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WTISD Award 2009
Opening Remarks by Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here with you today to celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day.
Yesterday — 17 May — marked the 144th anniversary of the founding of the International Telecommunication Union, the world’s oldest international organization, which was established to promote technological development and harmonized global access to ICTs, and all they bring.

17 May 1865 also saw the signing of the world’s first-ever international convention on ICTs, the International Telegraph Convention. That convention was the first major step in breaking down barriers to the global exchange of electronic information and knowledge, and was instrumental in laying the foundations of today’s Information Society.

I would like to recognize Mr. Jean Jipguep and Mr. Henry Chasia both former Deputy Secretaries-General for being with us today.  Former Secretary General Butler had hoped to be here but was not able to join us at the last minute, and Former Secretary-General Mili was not able to be here for some health reasons and we wish him well.

In 2008, our theme was “Connecting Persons with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All”.  Our work in the area of accessibility has continued and I am pleased that we were able to offer captioning for today’s ceremony to benefit persons that are hearing impaired.  I am also pleased to see Ms. Andrea Saks here in the audience as she was one of our 2008 Laureates for her work in promoting accessibility, along with Her Excellency Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of Egypt, and the Daisy Consortium. You may recall tha our very first award in 2006 went to President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and to Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank, who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize the same year.

The theme of the 2009 WTISD is Protecting Children in Cyberspace.  We are both honored and delighted that Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden has agreed to be the Patron of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2009.

Cyberspace is a nursery for young minds to grow and expand their horizons. It is  an incredible source of knowledge and information in the digital age and an incubator of fresh ideas and new innovations. It is a wealth of all that is good and wonderful in the virtual world of entertainment where one can imagine, almost with magical ease, anything the mind desires with a simple click . Its menu offers an infinite mosaic of cultures, languages, literature, science and technology, music and theatre, games and sports — and much more.

Today we have more than 1.5 billion people online worldwide.  Easily the most vulnerable segment of these users is children – whose natural curiosity, trusting attitude and tech-smart approach to the world make them easy targets for predators and criminals.

This is a global problem, so a global response is needed, from all segments of society.

Protecting children in cyberspace is clearly our duty.

That is why ITU together with other UN agencies and partners launched in November 2008 the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative — an integral part of ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda.  COP is in line with our mandate to strengthen cybersecurity and has been established as an international collaborative network for action to promote the online protection of children and young people worldwide.

The Internet and the growing convergence in online applications and mobile devices are global resources that must be allowed to flourish for the common good. We must endeavour to make cyberspace a safe, healthy and productive environment for our children.

Our theme for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day will influence our work not only today but throughout the year and in the future as well.  ITU is launching a worldwide year-long “Call for Action” to increase attention to the issues of child online protection. 

We are calling upon all stakeholders (policy makers, regulators, operators and industry) to share knowledge and experience, create awareness; and promote the adoption of policies and strategies that will protect children in cyberspace and promote their safe access to online resources.

This isn’t just another international talking shop. This is real. 

Children and young people around the world are actively being targeted by pedophiles, predators, and cybercriminals – often with truly tragic consequences.

But with the help of the same technology that wrong-doers use – and with the power of international cooperation and collaboration – we can now offer children the protection online that they expect, deserve, and need. 

We celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2009 knowing that we have set forth a strong momentum to make cyberspace a safer place for our children where every child can harness the full potential of ICTs, and where every citizen on this planet can exercise the right to access, use, create and share information.  I am delighted to see that so many countries responded to my invitation to organize national events highlighting our theme. From Bangladesh to Cameroon, from France to Peru, from Sudan to Turkey, and so many others.

This is tremendously encouraging.

So I call on all global leaders – from government, from regional and international organizations, from industry and from educational institutions – to work with us in moving this “call for action” forward.

Today, in launching this “call for action”, we therefore call on all stakeholders to come together and embrace this global initiative. The online world respects neither boundaries nor borders, so creating a safe online environment requires cooperation at every level.

ITU is not just committed to connecting the world, but committed to connecting the world responsibly. That means working together to ensure cybersecurity, enable cyberpeace, and protect children online.

ITU and our partners actively welcome interest and support from all quarters – whether it be from policy makers, law enforcement agencies, companies, educators or indeed children themselves.

I hope to announce, at this time next year, that 191 national campaigns have been launched one for each of our Member State. 

I am calling upon all ICT leaders to commit to include as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments to help protect children in cyberspace.

For our part, we promise to work together with these corporate global guardians, our Members and our COP partners to provide support, tools and as much exposure as we can create to move this agenda forward.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I dream of a future where our children are safe in the real and virtual world.  As John Lennon once said, “a dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”  Dream with me to ensure that a safe cyberspace for our children becomes a reality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before we proceed to the Awards, I must reiterate that I am deeply honoured that Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden has accepted our invitation to be the patron of the 2009 World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. Her Majesty the Queen is the founder of the World Childhood Foundation and has a grand vision of the future of children in the digital age.
It is now my great privilege to call upon Anders Johanson who will deliver a message on behalf on Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden.

Thank you.



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Updated : 2009-05-18