Ladies and gentlemen,
What a great pleasure it is to be here with you here today. It is indeed a great honour to be associated with the UK Telecommunications Academy, and I would like to thank David Mellor for his kind invitation to be here today.
As Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union – the United Nations Specialized Agency for Information and Communication Technologies – I cannot overstate the role higher education plays in bringing the social and economic benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people.
You are all students, either in UKTA’s Master of Laws in ICT Law programme, or in the Master of Communications Management programme.
As such, you deserve first of all to be congratulated on being here, and secondly to be encouraged to do your very best over the coming months to take advantage of the skills these excellent courses will bring you.
This is not just personal, of course. The work you do here and the skills you learn will play a vital role in helping to transfer technology know-how into the parts of the world that need it most and can most benefit from ICTs.
This of course is the ultimate purpose of the Academy – to provide applicants from countries developing their communications infrastructure access to the combined training capabilities of leading telecoms companies and selected universities in the United Kingdom.
You, I am certain, will benefit hugely from this experience, and I trust that you will also find time to have some fun while you are here in the UK!
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before I close, I would like to mention two students in particular, who really demonstrate the purpose behind the Academy.
The first is Lamin Jabbi, who is advisor to the Director General of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency, achieved a Distinction on the Master of Communication Management programme at Coventry University in 2004. This year Lamin will be following the Master of Laws in ICT Law programme, and he will be delivering lectures this year on behalf of the Academy at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in Rwanda.
The second is George Magonyozi, from Vodacom Tanzania. George completed the Master of Communication Management programme at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in 2007. This year, he will be delivering lectures on the MCM in Kigali, as well as following the Master of Laws in ICT Law programme.
As we move forward into the second decade of the 21st century, I am delighted to be here today to witness the start of a new set of courses.
This was our dream, when David Mellor and myself set up the first Masters in Communications programme under the auspices of the Academy back in 1999.
That was another decade – another century – and it is pleasing to see the continuity that we have achieved, and that you, as students, are responsible for taking forward with you.
Over the past decade, we have seen ICTs become ubiquitous and pervasive, and we have seen their influence spread into all domains of human activity.
We have seen the number of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide grow from under one billion to over five billion, and the number of Internet users pass the two billion mark.
But we still have a great deal to do – particularly in terms of getting affordable, equitable access to the Internet to all the world’s people, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.
The complex, digital world we inhabit today is very far removed from the simple analogue telecoms world of yester-year.
Mobile has become the key global communications technology for both voice and data – with more than a billion mobile broadband subscriptions worldwide.
The boundaries between infrastructure and content have converged, and in many cases have virtually disappeared.
And traffic across networks – both fixed and mobile – is now fully-digital, blurring any distinctions there might have been in the past between different types of traffic.
This affects – and will continue to affect – the lives of us all, and has far-reaching implications for each and every one of us here today.
Let me ask you: can you imagine life in the 21st century without ICTs? Without mobile phones or email? Without fast, efficient networks connecting businesses and their customers; governments and their people; families and friends?
I have a good imagination – and I cannot imagine that ICT-free world.
So let me urge and encourage you – as you pursue your studies, and especially once you have completed these programmes – to do everything in your power to help us achieve our goals; to help connect all the world’s people; and to make the world a better and fairer place – through the use of ICTs.