Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the world to harness the power of telecommunications and information technologies to improve life-saving services, promote sustainable development and foster international peace.
“The United Nations is committed to ensuring that people everywhere have equitable access to information and communication technologies,” Mr. Ban said in a message to mark the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day.
“On this International Day, let us resolve to fully harness the great potential of the digital revolution in the service of life-saving relief operations, sustainable development and lasting peace,” the Secretary-General said.
He notes that the use of telecommunications was crucial to saving lives in the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January. Communications technologies were used to coordinate aid and to provide desperately sought information about victims, Mr. Ban said.
“The [UN] International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and its commercial partners contributed scores of satellite terminals and helped to provide wireless communications to help disaster relief and clean-up efforts,” he said, lauding efforts by the ITU and its partners to promote broadband access in rural and remote areas around the world.
“Greater access can mean faster progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the Secretary-General said, referring to the poverty alleviation and social development targets that countries have agreed to make efforts to achieve by 2015.
“The Internet drives trade, commerce and even education. Telemedicine is improving health care. Earth monitoring satellites are being used to address climate change. And green technologies are promoting cleaner cities,” said Mr. Ban. “As these innovations grow in importance, so, too, does the need to bridge the digital divide,” he added.
The theme of this year’s observance of the day is “Better Cities, Better Life with ICTs.” Mr. Ban said that the theme was a reminder that communications technologies must be employed – and disposed of – in a manner that raises living standards while protecting the environment.
“Better Cities, Better Life” is also the theme of the World Expo in Shanghai, where the UN has a permanent Pavilion, and where the ITU today marked its 145th anniversary with the presentation of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Awards.
This year’s laureates – Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak; Chairman and CEO of China Mobile, Wang Jianzhou; and Robert Kahn, President and CEO of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives – were recognized for their contribution to the ongoing digital revolution and their dedication to promoting ICTs as a means of providing a better life for humanity.