Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the need to harness the power of broadband Internet access to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the development goals intended to alleviate poverty and speed up social and economic advancement in poorer countries.
“Experience has shown that greater access to broadband technologies has meant faster progress towards all the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals],” Mr. Ban said in a message to the Plenipotentiary Conference of the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which got under way today in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“The Internet drives trade, commerce and even education. Telemedicine is improving health care. Earth-monitoring satellites are being used to address climate change issues. And green technologies are promoting cleaner cities.
“Last month the Broadband Commission for Digital Development – a distinguished group of government officials, businesspeople and content developers, brought together under the leadership of ITU and UNESCO [UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization] – offered a blueprint, and I look forward to working with all partners in bringing it to life,” the Secretary-General said.
Mr. Ban praised ITU’s central role in the development of the global communications system for 145 years, stressing its invaluable contribution as member of the UN system for the past 60 years.
“From the birth of telegraph to radio, television, satellite communication and the Internet, the ITU has been at the forefront of ‘Connecting the World,’” the Secretary-General said.
He noted that there are currently five billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, and almost two billion people with Internet connection, pointing out that the work of the ITU, its member States, and its “sector members” continues to show how powerful a partnership for development can be when it is based on transparency, openness and cooperation.
“But despite important headway in expanding the benefits of information and communication technology, there is much work ahead. As was emphasized at last month’s Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York, while the digital divide has narrowed, it has far from disappeared,” the Secretary-General said.
“Your work in developing the next generation of communications networks, ensuring cyber-security, and putting the power of ICT [Information and Communication Technologies] networks to good use in disaster relief and mitigation is vitally important to us all,” he added.
Speaking at the opening session of the conference, Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General, urged delegates to be “bold and visionary” in reaching agreements that will provide a sound platform for the development of information and communication technologies and services for the decade ahead.
The Plenipotentiary is the quadrennial global conference that decides strategy for the ITU, the UN agency for ICTs responsible for allocating global radio spectrum, creating the technical standards that fuel all ICT networks, and developing and implementing strategies to bridge the “digital divide” between people in developed countries and those living in regions with less access to information technology.
“We are here to shape the future. Not just the future of the ITU, but the future of the ICT sector – which now influences every other business sector worldwide, and which now reaches into the lives of almost everyone on the planet. And the future – to quote the great Mahatma Gandhi – depends on what we do in the present,” said Mr. Touré.
The event, which will end on 22 October, is hosted by Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport. It will welcome around 2,400 participants from some 190 ITU member States, sector members and observer organizations.