Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Exhibition "From the Dawn of Writing to Multimedia"

16 September 2010, Geneva, Switzerland

Exhibition Opening Speech


Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Geneva today for the opening of this fine exhibition: ‘From the dawn of writing to multimedia’.

Cloud of words: exhibition, people, messages, ITU, time, history, communication, technology...We are deeply honoured to be hosting this exhibition, which traces the history of communication through the ages. Indeed, it is particularly relevant to  ITU and our work, since our mission is to ‘Connect the World’ – so that people everywhere can enjoy the fundamental right to communicate.



On 17 May this year we celebrated the 145th anniversary of ITU’s foundation in 1865. In the years since then, there has been impressive – and accelerating – progress in communications technology.

The world has moved from the telegraph to the telephone; from radios to satellites; and on to the mobile and Internet revolutions.

The first steps, of course, were not taken in 1865, but thousands of years ago, when people first grasped the notion of creating a written language. No longer did messages simply rely on human memory alone, or on the limited signals which could be sent using smoke from fires or distant drumbeats.

With the arrival of writing, messages could for the first time be saved. And – with the invention of printing – they could be easily copied and widely disseminated.

Today, the number of mobile phone subscriptions has reached the five billion mark, and there are likely to be two billion people using the Internet by the end of 2010.

It is important to note, too, that information and communication technologies – ICTs – no longer take the form of simple and separate devices. They have become integrated multimedia systems which enable us to remain in contact with one another – anywhere, anytime.

I think we can all recognize the tremendous advances that have been made in enabling people to communicate. At the same time, we need to recognize the work that still needs to be done to bridge the digital divide, and especially the broadband divide.

We must do everything in our power to bring the benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their economic situation.

Meanwhile, by visiting this exhibition, we can look back at the long journey that humanity has taken. Through a mixture of ancient and modern exhibits, we will be able to wonder at the cultural richness of items loaned by museums in Romania, while, at the same time, using our mobile phones to delve further into the history behind each object and theme.

If there is one thing to be learned from the vast span of history covered by this exhibition, it is the significance of ordinary objects, no matter how simple they appear to our eyes today.

A small piece of pottery with symbolic markings, for example, made more than 7,000 years ago, can carry a message. What does it say? How did its authors see their lives, and what were their concerns? Questions like these are exactly the same as the ones we ask ourselves now, when – via modern communications technology – we read messages from around the world from different geographies and cultures.

So I am very pleased to welcome this initiative. And on behalf of ITU and its membership, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the exhibition’s organizers: the Permanent Mission of Romania to the international organizations in Geneva; the Museum of Dacian and Roman Civilization; and the Romanian-Swiss Multimedia Institute.

Thank you.