Saturday, December 2, 2006

ITU Telecom World 2006 Opens in Hong Kong

ITU Telecom World 2006 opened in Hong Kong featuring over 600 exhibitors and three industry pavilions representing the G-PON industry, the Internet community, and the WiMAX Forum. ITU Telecom World 2006 expects to attract 42,000 to 57,000 visitors and participants over the course of the week.

Winners of the Digital Life Theatre competition, comprising four categories to capture the scope of digital life, are: Ericsson (Digital Life at Home), Motorola (Digital Life at the Office), Lucent Technologies (Digital Life in the field of Media & Entertainment) and Teldat (Digital Life in Society).

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Professor Muhammad Yunus,
Founder and Managing Director of Grameen Bank and recent winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, described a new, virtual "ICT Empowerment Network" that is being launched in partnership with the ITU. This network of partners will be devoted to a collective global effort to combine the power of ICTs with micro-credit financing to help the poor earn sustainable income. To make this initiative a success, Grameen will reach out to more than 3,000 microfinance organizations and 100 million borrowers worldwide, while ITU will lever the support and participation of its 191 member states and some 650 private sector members from around the world.

Professor Yunus said "There is a view in some quarters that ICTs are totally irrelevant for poor people. ICTs are too complicated for the poor who are generally illiterate; ICTs are too expensive; the poor don't need fancy ICT gadgets, they need food etc. The skeptics will always be there.

When we began our cell-phone company, Grameen Phone, the skeptics said: "You've got to be crazy to give cell phones to illiterate poor women in the villages who never saw a conventional telephone in their lives; she would not know how to dial a number; anyway, whom is she going to call ? It's too expensive for her to afford."

Today, everybody in Bangladesh looks at Grameen telephone ladies in the villages with admiration, and some, with jealousy. They are doing a roaring business selling telephone services to the villagers. Another Grameen company is setting up internet kiosks in the villages and running them on a commercial basis. We are pleasantly surprised to see the response from the villagers in using the Internet and other computer services. Young people are signing up to learn computer skills for a fee. In villages where electricity does not exist, solar panels are powering the cell phones and computers. Grameen has set up a Solar Energy Company to bring solar energy to those villages."