Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the World 2011 Event Launch, celebrating 40 years of ITU Telecom events.
I think today we are rather blasé about technology, but back in 1971, when the first ITU Telecom World event was held, things were startlingly different.
The Internet – even in its most primitive form – was still a decade away. Mass mobile telephony and the world wide web were almost a generation into the future.
Today the ICT industry is a four trillion dollar business reaching into almost every home, office, school and hospital around the world.
Can you imagine the world today without being able to search for things online? Without being able to send and receive text messages? Without email or online shopping or mobile devices which keep you in touch anywhere, anytime?
Can you imagine a world without GPS and without computers on desktops?
Can you imagine a world without social media?
That was the world in 1971, when we launched ITU Telecom.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What is amazing – amongst all this evolutionary and often revolutionary technology – is that some things haven’t changed at all.
We still want to reach out to all the world’s people, and bring the benefits of ICTs to everyone, wherever they live and whatever their means.
And we still find that events like this, which bring together all the stakeholders, are one of the best ways of moving that agenda forward.
We have made incredible strides towards the goal of ‘connecting the world’, with more than two billion people online and well over five billion mobile cellular subscriptions.
But there are still huge opportunities to do more, to bring the benefits of new technologies to the people who need them most – often those in rural and remote areas and in the developing world.
At this event, this week, we decided to break down some of the barriers to information exchange which we faced in the past – and notably by opening up the entire event to the online world.
There will be tens of thousands of people from across the world, following and interacting with the debates in this venue.
Tomorrow and on Thursday, in this space, there will be 12 workshops where we will ask you to help us answer a number of ‘big questions’. You can sign up to take part on YourSpace.
Your thoughts, opinions and ideas will feed into a ‘Manifesto for Change’, filled with recommendations about how we can get closer to bringing the benefits of connectivity to all the world’s citizens.
So let me challenge you to challenge us – and help us to create a brand new narrative for the 21st century!
Before I close, let me remind you that we have brought a group of young digital innovators to Geneva to demonstrate brilliant and innovative new ideas.
This afternoon, in the two workspaces you can see here, they will share their ideas with us.
We therefore ask you – and the thousands of people around the world following the event – to join in and to help us decide which of them most deserve to win significant cash prizes to turn their wonderful ideas into reality.