Ladies and gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this ceremony on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. As you know, we celebrate this annually on 17 May to mark the founding of ITU in 1865. This year, however, we are celebrating it a day early because tomorrow is a national holiday.
First, let me congratulate the laureates of this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Award.
Let me welcome His Excellency Vice-president Amodo Boudou of the Argentine Republic – who is here on behalf of our first laureate, Her Excellency Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina.
Under President Kirchner’s able leadership, ICT development has made great strides in Argentina. The National Telecommunication Plan, pushed by Executive Power through the Ministry of Federal Planning and Public Investment Services, has taken far-reaching steps in connecting the people of Argentina to ICTs.
During President Kirchner’s first term in office, from 2007 to 2011, mobile connectivity in Argentina more than doubled from around 23 million to over 55 million mobile cellular subscriptions, giving a penetration rate of over 140%, compared with an average of 94.5% in the Americas region as a whole. The progress is even more striking when we learn that in 2003 there were fewer than 8 million mobile cellular subscriptions in the country.
Argentina is now well poised to show the world that women and girls have an important leadership role to play in ICT growth and development.
Ladies and gentlemen
The theme of this World Telecommunication and Information Society Day – Women and Girls in ICT – will ensure that we pull together all our resources to provide the best possible opportunities for this significant half of the world’s population to benefit from ICTs as well as to seize every available digital opportunity and have women at the highest echelons of decision-making within the ICT sector.
Along with Her Excellency the President of Argentina we have two other laureates who have contributed significantly to showing the world by their own example how women can reach the highest positions in their fields.
Madame Sun Yafang is Chairman of Huawei, a position she has held since 1999. Ms Sun’s leadership has taken Huawei from a small local enterprise to a global giant providing innovative technologies and tailored solutions and services to leading telecoms operators worldwide. She has spearheaded management reforms that have helped transform Huawei into a multinational corporation and a leading vendor in the telecoms industry. Madame Sun is also actively involved in a variety of corporate responsibility programmes as well as philanthropic activities and is an inspiration to all of us, especially to women and girls around the world.
Geena Davis is a Hollywood icon and one of its most respected actors appearing in several landmark roles. She is not only an Academy Award-winning actor, but a world-class athlete, having competed in archery at the highest international levels. She is also recognized for her tireless advocacy of women and girls beyond her acting accomplishments. She is the founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and is an official partner of UN Women in their effort to change the way media represents women and girls worldwide.
I welcome once again the 2012 Laureates of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Awards.
Ladies and gentlemen
ICTs play a catalytic role in creating opportunities for people in every walk of life, especially for those among us who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, while providing the framework for long-term sustainable development.
This year, on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, we are determined to harness the full potential of ICTs for the benefit of women and girls by eliminating gender disparities and empowering women and girls to achieve their goals and meet their aspirations.
Women are the bedrock of our societies. They are the pillars of strength in every family and community. Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched. Women and girls are denied access to basic health care and education and to equal opportunities at work. They face segregation in economic, political and social decision-making and often suffer violence and discrimination.
This situation is unacceptable and we must address it with all the means available to us.
Gender equality is a basic human right enshrined in the UN Charter, and it is one of the main objectives of the UN Millennium Development Goals. ICTs are tools that can help accelerate progress towards achieving this target, and it is for this reason that we are focusing our efforts this year on women and girls, using the power of ICTs to provide new digital opportunities to end discrimination, and to empower women and girls to achieve their rightful place as equals in the world. This effort with ICTs must begin not only from the cradle, but from antenatal health care, reaching out to the remotest communities through telemedicine and every other means at our disposal ― with every mother, every girl and every woman guaranteed her birthright.
I call upon ITU Member States, Sector Members and Associates as well as academia and citizens’ groups to pull together every conceivable resource to ensure that women and girls in every community around the world have full access to ICTs in order to empower them with information and knowledge, to know their rights, and to seize every available digital opportunity.
I also call upon our other partners and stakeholders ― political leaders, policy makers, regulators, operators, industry and civil society ― to adopt policies and strategies that will promote ICT opportunities for women and girls.
National governments, the private sector, donors, civil society and educators need to acknowledge and support the central role professional women can play in further developing and servicing a dynamic and competitive ICT sector. The growing demand for a range of ICT skills around the globe represents a unique window of opportunity to properly position girls and women in the industry and provide them with the tools necessary to succeed.
The ICT sector in particular can pave the way – by providing avenues of advancement to professional women at the highest echelons of decision-making, and by encouraging young women to seek new careers within the sector.
So let’s make sure we all work together to make that happen!