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Connect Americas Summit opens in Panama City

Digital inclusion sought for inter-American connectivity through broadband roll out

Panama City, 18 July 2012 – The Connect Americas Summit opened today calling for a surge in the roll out of broadband connectivity in the Americas region and ‘digital inclusion’ to enable universal, sustainable, ubiquitous and affordable access to information and communication technologies (ICT) and services for all. Digital inclusion implies that everyone, in particular indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, women, girls, youth and children can use accessible and affordable ICTs as tools for their social and economic development.

Addressing the Summit, the President of the Republic of Panama, H.E. Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal emphasized the need for Internet connectivity costs to be reduced so that people not only in Panama but across the world will have access to affordable broadband networks. He said, “The choice of Panama to host the summit, recognizes the progress made by my Government's digital inclusion, connectivity and Internet use.”

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré recognized President Berrocal’s ‘Internet for All’ initiative aimed at bringing free Internet access to the citizens of Panama and presented him with the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award.

The President of Costa Rica H.E. Laura Chinchilla Miranda, patron of ITU’s on Child Online Protection initiative, highlighted the importance of strengthening security in cyberspace, especially to keep online predators at bay. In her keynote address at the Summit, President Chinchilla said, “The younger generations of the planet are legitimate heirs to the fortune that offers tremendous technological developments of our time. With just a gesture of their hands, they have the opportunity to deliver to them the history of mankind, to travel all over the world, to venture into all the facets of science, and to interact with those who want to regardless of race, age, nationality or geographical location. This great technological revolution of our time belongs to them, yet we must prevent that enjoyment from being stained. We want them to explore with ease and security, the wonderful world of the Internet, confident in their desire to learn with the protection we can give them.”

Vice President and Presidential designate of Honduras affirmed that the Connect Americas Summit aims to make efficient use of existing resources in the field of ICT which are an essential component for social development and economic growth. He said, “It is common knowledge that ICTs are essential tools for promoting efficiency and transparency in public administration and strengthening the productivity of nations by streamlining productivity.”

Dominican Republic first lady and Vice President elect Margarita Cedeño said, “In this era of knowledge, connectivity has become a prerequisite for all people, regardless of age, sex, social status or situation, providing the opportunities to develop their skills, enjoy a dignified and productive life, and participate in different ways, sharing fairly and equitably the benefits of globalization and development. I have the conviction that this summit will allow the exchange of experiences and develop joint strategies to efficiently and innovatively take on the challenge of ICT for human development and social inclusion, strengthen our economy by improving the levels competition and move ahead with regional integration, strengthening ties of cooperation and solidarity.”

Ms Cedeño received ITU’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Award in 2007.

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré called for the Summit to focus on strategies across the Americas region to drive broadband deployment forward and to mobilize the human, financial and technical resources needed to promote universal digital inclusion. “In terms of information and communication technologies, the Americas region is one of the world’s most dynamic markets,” Dr Touré said. “And yet there is still much to do. While cellular penetration is particularly high in this region, and Internet penetration is above average, there are still many millions of people who lack access to ICTs – which in the 21st century have become a necessary foundation for overall social and economic development.”

“’M-powering’ people is key to meeting the development goals of connectivity,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, referring to the rapid spread of mobile broadband. “Latin America and the Caribbean will quickly follow the lead of North America where mobile broadband penetration has grown in the space of just a few short years from under 10 per cent to over 65 per cent.”

Mobile applications will continue to improve the delivery of key basic services such as health and education, as well as delivering massive benefits across virtually every other social and economic sector. Panama itself is one of the most successful countries in the region, with mobile penetration growing from 16 per cent a decade ago to an extraordinary 204 per cent by early 2012.

The Connect Americas Summit is the fourth in the series of Connect events, which have included the ITU Connect Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda in 2007; the ITU Connect CIS Summit in Minsk, Belarus in 2009; and the Connect Arab States Summit in Doha, Qatar earlier this year.

The Connect Americas Summit, hosted by the Government of Panama, is organized by ITU in close collaboration with the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL), the Comisión Técnica Regional de Telecomunicaciones (COMTELCA) and the Caribbean Telecommunication Union (CTU). It is the culmination of a series of high-level events, such as the recent Rio+20 Earth Summit that draw attention to the power of information and communication technologies (ICT) and broadband connectivity in meeting future goals of sustainable development.

A number of commitments and announcements of upcoming investments in ICT development in the Americas will be made tomorrow, 19 July as the Summit draws to a close.

The programme is at www.itu.int/ITU-D/connect/americas/programme.asp?Language=en

Information for Press:

Announcement of commitments at the Connect Americas Summit will be on 19 July at 14:30 pm at the Summit venue: ATLAPA Convention Centre, Avenida Israel, Panama City. This session will announce investments for ICT projects in the Americas region over the next 5 years.

The Connect Americas Summit is open to media. Accreditation is compulsory.

For accreditation procedures, please see: www.itu.int/ITU-D/connect/americas/display.asp?QID=9794&Language=en

Please read the procedure carefully before completing the online accreditation form. Pre-registered journalists will be requested to present their confirmation letter, together with their passport or ID card to receive an official Connect Americas Summit Media badge.

UN Press accreditation is valid. Please confirm your attendance to pressreg@itu.int

For more information, see www.itu.int/net/newsroom/connect/americas/2012/ or contact:

Sanjay Acharya

Chief, Media Relations and Public Information, ITU

tel +41 22 730 5046
tel +41 79 249 4861
tel +507 6515 1862 (in Panama)
tel sanjay.acharya@itu.int 


Media Accreditation enquiries:

Soraya Abino Quintana

tel +507 6515 0072
tel pressreg@itu.int 
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