Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Geneva this afternoon for this Library Talk and Art Exhibit on ‘Connecting the world: Art and the information society’.
This is a tremendous initiative from Diva International Magazine, and in particular from its Editor-in-Chief, Marit Fosse. The International Telecommunication Union – the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies – is honoured to sponsor it.
As the Secretary-General of the ITU, my mission is to connect the world, and to bring the benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.
And I firmly believe that if we can succeed in achieving our mission, then we will see unprecedented social and economic improvement for all, and that we will continue to make bold steps in accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals – and indeed other sustainable development goals as we move forward.
In the 21st century, information and communication technologies, ICTs, have become key enablers in every facet of human activity – from healthcare and education to energy, transportation, government, entertainment, innovation, enterprise – and of course culture and the arts.
For the first time in human history, thanks to ICTs, the entire sum of human knowledge and experience has been brought within reach of all the world’s people – and this creates limitless possibilities to create and share our artistic endeavours, and to enjoy and benefit from one another’s cultural and linguistic heritage.
There are those who are concerned that technological advances will lead us into a dystopian world where we lose our individual freedoms and forget the richness and variety of other cultures and other cultural traditions – and we must work hard to ensure that this does not happen.
I personally am an optimist, however, and I firmly believe that the good we can expect to achieve with new technologies far outweighs the dangers, and that we will see traditional cultural and artistic values enriched and enhanced rather than enfeebled and eroded.
We will see culture and the arts flourish and we will see a genuine creative rebirth which will make each and every one of us a better individual – and this in turn will help to create more closely-linked communities and better societies as we move forward.
Technology itself, of course, is also playing an active role in inspiring the imaginations of artists everywhere and in making art itself more accessible – both to those creating it and to those appreciating it.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Throughout human history, artists have embraced new technologies as they became available – from the invention of papyrus by the Egyptians, to the development of new techniques in stone carving in Ancient Greece, to the perfection of frescoes and oil painting in the past thousand years, to the use of mediums such as photography, film and multimedia in the 20th century.
Throughout this cultural and technological progress we see one constant – which is the desire, indeed the need, to communicate. The desire to cross linguistic and cultural divides, and to reach out and inspire other people, both near and far. The desire to have a voice and to be heard.
ICTs bring the potential to reach out to all of humanity, and have the potential to give everyone a voice, and to be heard across the world.
Perhaps for the first time, we can speak of the possibility of a global cultural movement; one that embraces the wonderful and extraordinary diversity found in different cultures and traditions and one that speaks across the divides of language, geography and history.
And on that note, let me hand over to our moderator for this afternoon’s discussion, Mr David Chikvaidze, the Chief Librarian and Head of the UN Cultural Activities Programme, so that we can share our views – face to face this afternoon, and later on through the shared medium of the online world.