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World Information Society Award Ceremony
ITU Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
16 May 2007

Remarks by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

 

Your Excellency Mrs. Margarita Cedeño de Fernandez
Prof. Mark Krivocheev, Chief Scientist of the Radio Research Institute in Moscow
Ms. Mitchell Baker, President and CEO of Mozilla Corporation
Distinguished officials of ITU
Excellencies
Mr. Chancellor of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is, indeed, a pleasure for me to address you this afternoon on the occasion of the second annual presentation of the ITU World Information Society Award and, my first, in my capacity as ITU Secretary-General.


This ceremony has one single great purpose – to honour the three eminent laureates before you. And I will return to this idea later in my remarks.


We are celebrating 17 May exceptionally this year. But I invite you to take a moment — to reflect — with me on 17 May as World Information Society Day as declared by the UN General Assembly and as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day as adopted by the 2006 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey.


I have to confess that I am feeling — again — the emotions that I felt when ITU Members elected me Secretary-General. I am sure that my colleagues, the other four ITU officials, who were elected with me, share the same feeling.


In each of the two phases of WSIS — Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005, some 50 heads of state and government came together to confer on us the benefits of their collective wisdom. Their commitments to the entire world are found in four documents: the Geneva Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action and the Tunis Commitment and Agenda for the Information Society.


Intervening between the two phases of WSIS is the 2005 World Summit in New York. There — some 150 heads of state and government recognized the role of science and technology in achieving the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, our world leaders specifically recognized — for the first time — the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in achieving the development aspirations of all the world’s inhabitants.


In commemoration of our 142nd anniversary, I am very proud to remind you that ITU laid the foundation for the information society in 1865 — well before WSIS and the 2005 World Summit in New York.


I stand here before you today to remind you that ITU Member States have set our goals and objectives — and more importantly — our priorities by embracing the respective outcome of WSIS and the 2005 World Summit.


Where do we go from here?


Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen our political, business and civil society leaders have spoken through summits and conferences. Now it’s the time to act.


Why should we act? The reason is simple — we are eight years — I repeat — eight years away from 2015 the target date to connect all villages, towns and cities of the world and achieve the MDGs.


Unfortunately, the possibility of not meeting the MDGs is very real. But, if there is a chance to meet those goals we must rely on ICTs to accelerate the process.


ICTs are omnipresent tools with profound implications for all economic sectors. The way we communicate, do business or engage in leisure activities is in constant and rapid evolution. We have all become familiar with e-Commerce, e- government, e-learning, and e-Health. ICTs facilitate everything from a banking transaction to an AIDS awareness campaign.


Convergence of broadcasting, telecommunication and information technologies, create more potent and effective tools. However, convergence requires a well developed, state of the art, ICT infrastructure, well trained professionals and users.


So, to meet this challenge, I propose that you roll up your sleeves and join me, the ITU and its partners in the Connect Series. We will begin this year with a Marshall type plan to Connect Africa.


Connect Africa, which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, on 29 and 30 October 2007, will be launched under the patronage of His Excellency President Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, in the presence of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon— who gave his personal blessings —under the leadership of the African Union and in partnership with the World Bank and the Global Alliance for ICT for Development (GAID), led by Mr. Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel, one of our sponsors.


I take this opportunity to thank Intel and Cisco for their contribution to this event.


African heads of state and government, the African Union and other relevant institutions in Africa and around the world, the private sector and others — too numerous to mention today — will work together with ITU to commit to major investments to develop ICT infrastructure on the African continent.


It will be a Summit that will bring together some of the most innovative minds and financial resources to invest in the future of Africa.


From Africa, the Connect Series will move to other parts of the world where ICT infrastructure is inadequate to build momentum towards achieving the MDGs — Connect Latin America; Connect the Arab Region; Connect Asia; Connect the Pacific; Connect the Caribbean.


Distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen, as we build ICT infrastructure to bring more citizens of the world on line, we have another challenge.


We need peace in cyberspace just as we need peace in the world — as we saw in the short video.


To achieve cyberpeace, I am launching the Global Cybersecurity Agenda today.


Cyberpeace is important to leverage the potentials of ICTs in promoting the MDGs through confidence and security in the use of ICTs.


The Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) is a multi-stakeholder framework that will build on existing initiatives, partners and take full advantage of recognized sources of expertise.


Its purpose is two fold — to identify commonly agreed global challenges to Cybersecurity and build national ICT security and emergency response centres regionally and globally.


An example of the commitments that we need to build ICT infrastructure and cyberpeace are before us today. This is why we honour these illustrious and visionary laureates with the ITU World Information Award.


This Award is a symbol of our commitment to connecting everyone even in the most remote corners of the world — to every village and every school.


Before I close, I would like to also acknowledge other important developments in ICTs today:

  • Our efforts to bring emergency communications to the least fortunate victims of natural disasters allow people to quickly recover and rebuild their shattered lives through communications;
  • The development of speech recognition and speech-to-text technology can revolutionize communications by giving access to the benefits of ICTs to users without reading and keyboard skills;
  • A joint Global Capacity Building Initiative for regulators will be launched at Connect Africa in Kigali. This will build on the success of the joint ITU-infoDev ICT Regulation Toolkit to further assist in creating the proper business environment to develop ICTs; and
  • ITU is pleased to join Her Royal Highness, Sheikha Mayassa of Qatar to launch a campaign to help connect the young.


Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, to conclude, I wish to reconfirm to the leaders of your states and nations, our commitment to use ICTs as a tool to bridge the digital divide and bring about cyberpeace.


Thank you.

 

 

 

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