ICT skeptic shocks ITU panel

07 Oct 2009

The panel session on day two of ITU World began with the usual refrain about the ability of ICTs to solve pretty well all of the planet’s problems.

Then came Pascual Garcia Alba, chief of staff for Mexico’s Undersecretary of Communications.

“The problems of the world are not going away because we have ICT,” he said, speaking in the wake of enthusiastic speakers from Intel, Telenor and NTT.

He told a standing-room only audience that “we have been hearing about how marvelous ICTs are for solving the problems of the world. But I want to put forward some skepticism on the topic.”

He said in some aspects, the world’s problems “seem to have worsened if anything at all. So I would like to say that for me, ICTs are a tool.”

With or without ICTs, Alba said, the developing world had the same problems: regulation, respect for property rights, competition, and the need to simplify the business environment.

They can help solve those problems, “but we still need the political will to overcome things like monopolies.”

The best way is to promote universal access and to have good telecoms policies, and to put the private sector in the driver’s seat.

In the face of such doubt the moderator, Bosco Eduardo Fernandes, a VP at NSN, took it as his duty to work with the other panelists to convince Alba on ICT as the Holy Grail for development and fueling the economic recovery.

Without success. “ICTs are necessary condition for development, but they are far from being a sufficient condition,” insisted Alba.

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