Committed to connecting the world


World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD)

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao​

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) : ICT Entrepreneurship for Social Impact

17 May 2016, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a tremendous pleasure to welcome you to World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2016, focusing this year on "ICT entrepreneurship for social impact".

Over the past decades, the ICT sector has grown to become one of the world's most successful and inspiring ecosystems.

On this very special day – 17 May – we can proudly celebrate the fact that billions of people are now connected in a smart, networked environment, and are connected to new and previously unimaginable possibilities.

These welcome developments make it even more urgent that we continue to pursue our goal of bringing the rest of the world's people online, so that they too can access and create extraordinary social and economic benefits.

Distinguished colleagues,

Today, the ICT world is increasingly being driven by grassroots entrepreneurship, delivering local solutions to tackle local challenges.

Anyone, anywhere in the world today – with good connectivity and the necessary skills – has the potential to create and innovate with global impact.

Entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, provide up to 70% of global employment, and we need their expertise, innovation and investment to achieve our common goals of sustainable economic and social development.

Governments around the world recognize this, and many are now actively promoting national innovation and entrepreneurial hubs, with the aim of creating a vibrant start-up culture.

It is clear to me that it is the SMEs who extend the power of new ICT technologies and services to reach local communities everywhere in the world. To some extent, there is no possibility for big companies to succeed if they do not have the support of SMEs.

Distinguished colleagues,

Here at ITU, we are well-positioned to promote digital entrepreneurship in collaboration with our global membership of governments, industry, civil society and academia, as well as other international organizations and stakeholders.

We work hard to ensure an enabling policy and regulatory environment – an environment that facilitates and promotes innovation while still delivering effective mechanisms to avoid market dominance and guarantee consumer protection.

We are developing international technical standards that enable anyone anywhere to produce services and equipment for a global market.

And we harmonise the use of the radio spectrum to ensure interoperability and to benefit from economies of scale.   

At our major events, such as ITU Telecom, we bring together ministers, regulators, industry leaders, academia, innovation hubs and accelerators, as well as start-ups and SMEs themselves.

Coming from both the developed and the developing world, they come to ITU to share knowledge and best practices, and to build valuable new partnerships.

At ITU, I want to ensure that we use our experience and global network to support the evolving ICT ecosystem, including government-funded tech parks, university incubators, and start-up accelerators, so that SMEs in emerging economies can more easily grow and scale their business and access new market opportunities.

An important part of this effort is to promote greater gender equality in the ICT ecosystem. The technology sector needs more women leaders, creators and entrepreneurs. And to this end, I am delighted to share with you here today, that tomorrow the ITU, and our partner UN Women, will issue the call for nominations for our third annual GEM-tech awards.

This prestigious global prize recognizes outstanding contributions from individuals and organizations in further addressing the issue of the digital gender divide by leveraging and embracing the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for social impact and to promote greater gender equality and to empower women and girls.

Let me therefore take this opportunity to call upon all of our members and partners to actively promote small, smart and innovative ICT businesses, as well as supporting the creation of all-inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems.

ITU will continue to work with our membership in supporting these endeavours to achieve widespread digital social innovation, and to promote ICT entrepreneurship for social impact, to create a better world for all.

Thank you for your attention.