May 17th, 2023 marked the celebration of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)’s 158th birthday. The date commemorates the signing of the inaugural International Telegraph Convention and the establishment of ITU in 1865.
WTISD focused this year on “Empowering the least developed countries through information and communication technologies.” On the Day, ITU called on the public and private sectors to make pledges for universal connectivity and digital transformation in these countries through its Partner2Connect Digital Coalition and announced that as we are mid-way through the agenda to realize the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, those countries face daunting challenges.
The event took place in person at ITU Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland with a remote participation option and was co-moderated by Mr. Max Jacobson-González, Senior Communications Officer at the ITU, and Ms. Sulyna Abdullah, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the ITU and Interim Executive Director of the Broadband Commission.
Opening the event, Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Co-Vice Chair of the Broadband Commission and Secretary-General of ITU stated,
“In the little time we have left to actually rescue those SDGs, we can no longer define LDCs by what they cannot, but by what they can be.” She went on to say, “What we can do now is this opportunity to create lasting digital justice prosperity and sustainability for all. It will matter for generations to come in LDC’s and beyond.”
H.E. Ms. Paula Ingabire, Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation, of Rwanda and representative of the Broadband Commission, joined the session remotely adding,
“Access to the internet remains a critical factor for the delivery especially for government such as ours and was part of a strategic vision to aspire to be a knowledge economy with universal access computer skills and overall potential that digital economy has to offer… achieving access from population means that our population can benefit from key resources to grow the skills they need for their personal and professional development.”
Ms. Rabab Fatima, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, UN-OHRLLS, acknowledged,
“the transformative role that ICT can play in the lives and livelihoods of more than 1.2 billion people in the LDC’s” and added, “ensuring full and effective implementation of the Doha Program of Action, especially its second pillar which concerns leveraging the power of science technology and innovation to empower the people in the LDC’s – who are the furthest behind.”
Several Broadband Commission entities were represented at the meeting, including:
- Orange pledged to “keep investing the accumulated 5.6 billion euros over the period 2021 to 2025. We are on track with this pledge, which was formulated when the P2C alliance was launched.”
- UNICEF made an exciting announcement as a birthday present to ITU. They shared their commitment to connect all schools worldwide by 2030. They emphasized the need for collective effort, stating, “We will need the help of everybody in the room to accomplish this goal because, for sure, this is something that we can’t achieve alone.”
- ZTE highlighted the significance of the P2C platform in their plans. They expressed their willingness to continue contributing to this remarkable endeavour, stating, “During the implementation of our plans, we recognized the imperative and importance of this P2C platform. Therefore, we are fully committed to remaining active participants and contributing to its success.”