Honourable Ministers, Chair,
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to first express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to Minister Katayama and to Japan for hosting this Ministerial Meeting. On behalf of the APEC Secretariat, thank you for the warm and generous welcome extended to us here on the beautiful island of Okinawa.

Today's meeting is both important and timely. It is important because the telecommunications and ICT sector undergirds the knowledge-based economy. As such, it is an essential sector for APEC economies as well as one of the region's primary growth engines.

This meeting is timely because its outcomes will indeed contribute a crucial element to the formulation of APEC's new Growth Strategy, especially with respect to the attribute of innovative growth. As Mr. Nishiyama has just indicated, the recommendations generated in this meeting will be submitted to Leaders for consideration in a few short weeks.

The significance of the telecommunications and ICT sector for APEC's growth and prosperity cannot be overemphasised. Throughout the years, ICT has revolutionised the way the region's citizens communicate, do business, interact with governments, and educate and inform one another.

At the same time, APEC members have also made considerable progress towards improving their own domestic and regional telecommunications policies and infrastructure to harness the benefits of ICT, and to enable individuals and governments to fully participate in, and benefit from, the digital economy.

Recent studies have also demonstrated that ICT capital has three times the impact on productivity than non-ICT capital, and up to seven times the productivity in economies with lower levels of IT usage.

Much of the region's future growth is therefore dependent on the use and development of information and communication technologies, including the deployment of broadband infrastructure in the APEC region, along with encouraging the adoption of policies that foster innovative growth.

In terms of ICT infrastructure, between 2000 and 2010, APEC economies largely achieved the Brunei goal of universal internet access throughout the region. Members are now focused on working towards the more ambitious target of guaranteeing universal access to broadband by 2015 - an ambitious goal set at the last APEC TEL Ministerial Meeting two years ago in Bangkok.

It is clear that ensuring universally accessible ICT infrastructure and services will not only contribute to bridging the digital divide, but will also help extend social and economic prosperity to all, thereby contributing significantly to APEC's inclusive growth agenda.

In the same way, ICT can also effectively address global challenges in critical areas such as energy, healthcare and the environment, as well as enhance effectiveness of emergency preparedness and raise efficiencies in public safety, transportation and education. This is essential to realising the attributes of sustainable and secure growth.

The contribution of the APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group to the progress achieved cannot be over-estimated. The TEL group has been working hard to promote the development and up-take of ICT among APEC members, to guide us into the digital age and to drive us toward prosperity.

Essentially, what members and the TEL Working Group have been doing is expanding and strengthening the Asia-Pacific Information Infrastructure and continually developing APEC's broad vision of the Asia-Pacific Information Society.

The APEC Secretariat welcomes the new priorities and directions that Ministers will set today. We look forward to this roadmap that will define new strategies of cooperation within APEC and between other multilateral organisations, governments and businesses.

The APEC Secretariat also looks forward to the renewed commitments that APEC members will make at this meeting and to the setting of new, ambitious goals that ensures cutting edge ICT infrastructure and policy is in place for our innovative economies in the APEC region.

Thank you.

For further details, please contact:

Media