Bridging the "digital divide" – among peoples and between nations alike – is the surest way to create a truly global information society for all, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message marking World Telecommunications Day.
"We live in an age in which communication between people is essential to achieving our shared goals of development and peaceful coexistence," the Secretary-General said in a message issued in New York. "New innovations in information and communication technologies have increased exponentially our capacity to connect with each other."
"It is up to us to harness the potential of these technologies in our work to extend the benefits of education, health care, trade and environmental protection to all," Mr. Annan said.
The theme of this year's Day, "Creating an Equitable Information Society: Time for Action," calls on the international community to give shape to the vision adopted at the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003.
"I urge Member States and all other stakeholders to reaffirm their commitment to that process, and to participate at the highest levels when the Summit reconvenes in Tunis in November," Mr Annan said.
Meanwhile, this year's Day marks the 140th anniversary of the founding of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in May 1844, when Samuel Morse sent his first public message over a telegraph line between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland, ushering in the telecommunications age.
ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi said that from the birth of the telegraph, through radio and television broadcasting to satellite communications and the Internet, the ITU's work had been essential to harnessing the power of technology to fulfil the basic human need for communication.
Looking ahead to the Tunis Summit, he said that the true test of an equitable information society will be the extent to which today's powerful knowledge-based communication tools are able to connect different peoples across all geographic, economic and information divides. "Clearly, the time for action is now," he said.