Director of the ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau
ITU/UNESCO Policy Forum
Paris, France, 24 March 2017
Opening Speech by Mr Brahima Sanou, BDT Director, ITU
Mr Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO,
Honorable Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Representatives of the private sector
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning and welcome everyone.
The International Telecommunication Union, ITU, is pleased to join UNESCO for the second consecutive year in co-organizing this Policy Forum which marks the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration in our digital connected world. Strengthening collaboration between the education and ICT sectors is key to unlock the potential of the digital economy.
We are witnessing a digital revolution that is transforming profoundly our societies.
A new ecosystem has emerged where ICTs are more and more about streamlining Government processes, bringing education, health and financial services to the people in need in order to create social cohesion, inclusiveness and economic growth.
An ecosystem where ICTs are just about people.
This is why I believe that the dialogue we initiated last year with this Policy Forum is an important effort to create synergies between the education and ICT sectors. This will also impact on other sectors and the society at large.
The collaboration with UNHCR this year stresses the importance of communications and ICTs in the daily life of vulnerable and displaced populations, and even more in the life of those who are facing emergencies and crisis situations.
Identifying solutions to maintain access to education in these circumstances, the theme of UNESCO's mobile Learning Week, will contribute to social and economic inclusion of all. I do command UNESCO for this timely collaboration.
In the education sector, ICTs can help to ensure inclusive, equitable and quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, as defined in the Sustainable Development Goal 4.
With over 7 billion subscribers globally, mobile technology offers unprecedented opportunities to users to access information and services that can open doors to education and employment for the underprivileged.
Ladies and gentlemen,
According to UNESCO's statistics, 775 million adults lack basic literacy as we gather here.
Youth unemployment is an issue around the world.
Even in the face of the global youth unemployment crisis many of the jobs go unfulfilled because employees cannot find people with the right skills.
The needs span a wide range of skills, from the most basic to very advanced. All jobs require digital skills. Today, even looking and applying for jobs require at least basic digital skills.
Last month I was in Paraguay, where I have witnessed, first hand, the importance that the country gives to ICTs for education. I have seen the President of Paraguay and the minister of education on the front line in partnership with the private sector and the communities to equip young people with the skills needed to enter the digital world.
I witnessed the impact when a 14-year girl coming from vulnerable stratum of the society told us that ICTs have opened her eye and I asked her what she want to become in the future, she replied president of Paraguay.
I just arrived from Indonesia this morning, and I was very pleased to see that digital inclusion is very high on the national agenda.
Reviewing e-education policies is gaining momentum in the Arab States and I am glad that ITU and UNESCO will work together to support such Smart Learning Initiatives in collaboration with partners.
Across the globe, there is more and more recognition that e-education is key for current and future generations.
One of our priorities at ITU is to ensure that people have the right skills to enter the workforce. Just to give you an example, coding bootcamps are a strategy that we developed to promote youth and women's employment.
I am proud to say that ITU launched the first ever bootcamp coding programme in the Philippines last year.
As Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), I am also fully committed to empowering youth and disadvantaged populations through initiatives such as my flagship m-Powering Development initiative, which seeks to harness the power of mobile phones to promote education, commerce and health. Members of the Advisory Board of this initiative who strongly believe in the power of mobile to transform our society for good are here today and two of them will moderate sessions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As Nelson Mandela said "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world".
With the power of ICTs, we have the potential to change the world by improving access to education and promoting digital skills by putting in the hands of populations around the globe innovative e-learning tools and teaching methods to prepare for a smart, inclusive and sustainable digital future!
Like in the case of this 14-year girl of Paraguay, using ICT for Education we inspire the most vulnerable to aspire for the best in their life.