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G8-UNESCO World Forum on ‘Education, Research and Innovation: New Partnership for Sustainable Development’

Trieste, Italy, 10 May 2007

Welcoming remarks by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

 

It is a pleasure for me, as the newly-elected Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), to join this distinguished company to discuss education, research and innovation. As a technical agency and a standards-making body, ITU is committed to promoting research and innovation, especially in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
 
Over the last few years, ITU had the honour of playing the leading managerial role in the organization of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS); a UN Summit held in two phases in Geneva in December 2003 and Tunis in November 2005. ITU is now working with UNESCO and other stakeholders on the implementation of the WSIS outcomes.
 
The WSIS is important in the context of this meeting because it has established, at the highest level, an agenda for coordinated work by all stakeholders, aimed at building the Information Society. The WSIS outcome documents provide a framework for our work and creates a mechanism—multi-stakeholder partnership—for establishing our shared goals.
 
Over the next two weeks, in Geneva, we will be holding a cluster of WSIS-related meetings, open to all stakeholders, for implementing the WSIS. In particular, several of the action lines that are relevant to the topic of this meeting—for instance, C3 on access to information; C4 on capacity building, C8 on multilingualism and the C7 themes on e-learning and e-science—will hold facilitation meetings. I am very happy with the cooperation between ITU and UNESCO in facilitating this work and I would invite you all to Geneva to participate.
 
As part of this cluster of meetings, ITU is hosting a ceremony to commemorate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, when we will be making awards to a number of innovators and thought-leaders for their personal contribution to building the Information Society.
 
But, building the Information Society is not enough. We must go beyond this to create “knowledge societies”. What is the difference between the two concepts? An “Information Society” is one in which everyone, everywhere, has access to ICTs and access to information. But a “knowledge society” is one in which people are able to make optimal use of that information, to shape a better world.
 
If ITU’s focus is on the “supply side” of the Information Society; then UNESCO’s emphasis is on the “demand side”; looking at ICT applications and how information is used. The good news is that, over the last few years, we have made tremendous strides in making ICTs available to more and more of the world’s inhabitants. Since the first PrepCom of the Geneva phase of WSIS, more than one billion new mobile phone users have been added to the world’s networks. Now, the challenge is to help those new users to become “knowledge workers”, “power users”, or just simply “connected” to the global village.
 
In conclusion, as we move from the Information Society to knowledge societies, the challenge is to engage all the world’s skills and resources. Historically, a country’s “Information Service” has been the preserve of spies and code-breakers, using secret information to gain competitive or military advantage. By contrast, a countr‎y’s “knowledge base” refers to the sharing of information, through schools, universities and lifelong learning. Let us commit today to building a society which is based on shared knowledge, global solidarity and a better mutual understanding between nations and peoples.
 
Thank you.

 

 

 

 

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