By Al Gore
Decisions and the basis for making them must also be made public so
that consumers and potential competitors are assured that their
interests are being protected.
This is why in the U.S., we have delegated significant regulatory
powers to an independent agency, the Federal Communications
Commission. This expert body is well-equipped to make difficult
technical decisions and to monitor, in conjunction with the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of
Justice, changing market conditions. We commend this approach to you.
We need a flexible, effective system for resolution of international
issues, too-- one that can keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of
I understand that the ITU has just gone through a major reorganization
designed to increase its effectiveness. This will enable the ITU,
under the able leadership of Mr. Tarjanne, to streamline its operations
and redirect resources to where they are needed most. This will ensure
that the ITU can adapt to future and unimaginable technologies.
Our fourth principle is open access. By this I mean that telephone and
video network owners should charge non-discriminatory prices for access
to their networks. This principle will guarantee every user of the GII
can use thousands of different sources of information--video
programming, electronic newspapers, computer bulletin boards--from
every country, in every language.
With new technologies like direct broadcast satellites, a few networks
will no longer be able to control your access to information--as long
as government policies permit new entrants into the information
Countries and companies will not be able to compete in the global
economy if they cannot get access to up-to-date information, if they
cannot communicate instantly with customers around the globe. Ready
access to information is also essential for training the skilled
workforce needed for high-tech industries.
The countries that flourish in the twenty-first century will be those
that have telecommunications policies and copyright laws that provide
their citizens access to a wide choice of information services.
Protecting intellectual property is absolutely essential.
The final and most important principle is to ensure universal service
so that the Global Information Infrastructure is available to all
members of our societies. Our goal is a kind of global conversation,
in which everyone who wants can have his or her say.
We must ensure that whatever steps we take to expand our worldwide
telecommunications infrastructure, we keep that goal in mind.
Although the details of universal service will vary from country to
country and from service to service, several aspects of universal
service apply everywhere. Access clearly includes making service
available at affordable prices to persons at all income levels. It
also includes making high quality service available regardless of
geographic location or other restrictions such as disability.
Constellations of hundreds of satellites in low earth orbit may soon
provide telephone or data services to any point on the globe. Such
systems could make universal service both practical and affordable.
An equally important part of universal access is teaching consumers how
to use communications effectively. That means developing easy-to-use
applications for a variety of contexts, and teaching people how to use
them. The most sophisticated and cost-efficient networks will be
completely useless if users are unable to understand how to access and
take full advantage of their offerings.
Another dimension of universal service is the recognition that
marketplace economics should not be the sole determinant of the reach
of the information infrastructure.
The President and I have called for positive government action in the
United States to extend the NII to every classroom, library, hospital,
and clinic in the U.S. by the end of the century.
I want to urge that this conference include in its agenda for action
the commitment to determine how every school and library in every
country can be connected to the Internet, the world's largest computer
network, in order to create a Global Digital Library. Each library
could maintain a server containing books and journals in electronic
form, along with indexes to help users find other materials. As more
and more information is stored electronically, this global library
would become more and more useful.
It would allow millions of students, scholars and businesspeople to
find the information they need whether it be in Albania or Ecuador.
Private investment ... competition ... flexibility ... open access ...
In addition to urging the delegates of this conference to adopt these
principles as part of the Buenos Aires Declaration, guiding the next
four years of telecommunications development, I assure you that the
U.S. will be discussing in many fora, inside and outside the ITU,
whether these principles might be usefully adopted by all countries.
The commitment of all nations to enforcing regulatory regimes to build
the GII is vital to world development and many global social goals.
But the power of the Global Information Infrastructure will be
diminished if it cannot reach large segments of the world population.
We have heard together Dr. Tarjanne's eloquent speech setting forth the
challenges we face. As he points out: the 24 countries of the OECD
have only 16 percent of the world's population. But they account for
70 percent of global telephone mainlines and 90 percent of mobile phone
There are those who say the lack of economic development causes poor
telecommunications. I believe they have it exactly backwards. A
primitive telecommunications systems causes poor economic development.
So we cannot be complacent about the disparity between the high and low
income nations, whether in how many phones are available to people or
in whether they have such new technologies as high speed computer
networks or videoconferencing.
The United States delegation is devoted to working with each of you at
this Conference to address the many problems that hinder development.
And there are many. Financing is a problem in almost every country,
even though telecommunications has proven itself to be an excellent
Even where telecommunications has been identified as a top development
priority, countries lack trained personnel and up-to-date information.
And in too many parts of the world, political unrest makes it difficult
or impossible to maintain existing infrastructure, let alone lay new
wire or deploy new capacity.
