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 ITU and UNESCO Global Symposium on Promoting the Multilingual Internet
 Opening address  
Global Symposium on Promoting the Multilingual Internet
Geneva, 9-11 May 2006

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Opening address
at the “Global Symposium on Promoting the Multilingual Internet”
Geneva, 9-11 May 2006
H. Zhao
Director, TSB/ITU

Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning.

Let me introduce myself. I am Houlin Zhao, the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau of ITU.
On behalf of the Secretary-General of ITU and the Director-General of UNESCO, as well as the Director of BDT and myself, I would like to warmly welcome you to this symposium.

The Second Tunis Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society was held in Tunis between 16 18 November and was a great success. 46 Heads of States, around 200 Ministers, more than 800 entities including UN agencies, private sector companies, journalists, and civil society organizations, in total, about 20000 people participated in the conference and its side events. The two summit outcome documents: “Tunis Commitment” and “Tunis Agenda for the Information Society” were endorsed. During the conference and its preparation process, more than 2500 projects were undertaken to bridge the Digital Divide, it is clear to me that more needs to be done, and done quickly. As identified by the output documents, ITU will have a major role in coordinating the implementation of the Tunis outputs. ITU has addressed the implementation issues at several important events such as the World Telecommunication Development Conference held in Doha, Qatar in the middle of March and the recent ITU Council-06 held in the end of April. ITU will further address this issue at the forthcoming Plenipotentiary Conference to be held in November in Antalya, Turkey. In the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector, all Study Groups had reviewed the outputs of the Tunis conference. Those new issues raised during the WSIS were taken into account in the Study Group activities. For example, the Child Helpline, which had not been brought to ITU before WSIS was addressed by ITU-T Study Group 2 at its meeting in December 2005. Yesterday, 8 May, Study Group 2 further discussed this issue, and decided to take concrete action to help find a solution for this request. Issues such as universal, ubiquitous, equitable and affordable access to ICTs by all people, especially by indigenous people and those people with disabilities, emergency communications, disaster mitigation, all have been addressed by ITU Study Groups from all three ITU Sectors. In May, ITU will organize several events to address the WSIS themes. On 17 May, ITU will celebrate the first “World Information Society Day” which was officially endorsed by the United Nations at its General Assembly in March 2006.

As you know, ITU was created in 1865 which makes it one of the few international organizations with a history of more than 100 years. From its creation, ITU has taken on the mission of helping humanity communicate. The Morse code and the telephone systems ITU worked on in the 19th century were simply using technology to transfer human ideas by transmitting and reproducing human voice and language. Without the advanced coding schemes for voice, image, moving pictures, as well as the coding schemes for many human languages which ITU has developed during the last decade and is still working on, current improvements in the quality of life from ICT would not be possible. However, ITU is aware of the fact that there is still a long way to go to provide all mankind with an equal opportunity to enjoy these benefits: the digital divide is very real. As far as the internet is concerned, ITU has made enormous efforts to help the development of internet, including: developing technical recommendations and offering technical solutions, assisting policy debates and seeking compromises, and providing capacity-building actions, etc. ITU has several Plenipotentiary Conferences Resolutions on internet-related issues, in particular, a Resolution on the “Role of administrations of Member States in the management of internationalized (multilingual) domain names”. In connection to this, ITU realizes that it is a fact today that internet services are enjoyed by speakers of just a few of the major languages out of about 6000 in use around the world. During the WSIS processes, ITU noted a strong desire for people to use their own languages to access the internet as well as other ICT tools. By organizing this event, ITU has demonstrated its determination to work on these issues. I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to UNESCO for their support in the organization of this joint symposium.

Ladies and gentlemen,
We have established a three-day programme for you. In this programme, you will find a wide range of topics which were hot during the WSIS debates, and a number of experts who have reputations in the global family with their specialized competences. Please allow me to express my appreciation to the members of the steering committee who have worked very, very hard during the last months to set up the programme and to invite the speakers. I would also like to thank all contributors, speakers, moderators, and session chairs for their kindness in accepting our invitation, and sharing with us their knowledge and ideas. I would not like to conclude my short remarks without expressing my appreciation to the secretariat staff from both UNESCO and ITU who have spared no effort to coordinate and bring this symposium into reality. Last but not least my thanks go to Mr. Direk Charoenphol for his enthusiasm to join us as the Chairman of this Symposium.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I sincerely hope that you would find this Symposium very useful and enjoy it.

Thank you for your attention.


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