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ITU Award presented to President Tarja Halonen of Finland, Sam Pitroda and Kristin Peterson

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day marks ITU’s 146th anniversary

Geneva, 17 May 2011— The 2011 World Telecommunication and Information Society Award was presented to three eminent personalities: President Tarja Halonen of Finland, telecommunication innovator Sam Pitroda, and CEO and co-founder of Inveneo Kristin Peterson. The Award ceremony took place on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, 17 May.

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré lauded the laureates who have devoted their attention towards promoting ICTs as a means of providing a better life through global sustainability, particularly in rural communities. “ICTs are the powerhouses of the global economy and offer real solutions towards generating sustainable economic growth and prosperity,” Dr Touré said. “ITU is committed to connecting the world and to ensuring that the benefits of ICTs reach the remotest corners of the world as well as the most vulnerable communities, especially in rural areas.”

President Tarja Halonen of Finland

In her message of acceptance, President Halonen said the Award was in recognition of Finland for its efforts to promote the use of and equal access to ICTs, both nationally and internationally. “Finlandhas worked hard to develop an equitable and inclusive information society,” President Halonen said. “We were the first country in the world to ensure — by legislation — that all our citizens have the opportunity to use digital services, irrespective of their place of residence, whether in the city or the countryside, or the level of their income.”

President Halonen added, “Communications technology can provide effective tools for the empowerment of people and development of democracy, the respect for human rights and the rule of law. ICTs can help raise the standard of living in all places of the world.” She said, “We have recognized that, in order to attain the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, access to ICTs is of key importance — especially in areas such as health care, the prevention of illnesses and of course education. These are among the core areas of the Millennium Development Goals, and also vitally important to the promotion of the role of women.”

President Tarja Halonen was represented by Minister of Communications Suvi Lindén.

Sam Pitroda

“I strongly believe that technology is a great social leveller and has the potential to bridge barriers across domains, enhance access and enable a move towards a more participative and open society,” Sam Pitroda said. “In the present information society, ICTs can play an unparalleled role in linking people, communities, driving collaborations and improving service delivery to the poorest of the poor.” Recognized as the architect of India’s telecom revolution, Pitroda noted that when he decided to work in India on building India’s telecom infrastructure, he “was greeted by a fair degree of scepticism” as it was “unheard of in the development paradigm of the time to bring state-of-the-art technology to a third world country”. However, Pitroda saw an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people: “I saw in technological development an opportunity for radical social transformation, enhancing capacity and delivering benefits and opportunities which would allow people to cross the threshold of development.”

Sam Pitroda is currently Adviser to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations and chairs the country's National Innovation Council and the Smart Grid Task Force set up under the aegis of the Ministry of Power. He also heads the Expert Committee on the use of ICT in Railways. He is widely considered to have been responsible for India’s telecommunications revolution and has been a leading campaigner to help bridge the global digital divide.

Kristin Peterson

In accepting the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award, Kristin Peterson noted that delivering technology to rural communities can present many challenges, including environmental factors such as heat, dust and humidity as well as lack of power. “At Inveneo we have made it our mission to find the right technologies that can help organizations in these communities  — schools, clinics, relief camps — successfully use ICTs to deliver better vital services,” said Peterson. “So we’ve been building an eco-system of certified in-country ICT entrepreneurs that we partner with around the world. Together, with these partners, we are implementing projects that range from solar-powered computer labs going in to hundreds of schools in Uganda and Tanzania, to building a rural broadband network in rural Haiti.”

Kristin Peterson is the co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Inveneo, a non-profit social enterprise focusing on information and communication technologies in rural areas throughout the developing world. She has led Inveneo’s efforts to provide ICT to deliver education, health care, economic development and relief projects in Haiti and in 25 countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Inveneo has also worked in partnership with ITU in delivering training in low-cost rural wireless networking in developing countries, such as Kenya, Uganda and the Caribbean.

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day

The World Telecommunication and Information Society Award was presented on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD), which marks the establishment of ITU on 17 May, 1865. It highlights the potential of information and communication technologies (ICT) in meeting the development and economic aspirations of societies and on the importance of the Internet as a global resource.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

In a message delivered on videotape, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “On World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, let us resolve to connect the entire world as a means to foster peace and prosperity for all.”  Noting that Information and communication technologies continue to transform the global landscape, drive the world economy and help people communicate across distances and cultural divides while providing access to critical resources such as healthcare and education, Mr Ban added: “Recent events in North Africa and the Middle East have also highlighted the catalytic role that mobile phones and social media can play in galvanizing public opinion against repression. And in the aftermath of natural disasters, these technologies are a vital part of the aid response, establishing lines of communication that save lives, reunite families and help emergency relief reach people in need.”

This year’s theme for WTISD, “Better Life in Rural Communities with ICTs” brings attention to those who reside in rural districts and far flung communities — half the global population, or nearly 3.5 billion people — representing the poorer, less educated, and more deprived cousins of the world’s urban citizens. Among them are as many as 1.4 billion of the world’s extremely poor people, who are also among the least connected to ICTs.

The WTISD ceremony was wrapped up with a demonstration of rural connectivity through cloud computing. Claudio Giugliemma of the Dominic Foundation presented the Digital Inclusion Initiative in Tanzania and the Lucy Portal on the cloud, which can provide easy access to e-services to users in rural communities and has built-in assistive technologies in the browser for persons with disabilities.

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For more information, please contact:

Sanjay Acharya
Chief, Media Relations and Public Information, ITU
tel +41 22 730 5046
mobile +41 79 249 4861
email sanjay.acharya@itu.int 
   

 

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