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If one word encapsulates our times, it is "globalization". But, while this powerful force has force has brought prosperity to many, millions of people have been left behind. As we enter the 21st Century, our overarching challenge as an international community must be to make globalization work for all people in all nations. With their power to create new opportunities, inspire global dialogue and integrate people and countries into the global economy, telecommunications play a key role in our efforts to meet that challenge.

The annual celebration of the World Telecommunications Day highlights the importance of this sector. This year, the theme of the Day is mobile communications. Cheaper and quicker to install and easier to maintain than traditional fixed-line networks, wireless communications offer developing countries new opportunities for enhanced access to basic telecommunications services. Such access is critical in a world where information and knowledge have become the very premise of progress.

The challenge ahead is to bridge the information gap and to harness the great power of new technology to promote development. Poorer countries must receive our help in building up their infrastructure and developing their human resources. In addition, our partnerships with the private sector must be consolidated and expanded. My recent Millennium Report includes several new initiatives in this vein. Amongst them is a disaster response initiative -- led by one of the biggest international telecommunications groups -- to provide mobile and satellite telephones for humanitarian relief workers in areas struck by natural disasters.

In the new Millennium, let us make telecommunications the engine of development and integration that it can be. Only then can we capture the promises of globalization while managing its adverse effects.

Kofi Annan


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