How can we work together to overcome these hurdles? Let me mention a
few things industrialized countries can do to help.
First, we can use the Global Information Infrastructure for technical
collaboration between industrialized nations and developing countries.
All agencies of the U.S. government are potential sources of
information and knowledge that can be shared with partners across the
The Global Information Infrastructure can help development agencies
link experts from every nation and enable them to solve common
problems. For instance, the Pan American Health Organization has
conducted hemisphere-wide teleconferences to present new methods to
diagnose and prevent the spread of AIDS.
Second, multilateral institutions like the World Bank, can help nations
finance the building of telecommunications infrastructure.
Third, the U.S. can help provide the technical know-how needed to
deploy and use these new technologies. USAID and U.S. businesses have
helped the U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute train more than
3500 telecommunications professionals from the developing world,
including many in this room.
In the future, USTTI plans also to help businesspeople, bankers,
farmers, and others from the developing world find ways that computer
networking, wireless technology, satellites, video links, and other
telecommunications technology could improve their effectiveness and
I challenge other nations, the development banks, and the UN system to
create similar training opportunities.
The head of our Peace Corps, Carol Bellamy, intends to use Peace Corps
volunteers both to help deploy telecommunications and computer systems
and to find innovative uses for them. Here in Argentina, a Peace
Corps volunteer is doing just that.
To join the GII to the effort to protect and preserve the global
environment, our Administration will soon propose using satellite and
personal communication technology to create a global network of
environmental information. We will propose using the schools and
students of the world to gather and study environmental information on
a daily basis and communicate that data to the world through
But regulatory reform must accompany this technical assistance and
financial aid for it to work. This requires top-level leadership and
commitment--commitment to foster investment in telecommunications and
commitment to adopt policies that ensure the rapid deployment and
widespread use of the information infrastructure.
I opened by quoting Nathaniel Hawthorne, inspired by Samuel Morse's
invention of the telegraph.
Morse was also a famous portrait artist in the U.S.-- his portrait of
President James Monroe hangs today in the White House. While Morse was
working on a portrait of General Lafayette in Washington, his wife, who
lived about 500 kilometers away, grew ill and died. But it took seven
days for the news to reach him.
In his grief and remorse, he began to wonder if it were possible to
erase barriers of time and space, so that no one would be unable to
reach a loved one in time of need. Pursuing this thought, he came to
discover how to use electricity to convey messages, and so he invented
the telegraph and, indirectly, the ITU.
The Global Information Infrastructure offers instant communication to
the great human family.
It can provide us the information we need to dramatically improve the
quality of their lives. By linking clinics and hospitals together, it
will ensure that doctors treating patients have access to the best
possible information on diseases and treatments. By providing early
warning on natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or
typhoons, it can save the lives of thousands of people.
By linking villages and towns, it can help people organize and work
together to solve local and regional problems ranging from improving
water supplies to preventing deforestation.
To promote ... to protect ... to preserve freedom and democracy, we
must make telecommunications development an integral part of every
nation's development. Each link we create strengthens the bonds of
liberty and democracy around the world. By opening markets to
stimulate the development of the global information infrastructure, we
open lines of communication.
By opening lines of communication, we open minds. This summer, from my
country cameras will bring the World Cup Championship to well over one
To those of you from the 23 visiting countries whose teams are in the
Finals, I wish you luck--although I'll be rooting for the home team.
The Global Information Infrastructure carries implications even more
important than soccer.
It has brought us images of earthquakes in California, of Boris Yeltsin
on a tank in Red Square, of the effects of mortar shells in Sarajevo
and Somalia, of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It has brought us images
of war and peace, and tragedy and joy, in which we all can share.
There's a Dutch relief worker, Wam Kat, who has been broadcasting an
electronic diary from Zagreb for more than a year and a half on the
Internet, sharing his observations of life in Croatia.
After reading Kat's Croatian diary, people around the world began to
send money for relief efforts. The result: 25 houses have been
rebuilt in a town destroyed by war.
Governments didn't do this. People did. But such events are the hope
of the future.
When I began proposing the NII in the U.S., I said that my hope is that
the United States, born in revolution, can lead the way to this new,
peaceful revolution. However, I believe we will reach our goal faster
and with greater certainty if we walk down that path together. As
Antonio Machado, Spanish poet, once said, "Pathwalker, there is no
path, we create the path as we walk."
Let us build a global community in which the people of neighboring
countries view each other not as potential enemies, but as potential
partners, as members of the same family in the vast, increasingly
interconnected human family.
Let us seize this moment. Let us work to link the people of the
world. Let us create this new path as we walk it together.