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Laureate WTISD 2009
Address by Ms. Deborah Taylor Tate, International Advocate for ICT Child Safety Issues

 

Excellencies,
Mr. Secretary-General,
ITU elected officials,
fellow Laureates,
Honorable Guests,
Colleagues and Friends here and at home:


Thank you Mr. Secretary General for your kind remarks and for the honor of being here with you to celebrate World Telecommunications and Information Society Day and for the ITU Council’s exemplary leadership in the designating the theme of “Protecting Children in Cyberspace”.

I most humbly accept this award on behalf of all those across the world who have been working to provide our children a safer and positive experience in cyberspace.
 
Thank you to those who are software and applications developers and engineers; child advocacy organizations and members of the media; for CEOs and law enforcement; for teachers and parents.

Thank you to those who are convenors, researchers, writers, and especially to our youth who are our best ambassadors to this Internet generation. Together we must insure safe and peaceful digital citizenship in this new age. This award is for you.
 
Two weeks ago I wondered if I would even be here due to the outbreak of H1N1 flu. Several schools were closed in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.  However, thanks in part to our excellent global communications infrastructure, we were able as schools, cities, regions, nations---indeed as the world--- to act immediately and take necessary precautions to reduce the spread as much as possible. 
 
The benefits that these advancements in global communications have provided is precisely why I am so honored to participate in this event today. I am delighted to have been part of the development of the Child Online Safety Initiative launched last fall here at the ITU under the visionary leadership of Secretary General Hamadoun Toure. Our healthcare counterparts have spent decades creating and streamlining communications plans in the case of such outbreaks and more recently in the case of a pandemic. There has been research, prevention education, development of medications and vaccinations and public messaging at all levels from national leaders to teachers; from national media to emails between families and friends. 

I think that it is our duty as adults, as government representatives, industry leaders and caregivers to learn from the effots of our healthcare colleagues and insure our chidren reap the benefits of this new digital age without becoming infected by what have become the viral diseases of the online world.
 
The Child Online Protection Initiative is an international collaborative network that is  striving to promote the infinite possibility offered by ICTs while keeping in mind that online dangers are a very real threat to children and young people in cyberspace. 

I am confident that COP is able to provide a global response to new risks our children face-risks that once were only experienced in the real world but are alive and well in the new world of cyberspace.
 
For too long we have lived under a myth—the myth that our children are safe as long as they are in their own home. We now realize that this is not the case as they can travel anywhere in the world, from within their own room.
 
However, before I go any further, let me be the first to extol the incredible opportunities this new digital age affords all of us. As a state and federal official in the United States, I utilized every resource, every vote, every speech to extol the virtues of advancements in technology.  As nations and leaders, one of our critical goals is to connect all of our citizens to the internet; to establish appropriate policies that encourage innovation and incentives to deploy broadband to the last mile, the last house, the last village, the last mountaintop so that every single citizen in our world can reap the incredible and dazzling benefits which broadband and the internet has to offer.  From telehealth and remote surgery to e-commerce and distance learning; our people can improve their health, enhance their education, attain prosperity and compete globally while remaining in contact with family and friends no matter how many miles may come between them. 
 
Online technologies give us new possibilities to communicate, learn new skills, be creative and contribute to creating a better society for all; but often they open the door to new and dangerous risks. Cyber security threats that steal our identities appropriate our finances and even threaten our homeland security.

We have a special responsibility to protect children from these risks; risk of which they are often unaware.
 
Just as in the H1N1 example, we must utilize the knowledge and research that we have gained regarding cybersecurity threats and provide it to the world---from predatory behavior and illegal uses of the internet that warrant involvement by government and law enforcement officials to the proliferation of extremely damaging personal information and even entirely new health diagnoses such as cyberbullying and Internet-related addictive behaviors. These are now a very real part of our very real world. And we must respond---as parents, teachers, engineers, telecommunications providers, the media and leaders--just as we would with any health issues.  

We must acknowledge the threats, discover the universe of possible responses to each threat ---and then empower ourselves with the tools to eradicate it.
 
That is why the ITU has a unique role to play --and all those organizations who have joined in this effort-- are crucial to the full maximization of these spectacular technological devices and applications for our children. I am encouraged that COP is working towards the goal of becoming a world repository of information. Whether you are a Minister or a parent; whether you are looking for in-depth research, a public service announcement for any medium, or curriculum for your classroom---COP aims to provide a vast menu of tools and information from all parts of the globe.

For this reason, I thank ITU and all COP members for their efforts to promote online safety and for thei willingness to work together toward simple but profound life’s lessons of being safe and civil citizens online; toward a goal of “good digital citizenship” for all.  We cannot allow any child to be the subject of harm when we know that it is occurring; thus, we must educate parents, caregivers, teachers, and of course our youth regarding these dangers and arm them with tools and information to protect and empower them.

To those of you who are leaders:  We must have rules for the roads of cyberspace just as we have rules for our highways.

For parents and teachers and all caregivers:  We must have rules of acceptable behavior online as we do offline--you must be involved in your child’s life online.

For healthcare providers:  We must undertake more research, develop evidence-based prevention and treatment for new diagnoses especially for our at risk youth.

For creators and CEOs and entrepreneurs:  We must have new tools and devices that are built to protect our children on the front end. And, they will need to evolve as new and brilliant minds create even more innovative ways of communicating.
 
For companies and CEOs who are profiting from these new services and technologies: you need to be part of the solution:  provide funding for research, tools, curriculum and educational opportunities---it is not only a good thing to do, but good for the bottom line as well.
 
I strongly urge global leaders to support this extremely  important and timely initiative because there is no doubt there there is an urgent need to ensure all the good work being done globally is brought together rin a co-ordinated effort for all to access.
 
So please us -join COP  so we can insure these miraculous and dynamic means of communication instill and inspire the best and the brightest; providing a safe environment in which children can learn and grow to meet their full potential; whether online or offline.

These are all our children, the world’s children, the hope of tomorrow and the future leaders of your nation and mine. They deserve nothing less. 

Thank you Mr. Secretary General and the ITU for this award and most of all for your leadership.


 


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