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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day

 ICTs and Improving Road Safely
17 May 2013, Geneva, Switzerland
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this ceremony on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. As you know, we celebrate this annually on 17 May to mark the founding of ITU in 1865.

First, let me congratulate the laureates of this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Award, which goes out this year to highlight the theme: ICTs and Improving Road Safety – a matter of global concern which we must address urgently.

I welcome Ambassador Alexandre Fasel as the representative of His Excellency Mr Ulei Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation.

Switzerland is a country known for its innovation, its precision engineering, its high-end and high-tech products that have made ‘Swiss Made’ the label to reckon with in every corner of the world.

This tradition has made Switzerland among the safest countries for road users in the world. In the 2001-2010 decade, Switzerland has recorded a significant decrease in road traffic mortality. Moreover, The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention has been actively involved with ITU in developing standards for Driver Assistance Systems and intelligent systems for accident prevention in road traffic.

I am very pleased also to announce the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award to Mr Volkmar Denner, Chairman of the Board of Management of Robert Bosch, one of the leading suppliers of automotive components, including pioneering innovations in the areas of vehicle safety systems, in-car information and communication systems, as well as driver-assistance and other guidance functions.

Many safety functions in vehicles, such as antilock braking system, traction control and electronic stability come from Bosch, whose experts are currently working with ITU on standards to improve improving both transportation efficiency and road safety.

From civil society, I am very pleased to announce the recipient of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award, Mr Jean Todt, president of the International Automobile Federation, a world figure and household name in motorsports who needs no introduction.

Over the past years, Jean Todt has made global road safety a professional and personal engagement and made it a priority of the FIA. In support of the UN Decade of Action, and under the banner of the FIA Action for Road Safety, he has been tirelessly lobbying leaders and decision-makers all around the world, urging them to commit to tangible, affordable and verifiable measures aimed at reducing death and injury on the world's roads.

Mr Todt is also President of “e-Safety Aware!” which focuses on promoting smart vehicles and new safety technologies.

I am also very pleased to introduce to you Mr Felipe Massa, one of the most resilient Formula-1 champions who drove his 125th race for Ferrari last weekend. More than 10 years ago he entered the F1 arena with Sauber, the Swiss team based near Hinwil, which is the hometown of President Maurer. And ever since, he has been at the pinnacle of motorsports.

Felipe is also UNICEF’s Champion for Brazilian Children, knowing full well the positive impact of sports on our lives. Felipe has something up his sleeves for us this morning…

Ladies and gentlemen

Road traffic safety is a global concern for public health and injury prevention. Every year, 1.3 million people die in traffic related accidents and another 20-50 million people are injured mainly in developing countries around the world. As a result, Governments and individuals suffer an estimated USD 518 billion in global economic loss.

That is why we are focused today on the role of ICTs in improving road safety.

ICTs play a catalytic role in creating opportunities for people in every walk of life.

While these technologies are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, we must ensure that we use them responsibly and with caution, especially while driving, in order to avoid accidents and injury.

Driver distraction and road-user behaviour, such as “text messaging” and interfacing with in-vehicle navigation or communication systems while driving, are among the leading contributors to road traffic fatalities and injuries.

My message is clear: Don’t be distracted by technology when driving, whether calling from your mobile phone, or setting the navigation system.

Sending a text message or tweeting while driving is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all cost.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I call upon our Member States and industry partners to promote the use of safe interfaces and hands-free devices in vehicles and take action to eliminate technology-related distractions while driving. Along with promoting national policies to encourage the use of ICT in enhancing road safety, we must also promote the development and use of intelligent transport systems.

These measures will not only help prevent traffic accidents but also improve efficiencies in traffic management as a means of combating the effects of climate change.

I am pleased to say that ITU has been developing standards for safe user interfaces and communication systems in vehicles designed to optimize driving performance by eliminating unsafe technology-related distractions.

ITU has also been leading worldwide efforts in developing state-of-the-art ICT standards for Intelligent Transport Systems and driver safety that utilize a combination of computers, communications, positioning and automation technologies, including in-car radars for collision avoidance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to say that the theme for WTISD 2013 “ICTs and improving road safety” will be taken forward in the years to come in partnership with the automotive sector and with automobile associations worldwide under the banner of the F.I.A. – the International Automobile Federation – with whom we will be working closely to meet one of the most urgent global challenges of our times.

I urge you to celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day this year by paying particular attention to improving road safety by harnessing the power of ICTs.

I wish you and your families safe and happy driving.

Thank you