This year marks the 145th anniversary of the establishment of ITU. I am proud to
be leading this dynamic organization, the specialized United Nations agency
which defines the cutting edge of information and communication technologies —
or ICTs — and is steadfastly committed to connecting the world to the benefits
of the ongoing digital revolution.
ICTs are constantly reshaping the way the
world communicates while creating the opportunities for a better life through
long-term, sustainable development, not least among the most vulnerable sections
of our society.
In the urban context, ICTs have increasingly dictated lifestyles and
behaviour patterns and contributed to the growth of trade and commerce, improved
governance and municipal services, and revolutionized entertainment through the
development of rapid communications, both mobile and fixed.
ICTs provide solutions to many of the problems facing cities even as they
become magnets for migrating populations as well as contribute to making them
more eco-friendly and economically viable. For many city dwellers, it is nearly
impossible to imagine life without ICTs. From television to mobile phones and
the Internet, ICTs have reshaped the world, helping billions of people to live,
work and play in the most creative ways. ICTs present innovative ways of
managing our cities — smart buildings, intelligent traffic management, new
efficiencies in energy consumption and waste management, and not least
exchanging information and knowledge and communicating on the move in an
increasingly converged information society.
ICTs are constantly reshaping the way the world communicates while
creating the opportunities for a better life.
While the world’s cities are undoubtedly endowed with many advantages, the
disparities between the haves and the have nots among urban populations is often
a vivid reminder that the vast majority is left out of the reach of development.
It is ironic that even in densely populated urban centres countless millions are
deprived of access to the means of communication and information that are taken
for granted by others. Along with this growing digital divide, the lack of safe
drinking water, sanitation, food, shelter, health care and education are basic
needs that are addressed by the Millennium Development Goals, which call for the
significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by
By tapping into the huge potential of ICTs to improve the lives of people and
by providing affordable and equitable access to information and knowledge to
empower everyone to achieve their aspirations, administrations can contribute
towards meeting the rising expectations of an ever-growing population in the
world’s cities. Acting as catalysts for a more productive and better life, ICTs
open the door to the myriad solutions that can help achieve harmony among the
spatial, social and environmental aspects of cities and their inhabitants.
The World Summit on the Information Society, which met in Geneva in 2003 and
in Tunis in 2005, called upon countries to consider establishing national
mechanisms to achieve universal access in both underserved rural and urban areas
in order to bridge the digital divide. ITU is committed to connecting the world
and to ensure that the benefits of ICT reach the remotest parts of the world,
including the millions who remain unconnected in our teeming cities.
I urge you to celebrate this special 145th anniversary of ITU by focusing on
connecting people around the world and harnessing the full potential of ICTs so
that we can all enjoy a more productive, peaceful and — in every way — a better
Hamadoun I. Touré