by Malcolm Johnson, ITU Deputy Secretary-General
*This article has been adapted from remarks I made during the presentation of “Conozco Mi Consumo” at an event organised by Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications Institute.
It is fitting that today, on the International Day for Universal Access to Information, we celebrate the launch of “Conozco Mi Consumo.”
Known in English as “I know my consumption,” this innovative digital tool puts the interest and the right to information of Mexican consumers of telecom services first by allowing them to find the best plans based on what they need, where they live and how much they can pay.
My congratulations to the FTI on its achievements and on this new innovation. Not only will this benefit Mexico’s digital economy, it will also help to empower the Mexican people at a time when digital technologies and services are more important than ever before to meet the challenges of COVID-19.
In Mexico, more than 95 per cent of the population have a mobile-cellular subscription and over 65 per cent of people use the Internet, but bridging the digital divide remains a significant challenge, especially in isolated rural areas. Worldwide almost half the world’s population remains unconnected and it is estimated that hundreds of billions of dollars are needed to bring everyone online. Only when we do will it be possible to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The wide choice of service packages offered by the different service providers can be very confusing and difficult for the consumer to work out which best meets their requirements and at a cost they can meet. The quality of service can also vary depending on location.
“Conozco Mi Consumo” is a unique solution to the dilemma of making the best choice, and it is particularly important to facilitate a quick choice at this time when people depend on their smart phone for the latest advice on COVID-19 mitigation measures, to help continue their work and studies and keep connected to friends and families. It will also increase competition and lead to lower costs and improved service quality.
The digital technologies and services that are so essential in the COVID-19 crisis need to be affordable. Internet services and equipment need to provide relevant local content and services in the relevant local languages. And of course, they need to be safe. To feel safe, people need to trust the technology. As the new “Conozco Mi Consumo” platform makes it clear, there cannot be trust without transparency.
Trust and cybersecurity are central to ITU activities. As an international standards-making body for information and communication technologies (ICTs), interoperability, accessibility and security are our requirements from the design stage.
Towards digital inclusion
Since the beginning of the pandemic, ITU has been working with national ministries of telecommunications and health and mobile network operators to text people who may not have access to the Internet with science- and evidence-based COVID-19 health advice directly on their mobile phones.
The right to access to information is a basic human right. But it will be universal only when everyone is empowered by ICTs, regardless of their gender, age, ability, or location.
At least a third of the world’s schoolchildren were unable to access remote learning when COVID-19 shut their schools. ITU seeks to connect every school to the Internet and every young person to information, opportunity and choice through our GIGA initiative.
Building smart, sustainable and resilient cities is another important part of ITU’s work on digital inclusion. As part of these efforts, we have developed a set of key performance indicators to help cities around the world in their digital transformation in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Worth noting are the efforts of cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara to track their progress and measure their commitment to digital inclusion, most notably with respect to ICT accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities ─ a major ITU objective.
With an estimated one billion people worldwide with some form of disability, including those who suffer from age-related disabilities such as loss of vision or hard of hearing, ITU has been a strong proponent of ICT accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities for three decades. We initiated a special track on ICTs and the elderly at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2020 and hope we will have participants from Mexico in next year’s track.
Mexico’s ICT triumphs at WSIS and beyond
This year’s WSIS Forum was fully virtual, attracting over 15,000 cumulative participants worldwide about the role of ICTs in achieving the SDGs. ITU also organized regional workshops, including workshops in Spanish, which meant we had far more participants from Latin America than we ever had before.
Mexican stakeholders have always made a strong contribution to WSIS. I congratulate all the Mexican Prize Winners and Champions ─ one of the best results of any country in the world. My thanks also go out to the Mexican government for supporting and implementing these projects. I would like to congratulate the “Digital Inclusion-Free WiFi” project from Mexico which won a WSIS Prize this year.
Mexico has been a strong and enduring partner of ITU since 1908 and a Member of ITU’s Council since 1952. Initiatives like “Conozco Mi Consumo” are showing us the way; they are important tools of empowerment in these times of crisis and I hope will be a model for other countries to follow.
The pandemic we are facing knows no borders and makes no distinctions. In response, let us reaffirm our commitment to work together to build a world where no one is left behind and where opportunities have no boundaries.
Image credit: Jezael Melgoza via Unsplash