Archived Newsroom • Press Release
ITU marks 150th
anniversary with global celebrations
ITU150 Awards presented to Martin Cooper, Robert E. Kahn,
Mark I. Krivocheev, Ken Sakamura, and Thomas Wiegand,
Bill Gates accorded special recognition
Geneva, 18 May 2015 – ITU
celebrated its 150th anniversary on 17 May, marking a long and
illustrious history at the cutting edge of communication technologies.
“ITU has earned its global reputation for resilience and relevance,” said
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, applauding the agency’s many
contributions as the oldest member in the United Nations system.
“Telecommunications – as well as information and communications technology –
drive innovation. The digital revolution has transformed our world. New
information and communication technologies can help boost the economy and
protect the environment.”
history of ITU exemplifies its stellar role in connecting the world
to the most advanced and innovative means of communication, from the days of the
telegraph to the Internet and mobile broadband, which now allows us to be in
touch anytime, anywhere with friends, family, colleagues and even things,” said
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Throughout our 150-year history, we have
promoted international cooperation, working to achieve practical solutions to
integrate new communications technologies as they develop, spreading their
benefits to all.”
ITU was established on 17 May 1865 with the signing of the first
International Telegraph Convention in Paris to facilitate the transmission of
telegraphy across international borders. ITU was initially headquartered in
Berne and moved to Geneva in 1948, soon after it became a specialized agency of
the United Nations in 1947. Ms Doris Leuthard, Minister of
Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications of
Switzerland, delivered the keynote address on behalf of the host country.
The ITU 150th anniversary was marked by celebrations in some 50 countries
around the world. A special ceremony was held in Paris to mark the signing of
the First International Telegraph Convention on 17 May 1865. A
ceremony was also held in Madrid, attended by King Felipe
VI of Spain, to commemorate the re-naming of the International Telegraph Union
as the International Telecommunication Union in 1932.
Looking towards the future as the leading UN specialized agency for
telecommunications and ICT, ITU is focused on driving innovation together with
the Union’s 193 Member States and membership of over 700 private sector entities
and academic institutions. A panel discussion focusing on ICTs as drivers of a
sustainable future was anchored by BBC correspondent Imogen Foulkes, brought in
key thinkers and doers: Philip Walton, COO, BRCK; Luis Von Ahn, CEO & founder,
DuoLingo; Gabriela Styf Sjöman, CTO, Telecom Italia Group; Jian Wang, CTO,
Alibaba; and Ulf Ewaldsson, CTO, Ericsson.
ITU 150th anniversary Awards
ITU accorded recognition to the Founding Member States that signed the
convention in 1865. With the re-drawing of national borders over the years, the
original twenty are now represented by sixteen countries: Austria, Belgium,
Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal,
Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
Long-standing industry members were also recognized, including
Telecom Italia (hailing back to 1925), Exelis and Telefónica (since 1929); and
The ITU 150 Awards were presented to eminent laureates who have contributed
to ITU’s work: Martin Cooper, Robert E. Kahn, Mark I. Krivocheev, Ken Sakamura,
and Thomas Wiegand. Bill Gates was given special recognition for his
contributions and his ongoing work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Martin Cooper is a pioneer in wireless communications and referred to as the
‘father’ of portable cellular telephony. He is an inventor, entrepreneur and
futurist who conceived the first portable cellular phone in 1973. Cooper knew
then that people needed the freedom that comes from anywhere, anytime telephony.
Robert E. Kahn played a pioneering role in the development of the Internet.
Kahn has developed the concept of a digital object architecture to provide a
framework for interoperability of heterogeneous information systems and is the
co-inventor of Knowbot programmes – mobile software agents in the network
Mark Krivocheev is best known for his pioneering work in forging a world
television digital standard and for HDTV standards, which have made it possible
for us to receive high quality sound and picture in our homes.
Ken Sakamura designed the TRON open computer system architecture, which will
be useful for ubiquitous computing of the future, and helped produce a series of
Recommendations, including ITU-T H.642 "Multimedia information access triggered
by tag-based identification", which is a critical element as we move to the age
of the Internet of Things and Big Data.
Thomas Wiegand has contributed significantly towards the standardization for
multimedia and co-chaired for the development of the ITU-T H.264/MPEG-AVC video
coding standard, which facilitates video streaming on mobile devices and was
recognized with a Primetime Emmy Award from the Los Angeles-based Academy of
Television Arts & Sciences.
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, led the company that became the
worldwide leader in business and personal software, services, and solutions. As
co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he shapes and approves
grant-making strategies, advocates for the foundation’s issues, and helps set
the overall direction of the organization.
Sponsors of ITU150 celebration recognized
The 150th anniversary was generously sponsored by Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia
and the United Arab Emirates. Other sponsors included The Telecommunications /
ICT Regulatory Body, Côte d'Ivoire; Ministry of Communications, Ghana; Postal
and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe; Inmarsat Global
Limited; Close Joint-Stock Company National Radio Technical Bureau; Huawei
Technologies; Rostelecom; Rohde & Schwarz; Telecommunications Regulatory Agency,
Central African Republic; NTT Group.
and other material related to the 150th anniversary
celebrations are available at
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