Message from the Secretary-General of the ITU
Since the World Telecommunication Development Conference last convened four years ago we have witnessed extremes in the economic cycle of the telecommunication industry. The gloom that descended upon the telecommunications industry following the burst of the dot.com bubble was certainly understandable, yet the global information society continues to evolve at breakneck speed with information and communication technologies (ICT) at the heart of this fundamental transformation of our society.
However, access to ICT in rural and remote areas continues to be a challenge, limiting the potential benefits to the world's poorer inhabitants and those furthest away from urban centres. Governments and regulators have a duty to make sure that telecommunication access is available to everyone. We also have a responsibility to ensure it is priced reasonably, making not just the technology, but also the services available and affordable to all sectors of society.
In order to meet these challenges, the International Telecommunication Union is playing an increasingly vital role as a facilitator of international policy-making. This is especially important to the work of the World Telecommunication Development Conference as it addresses the problems of access to ICT, an inequity between developed and developing nations known as the "Digital Divide".
The most prosperous nations of the world, the G8, have made a joint commitment to address these inequities. Following the spirit of that commitment, the World Telecommunication Development Conference will hold a special session to discuss both short and long-term action plans to bridge the "Digital Divide". The work accomplished here will provide critical input for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to be held under the ITU's leadership in 2003, at which time a common vision and political commitments of the Information Society will be developed by all of its stakeholders.
Despite lingering market uncertainties in the telecommunications industry, many middle-income developing countries are making rapid progress to world-class networks. However, it is in the world's poorest nations where the problems of the Digital Divide are most acute. The challenge facing the upcoming World Telecommunication Development Conference is to show how sector reform and investment in information and communications technologies can make a genuine difference to improving the livelihoods of the world's most deprived. I believe that together we are capable of meeting this challenge.
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Updated : 2002-03-11