The global sustainable development agenda recognizes the great potential of information and communication technology to accelerate human progress, bridge the digital divide and advance knowledge, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, marking World Telecommunication and Information Society Day.
Urging governments, businesses and civil society leaders to develop new technologies that have a lasting social impact in his message for the
Day, the UN chief highlighted that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals specifically call for employing information and communication technology (ICT) to realize the overall vision of a life of dignity for all people.
“These technologies provide smart solutions to address climate change, hunger, poverty and other global challenges,” the Secretary-General said. “They are key instruments for providing mobile health care and access to education, empowering women, improving efficiencies in industrial and agricultural production, and safeguarding the environment.”
Celebrated each year on 17 May, the Day marks the anniversary of the signature of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865 which led to the creation of the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The theme for this year is “ICT entrepreneurship for social impact.”
In his message, Mr. Ban highlighted that start-ups and technology hubs in the ICT sector are the drivers of innovative and practical solutions that can contribute to inclusive growth. Small to medium-sized enterprises make up more than 90 per cent of all businesses worldwide, and represent a path out of poverty for many developing countries.
Noting that young people are especially fluent in the use of ICTs, the Secretary-General said that leaders should invest in young innovators, who are part of the largest generation of youth in history.
“As entrepreneurs, they can pioneer transformative technology, create jobs and benefit whole economies,” Mr. Ban stressed.
In addition, the Secretary-General said that ICTs can create more inclusive societies for persons with disabilities.
“They can help children to learn and the elderly to stay active. And ICTs can connect people around the world in common cause,” Mr. Ban said.
“On this World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, let us resolve to harness the power of technology to create a better future for all,” he added.
In another message for the Day, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said that the ICT sector is among the most profitable and successful and has revolutionized the way the world communicates.
Video message by ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao for WTISD 2016. Credit: ITU
“Through a combination of forward-looking government policies and regulatory reforms, international standards, industry innovation and investment in infrastructure, and new services, billions of people have been brought into the information society in a remarkably short period of time. This is a shared achievement for which we can all be proud,” he said.
Mr. Zhao noted that building on this foundation, the world is now in an increasingly smart, networked environment encompassing cloud computing, big data, and new applications in diverse areas from health to finance, while moving towards a future of smart transport systems and cities.
He stressed that as the roll-out of infrastructure and connectivity is advanced, the role of services and applications will grow, along with the potential for many innovative smaller players to enter the market with solutions to address local needs.
“ICT entrepreneurship is set to bring about a paradigm shift in making significant social impact. We need their expertise, innovation and investment to achieve our common goals of sustainable economic and social development,” he said.
Specifically, he called on governments and industry, academia and technical experts to promote the role of small, young and innovative firms in the ICT sector; encourage the spread of digital social innovation; prioritize economic policies that promote innovation; ensure the availability of necessary human capacity; support the establishment of comprehensive entrepreneurial ecosystems; as well as assist entrepreneurs in moving from idea and innovation to sales and revenue.
“Let us put our resources together to harness the catalytic role of ICTs in achieving sustainable development and delivering on economic growth, social inclusion and environmental balance,” Mr. Zhao concluded.