The world we live in is increasingly being characterized as a global
Information Society, where the importance of extending access to Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT) is considered vital for social development and
economic growth. The experiences of many countries show that the ICTs have the
potential to impact the economic dynamics, including job creation, enterprise
development, income sustainability, innovation. They also boost social and
community development as well as build cultural identity. In this century the
ability to use ICTs becomes a key skill that determines not only the
employability but influences all life style. Access to ICTs is often a precursor
of access to knowledge, which in turn determines economic success.
The ITU is committed to connecting the world and one of the main our missions
is to enable evolution of telecommunications and information networks around the
world, so that everywhere, people can actively participate in the global
information society. That is why it is not surprising that ITU whose mandate is
to extend the benefits of ICTs to all of the world’s inhabitants, took the
leading role in organization of the key event of this decade - the World Summit
on the Information Society held in two phases - in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in
As we may know, at the Summit the ICT leaders from all over the world made
commitments compiled in the Geneva Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action,
setting out a vision for the future development of the information society and
the Tunis Commitment and Tunis Agenda for the Information Society as a clear
basis for implementation. The world leaders also agreed on a set of targets that
include connecting all villages, towns and cities of the world by 2015. They
also recognized the role of ICT in achieving the United Nations Millennium
Development Goals, which range from halving extreme poverty to putting all
children into primary school and improving literacy and health care, promoting
gender equality and ensuring environmental sustainability - all by 2015.
Now, we have only seven years left to meet the Millennium Development Goals
target date of 2015, but ITU is even more ambitious in aiming to connect the
unconnected by 2012. We know that we cannot meet this challenge alone and we
count on all WSIS stakeholders to join in bringing together the necessary forces
make this goal a reality.
Since the Tunis Phase of WSIS, much progress has been already made. Many
initiatives, actions, projects have been launched since 2005, bringing tangible
effects in terms of the connectivity, enabling environment, capacity building,
ICT applications and cybersecurity.
Just released, new edition of the WSIS Stocktaking Report 2008, draws
attention to some of the flagship initiatives, which prove that the commitments
made by the governments, international organizations, civil society and the
private sector in 2005 in Tunis are followed by continuously increasing
dedication to the work on building inclusive Information Society as well as
achieving the WSIS as well as Millennium Development Goals.
One of the best examples showing the extent of the commitment is the Connect
Africa Summit, the first of the ITU’s Connect the World series, held in Kigali
last year. The willingness to invest in the telecommunication markets of the
developing world was clearly demonstrated at the Summit, with 55 billion dollars
committed to developing ICT infrastructure on the African continent.
As has been done in Africa, ITU plans to continue mobilize like-minded
stakeholders in each region along with global players, to create win-win
partnerships and work together on concrete actions and projects to expend ICT
networks and access as a means of spurring investment, employment and broader
social and economic development.
Nevertheless the Connect the World initiative is only one of the mechanisms
coming out of the World Summit on the Information Society. All eleven WSIS
Action Lines are intended to assist in achieving greater connectivity around the
world and the ITU continues to carry out numerous activities relevant to all of
them and following special mandate given during the WSIS process to take the
lead role in two Action Lines, namely “Information and communication
infrastructure” (Action Line C2) and “Building confidence and security in the
use of ICTs” (Action Line C5). These two WSIS Action Lines for which ITU is sole
Facilitator are closely related to the ITU’s work towards its strategic goals of
“Bridging the Digital Divide” and “Safeguarding Networks”.
ITU carries out numerous activities related to the facilitation of ICT
infrastructure development, giving emphasis to the development of large - scale
regional and national initiatives.
As for Cybersecurity, it is essential for the ITU to ensure that the progress
made in the use of ICTs as a vehicle for social and economic development is not
disrupted by emerging threats to the information society. To address these
threats, I launched last year the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, an ITU framework
for international cooperation, aimed at proposing strategies for solutions to
enhance confidence and security in the information society.
The potential for ICTs as a catalyst for economic and social development is
enormous, but things change quickly in the ICT sector and it is sometimes hard
to keep up. Given the rapid changes in information technology it is essential
for small countries to develop common strategies to confront increasing global
economic challenges and turn those challenges into opportunities.
The key component of the information society is universal access. I strongly
believe that everyone must have equal right and the opportunity to participate
in the digital age. And no one should be denied the potential benefits of new
information and communication technologies (ICT), not least because they are
hampered by their disabilities. As ICT bring a range of innovations in the
workplace, at home and in every facet of our lives, these benefits must also be
harnessed for the benefit of persons with disabilities. On 17 May 2008 we were
celebrating the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, with this
year’s theme of “Connecting People with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for
All”. In our mission to connect the world we must make sure that no one is left
The ITU is welcoming the growing number of 2007 activities reported by the
UNDESA-GAID, which we see as an excellent result of the collaborative efforts of
all stakeholders involved in the work with UNDESA-GAID. We are confident that
this would not be possible without deep involvement of the Mr Craig Barret,
Chairmen of Intel Corp. and UNDESA-GAID as well as dedication and continuous
support to the activities of Mr Sha Zukang, Under-secretary-General of the
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).
We also note that thanks to the extensive work of the UNDESA-GAID staff the
number of the partners is continuously growing. Many of them are coming from the
civil society, which makes us believe that GAID, as UNDESA initiative, becomes
an attractive platform for multi-stakeholder activities, giving to its partners,
including civil society, the opportunity to mainstream the ICT issues to the
global development agenda. We strongly believe that this mechanism, gradually
improved, will lead to better reflection of the voice of the civil society in
the works of the UN family.
Having said all that I am ensuring you that the ITU is committed to
connecting the world and will continue to work to mobilize the technical,
financial and human resources needed to make the global information society a
We encourage all stakeholders - manufacturers, service providers,
international organizations, public and non-governmental organizations as well
as policy makers - to join the forces and use all possible means to connect
everyone and create more fair world with equal opportunities for the citizens of