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ITU World Information Society Award Ceremony
17 May 2006

Statement by Mr Kofi Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations

The annual observance of World Telecommunication Day, marking the founding of the International Telecommunication Union on 17 May 1865, has drawn attention to the work of ITU and the broader challenges of global communication. From the days of the telegraph through space-age communication, and now in cyberspace, ITU has helped to connect the world.

In recognition of this evolution, the World Summit on the Information Society, which was held in two phases (in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005), proposed that 17 May henceforth be celebrated as World Information Society Day. The Summit's aim was to build an open, inclusive, people-centred, knowledge-based information society that will accelerate the pace of development. This occasion now highlights the link between the great potential of information and communication technologies and our goal of accelerating the pace of development.

The Summit recognized the importance of building confidence and trust in the use of ICTs. This is reflected in the theme for this year’s observance, “promoting global cybersecurity”. In an increasingly interconnected and networked world, it has become critically important to safeguard our vital systems and infrastructures against attack by cybercriminals, while instilling confidence in online transactions in order to promote trade, commerce, banking, telemedicine, e-government and a host of other e-applications. As this depends on the security practices of each and every networked country, business and citizen, we need to develop a global culture of cybersecurity.

I therefore urge all Member States and stakeholders to help increase global awareness of cybersecurity, and to develop an international network of initiatives and ICT-based countermeasures to enhance security and build trust in the use of information and communication technologies. This is essential for the continued growth and development of our economies, and especially important for developing countries.

On this first World Information Society Day, I am pleased to congratulate President Wade of Senegal, and Professor Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh’s renowned Grameen Bank, on receiving the first ITU World Information Society Award for their leadership in this area. Let us all, on this occasion, be inspired by their example and reiterate our pledge to connect the unconnected, build a free and safe information society, and thereby spur development for all the world’s people.

Kofi Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations


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