UN telecommunications group aims to hook up the unconnected by 2015

16 June 2005

The United Nations telecommunications organization today launched a drive to bring modern communications to the estimated one billion people worldwide for whom making a simple telephone call is out of reach.

The United Nations telecommunications organization today launched a drive to bring modern communications to the estimated one billion people worldwide for whom making a simple telephone call is out of reach.

Launching the initiative, called “Connect the World,” at UN headquarters in Geneva, Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Communications Union (ITU), said there was an urgent need to connect those still deprived of ready access to any sort of phone line, internet connection or other modern information and communication technologies (ICTs).

“It is time to stop regarding access to ICTs as a privilege available to the rich few within a country, and the rich few countries of the world,” said Mr. Utsumi. “ICTs now underpin just about every aspect of modern life. They are basic infrastructure, as necessary to economic and social development as postal services, banks, medical centres and schools.

Connect the World aims to connect all the world’s communities by the variety of means currently available by the year 2015. At present, ITU estimates that around 800,000 villages, or 30 percent of all villages worldwide, are still without any kind of connection.

The initiative is being launched in the context of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), meeting in Tunis from 16 to 18 November, which aims to bridge the so-called “digital divide” between the haves and the have-nots of digital technology.

“It is not ICTs that will solve the problem of the digital divide; it is people and especially people working in partnership,” Mr. Utsumi said. “So while Connect the World is about harnessing the power of ICTs it is also about harnessing the power of people working together to connect the unconnected.”

In that light, Connect the World stresses partnership between public and private sectors, UN agencies and civil society, according to ITU. It has 20 founding partners, including leading corporate players such as Alcatel, Huawei, Intel, Microsoft, KDDI, Telefonica, Infosys and WorldSpace, as well as ITU sister organizations such as the International Postal Union.

 

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