Wednesday, June 15, 2005

I.T.U. Launches "Connect the World" Initiative

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) launched a "Connect the World" initiative aimed at bringing access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) to the estimated one billion people worldwide for whom making a simple telephone call remains out of reach. At present, ITU estimates that around 800,000 villages -- or 30% of all villages worldwide -- are still without any kind of connection.

The initiative has three elements:

  • Enabling Environment, which is aimed at helping nations develop transparent, fair and technology-neutral policy and regulatory frameworks, adopt national and regional technical standardization and harmonization initiatives, adopt intellectual property legislation, establish transparent dispute settlement mechanisms, and undertake other related business and social development initiatives.

  • Infrastructure & Readiness, which is aimed at helping nations promote the deployment of network infrastructure, raise the awareness of the value of ICTs, pursue universal service/access projects, and support the development of relevant and accessible local content.

  • Applications & Services, which focuses around e-Governance, e-Learning and e-Health programmes, the use of ICTs to improve disaster readiness and response, and initiatives designed to promote use of ICTs among young people.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the ITU, said "It is time to stop regarding access to ICTs as a privilege available to the rich few within a country, and the rich few countries in the world. ICTs now underpin just about every aspect of modern life. They are basic infrastructure, as necessary to economic and social development as postal services, banks, medical centres and schools."

"Connect the World" has 22 founding partners, including Alcatel, Huawei, Intel, Microsoft, KDDI, Telefónica, Infosys and WorldSpace, whose CEOs have all embraced the goals of the initiative. Partners also include governments and government agencies including Egypt, France, Senegal and the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion (KADO), regional and international organizations including UNESCO, the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the European Commission, the International Telecommunication Satellite Organization, RASCOM and the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP), as well as a range of organizations from civil society including Télécoms Sans Frontières, the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation and Child Helpline International.

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