other of the dividing line.

4. We need to admit that we, all of us, failed to achieve the MDGs and to stop searching for fractional successes. If so, let us all go back to scratch board and draft new MDGs. We should not give up.

5. “ICT for Development”? Yes. Yet I also believe that “ICT Development” itself is a prerequisite for “ICT for Development”.  Let us emphasize both tracks-interrelated as they are. I call on UNCTAD leadership to take the lead on this.

6. Infrastructure development in all its aspects must be a priority, for the developing world of course.

7. Information Technology is moving faster than Telecom technology development. A failure by business. Industry needs to accelerate telecommunications technology development to catch up. I call on ITU leadership to take the lead on this and to get business in full gear.

8. Braodband potential is underutilized – for the benefit of the developing of course. Much more needs to be done – by business too under ITU leadership.

9. I call on governments and intergovernmental organizations to engage business as full and equal partners with equal responsibilities. Business is the major creator of knowledge and wealth. Business role is crucial for all purposes. Business should be seen as more than a subject or a tax payer for government.

10. The financial crisis attack has been reasonable absorbed. We now face the much more serious economic crisis attach. he first is like a hurricane. The second is like and epidemic.

11. I know that many will disagree with me. The solution is not in avoiding protectionism, but is rather in a balance between liberalization and  protectionism. Let us admit that this is what the developed countries are doing now.

12. Innovations in the IT were accelerated by business profit motivation. The freedom in cyberspace encouraged greater investment in IT. There, the world is yours.

13. Telecom is to be credited for its role as a medium for the interent. Yet telecom should become more of a free space in itself rather than just a free space for IT. Governments and Business should jointly work towards jointly work towards that goal.

14. I foresee a telecom revolution similar to that in IT, making telecom universally free in access and free in cost! Only that can lead us to the realization of the so-called “death of distance” dream!

15. In this world of short-terminism, we lost sight of the fact that IP, innovation and R&D are the major weapons of economic power and competitveness. We need to go back to basics. We need to motivate profit motivation for innovation in all fields.

16. We need to search for answers why didn’t “mobile telephony” become the “telephone”, just like how “e-mail” becomes the “mail”.

17. At “Unesco vision 2025” forum, two weeks ago, I called for action oriented mandates by international organizations parallel with policy formulation. In the developing world, we need implementation sponsorships more than advice.

18. Thankd you UNCTAD. Distinguished colleagues I salute you for your tolerance. Remember idiots may be right, sometimes, as Churchill once said.

Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Geneva, May 25, 2009, UNCTAD

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