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Opening remarks on the occasion of the celebration of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day
Istanbul, Turkey
17 May 2007

Opening Remarks by ITU Deputy Secretary-General Mr Houlin Zhao 

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to join you in Istanbul for the celebration of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day.

First of all, allow me to convey to you the best greetings of the ITU Secretary-General, Dr. Hamadoun Touré, and the whole team of the ITU elected officials.

This day used to be known as World Telecommunication Day marks ITU’s 142nd birthday, commemorating its establishment—as the International Telegraph Union—in Paris, on May 17, 1865. In 2006, following the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the United Nations General Assembly declared 17 May World Information Society Day to be celebrated every year.

Later in the year, ITU Member States adopted a resolution to celebrate 17 May as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. This is a clear statement of the importance of the role that the telecommunication sector plays in building an Information Society, which is inclusive, people-centred and development-oriented.

It is a particular pleasure for me to celebrate this day with you in Turkey, because your country has played a major role over the last 12 months in shaping ITU’s future. I am referring, of course, to the Plenipotentiary Conference which was hosted so successfully and so graciously by the government of Turkey in Antalya, from 6-24 November 2006. That historic conference elected a new management team for the Union, including myself as Deputy Secretary-General. But, more importantly, it opened a new path for the Union, for instance by focusing our work on the emerging priorities of bridging the digital divide, cybersecurity and emergency telecommunications.

Among many important achievements, the Plenipotentiary Conference paved the way for the greater participation of civil society in ITU’s work. In that respect, I am delighted to see a number of civil society entities and other professional associations taking part in the panel session and award ceremony later today.

The Plenipotentiary Conference also confirmed the role that ITU will play as one of the leading facilitating agencies for the implementation of the outcomes of the WSIS. We have facilitated a cluster of WSIS-related meetings in Geneva, between 14-25 May, which are aimed at coordinating the work of the different stakeholders. ITU’s own role is in facilitating action lines C2, on communications infrastructure, and C5 on building confidence and security in the use of ICTs. More information about these activities can be found on our website (www. itu.int).

Yesterday, in Geneva, during the ceremony to mark World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, the Secretary-General presented the ITU World Information Society Award to honour Her Excellency Dr. Margarita Cedeño de Fernández, First Lady of the Dominican Republic for mobilizing public opinion and, Mozilla Corporation of the United States for key technical innovation, as well as Professor Mark I. Krivocheev of the Russian Federation for his lifetime achievements in digital television broadcasting, including High Definition Television. The Award ceremony is the centerpiece of the WSIS cluster of meetings, and it is our hope that it will encourage national ceremonies and similar awards.

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Connecting the Young”. Young people are often the most connected members of society, and they are pioneering new applications, such as social networking, mobile phone texting and user-generated content. The average age of ICT users is also falling as children have access to ICTs at a younger age.

In an increasingly networked world, the young are not only the beneficiaries but often the driving force behind the latest innovations and practices, and for many, the dependence on information and communication technologies (ICT) has come to determine their choice of lifestyle. It is clearly our duty today to provide the opportunities of ICT to all children and youth, particularly to those who remain unconnected from the ongoing digital revolution.

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) recognized young people as the future workforce and earliest adopters of ICT and called for their empowerment. In order to achieve this critical objective, national e-strategies must address the special requirements of children, especially the disadvantaged and marginalized, and ensure their full inclusion in the Information Society. ICT are powerful tools to empower children and other vulnerable groups with information and knowledge and act as a catalyst in ensuring their rights within the comity of nations.

The key to achieving the development aspirations of the world’s inhabitants lies in investing in the future generation, especially by improving access to communication among today’s children and enhancing their capacities.

So let us promote visionary public policies, innovative business models and creative technological solutions that will empower young people and engage them in the global effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

To conclude, I wish to thank the Turkish Government for inviting me to join you today. ITU looks forward to continuing to work with the Turkish Administration and Turkish industry to implement the results of WSIS as well as the strategic goals of ITU, and the ambitious plan of Turkey on ICT development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you every success and happiness on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2007!

Thank you.

 

 

 

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