Your excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, Youth Forum fellows and alumni,
It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you to the 2009 ITU World TELECOM Youth Forum.
In the Telecommunication Development Bureau, we consider that organizing the Youth Forum is both a duty and a privilege. As Director of the BDT, I feel extremely proud to see you all in this room and to lead the team who will provide you with a unique experience during this week in Geneva. However, before going further with my remarks, I’d like to ask you two simple questions:
- How many among you have or will have access to higher education? Raise your hands…
- How many among you have access to the Internet? Raise your hands again!
Well, you see, most of you are also privileged, because you have access to today’s most empowering tools: information and education. My role, our role, is to make sure that you will use your privileged position to help the world, and in particular your own country.
Youth are a reservoir of talent. In my view, education and training initiatives such as the Youth Forum help to unlock these vital reserves of talent. You know that investing in youth is investing in our collective future. The return on investment can be measured in new hope and opportunities, improved lives for young people and their communities, and the creativity and innovation they bring to the ICT sector. We, in the ITU, promote youth-focused ICT development activities as a major component of our mission to connect the world and build a better Information Society.
In an increasingly networked world, young people are also often the visionaries behind new ways to leverage the power of ICTs. Just think of some of the most popular social networking sites that were first developed on college campuses before exploding on the international scene! Our goal is to continue to open new doors to the ever-changing opportunities offered by ICTs. We do this for you – but also especially for those who remain unconnected or on the outskirts of the ongoing digital revolution.
The ICT sector is multi-faceted, invoking technology, policy and regulatory issues, cyber security, child online protection, capacity building, social and economic development as well as emergency communications.
Let’s here have a compassionate thought to the citizens of the Philippines, Indonesia, Samoa and Tonga who are suffering from major climatic disasters. I have given instructions to our Emergency Communications Division, so that we intervene on the field immediately, along with the international community.
Our goal for all Youth Forum fellows is to help uncover the many layers and facets that make up the world of ICT so that you may find your place in this fascinating environment. Some people may tell you that the ICT sector is changing so quickly that what you learn today will become obsolete by tomorrow. Of course, technologies are ever changing. What remains immutable, however, is that technology, in whatever form, can be harnessed for economic and social development. That is exactly our aim here in the ITU. Let us hope that this Youth Forum will unleash your reservoir of talent!
In this room we have 300 young people from around the globe, representing their countries and national universities. They are gender balanced with two men and two women from each ITU Member State who will work as a team and share the knowledge they gain this week with other young people when they return home. Before coming to Geneva, they’ve been communicating online to get to know each other and to prepare for the challenging programme prepared for them this week.
The ITU’s Bureau for Telecommunication Development (BDT) has invited leading figures from the public and private sectors to speak frankly and openly to the youth about the problems and opportunities that the ICT industry now faces. We are also very honored that the United Nations Secretary-General has promised to join us tomorrow in the policy and regulation session ”Connect a School, Connect a Community”.
The importance of including young people in the ICT development process is to create opportunities for them to share their vision of how to leverage the power of ICTs — and how to use them to create new economic and social benefits in their home countries. I would encourage additional efforts be made at the national, regional and international levels to motivate and attract young people to the ICT sector.
The Youth Forum provides a platform where representatives of governments, industry, universities, international organizations and this year’s fellows and past alumni can debate the important role of ICTs in development. At the conclusion of these debates, the fellows will establish a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action, which can serve as their personal mission statement. We are particularly eager to receive input from the Youth Forum on our latest initiative to promote school connectivity for young people and the communities in which they live as they would be the greatest beneficiaries.
I would like to briefly mention some other Youth-related projects and activities of the BDT:
• The Youth Education Scheme (YES) is a partnership with the ITU membership providing scholarships to needy and qualified youth to pursue education in ICT-related fields. These scholarships are entirely funded by external contributions. In 2009, I’m proud to say that generous contributions from Norway, Spain and Alcatel Lucent enabled us to award the largest number of scholarships ever. However, I am concerned about the future of the YES programme unless new sponsors are found. I hope that other ITU members can step forward and lend their support to YES so that we can continue with this important programme.
• The Youth Initiative Scheme (YIS) is also a partnership with the ITU membership providing young people the opportunity to acquire work experience in the ICT industry or in ITU headquarters or field offices. Again, I would encourage our membership, particularly our private sector members, to provide these internship possibilities which can make a real difference for a young person starting out in their career.
• The Young Leaders in ICT Network provides youth with access to ITU’s activities, follow-up on their participation and enables them to stay connected and informed of ICT developments.
This is the 9th Youth Forum - the 3rd World Youth Forum and the 2nd to be held in Geneva. We now have almost 1500 alumni who network with each other to promote ICT development and careers. In this year’s Forum, we are delighted to welcome 12 alumni and look forward to hearing of their latest achievements.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
ITU Member States and national universities worked together in partnership to identify the best and brightest candidates who are with us today. I value their ongoing contributions and support for the Youth Forum which has ensured we have a diverse range of backgrounds, countries and cultures. I’d like to thank the media and speakers in the Forum as well as the hosts for our special working lunch sessions. I am grateful to CISCO, ISOC, Nokia Siemens and the Standardization and Radiocommunication Sectors of the ITU who have helped make these sessions possible.
I wish you a fruitful week and I urge you to bear witness to the enthusiasm and energy of these young people who are eager to succeed in the ICT sector. They just need opportunities — opportunities that you may be able to provide. Let us work together — because investing in youth is investing in our future.
I’m pleased to invite you to come to the Youth Forum lunch at the end of this session.
Geneva, Switzerland 10/4/2009