Role of technology in combating climate change and cyberthreats lauded at UN forum

12 November 2008

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has joined with two of Africa’s leaders in lauding the efforts of the United Nations telecommunications agency in promoting the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to tackle the challenges of climate change and cybersecurity.

Reiterating that climate change is “the defining challenge of our era,” Mr. Ban said he was very pleased to learn of the initiatives by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to make ICT climate neutral.

“Your work to cut greenhouse gas emissions, develop standards and use ‘e-environment’ systems can speed up the global shift to a low-carbon economy,” he said in a video message to the ITU Governing Council, whose two-day high-level segment began today in Geneva.

The ITU is also playing an important role in helping developing countries adapt to the impact of climate by helping them obtain emergency telecommunications systems and other resources for disaster relief, the Secretary-General added.

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré pointed out that “redressing the damage already done and mitigating future impact will require concerted efforts on the part of everyone, including the information and communication technology sector.”

He said ITU can play an active and valuable role in helping reduce carbon emissions, for example, through the development of technical standards that lower the power requirements of ICT equipment and services, and through helping pioneer new technologies that help reduce the carbon footprint of other industries, such as the automotive sector.

Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso, told the gathering that ICTs can open enormous possibilities to mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by using energy-efficient means such as advanced web conferencing and telecommuting.

“The rational use of ICTs in the service of economic, social and environmental development requires the transfer of technologies and the adoption of policies and programmes aimed at helping developing countries, in particular those in Africa, at reducing the digital divide,” he stressed.

During its two-day high-level meeting the ITU will also be launching its Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, which seeks to ensure that the online world remains a safe place to work and play, as part of its efforts to address the challenge of cybersecurity.

According to the ITU, in industrialized countries, as many as 60 per cent of children and teenagers use online chatrooms regularly, and evidence suggests that as many of three-quarters of these may be willing to share personal information in exchange for online goods and services.

In addition, in some countries, as many as one in five children may be targeted by a predator or paedophile each year.

“At ITU, we believe not just in connecting the world, but in connecting the world responsibly,” noted Mr. Touré. “The Internet can be a great facilitator, but in the wrong hands it can also turn into a malevolent influence. Ensuring the online world is a safe and secure place to visit will be essential to promoting worldwide adoption of this powerful resource.”

Mr. Ban welcomed the new initiative and urged all States to support it. “With more and more transactions being done online, predators, criminals and terrorists can take advantage. We have to protect against cyberthreats, especially when they target children,” he noted in his message.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame also stressed the need to strengthen cybersecurity and online child protection. “We must draw on the success and experience of existing models to build global awareness and develop practical tools for governments, educators, and parents to minimize risks to young people.

“The youth are natural and enthusiastic adopters of technology, and many routinely surf the Web and participate in online chatrooms, network, and view all types of information and data – some of which are harmful. For this reason, protection of children and young people must be one of the central pillars of any efforts to ensure a safe online environment,” he stated.


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