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UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon
UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon

ICT To Drive Economic, Environmental Prospects Say UN

Isaiah Onwuanumba

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said innovations in information and communication technologies (ICT) can assist advance the economy and protect the environment for the good entire humanity. He was speaking recently in Geneva at the International Telecoms Union (ITU) celebration of 150th anniversary marking a long and illustrious history at the cutting edge of communication technologies.

ITU is UN arm for global telecoms regulation. ITU within the week marked 150th anniversary of global apex telecoms regulations with celebrations and awards presented to persons that helped change the way we live. Ki-moon said ITU has continued to promote international cooperation, by working to achieve practical solutions to integrate new communications technologies as they develop and spreading their benefits to all.

Telecommunications – as well as information and communications technology – drive innovation. The digital revolution has transformed our world. New information and communication technologies can help boost the economy and protect the environment,” he said.

According to him, ITU has earned its global reputation for resilience and relevance in telecoms regulation, adding that the agency’s many contributions as the oldest member in the United Nations system is noteworthy. ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said “the remarkable history of ITU exemplifies its stellar role in connecting the world to the most advanced and innovative means of communication, from the days of the telegraph to the Internet and mobile broadband, which now allows us to be in touch anytime, anywhere with friends, family, colleagues and even things.”

“Throughout our 150-year history, we have promoted international cooperation, working to achieve practical solutions to integrate new communications technologies as they develop, spreading their benefits to all.” The Union gathered that those acknowledged in Geneva included Martin Cooper, Robert E. Kahn, and Mark I. Krivocheev. Others are Ken Sakamura, and Thomas Wiegand. Bill Gates was accorded special recognition for revolution through Microsoft. ITU was established on 17 May 1865 with the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in Paris to facilitate the transmission of telegraphy across international borders.

ITU was initially headquartered in Berne and moved to Geneva in 1948, soon after it became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1947. Ms Doris Leuthard, Minister of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications of Switzerland, delivered the keynote address on behalf of the host country. The ITU 150th anniversary was marked by celebrations in some 50 countries around the world.

A special ceremony was held in Paris   to mark the signing of the First International Telegraph Convention on 17 May 1865. A ceremony was also held in Madrid, attended by King Felipe VI of Spain, to commemorate the re-naming of the International Telegraph Union as the International Telecommunication Union in 1932. Looking towards the future as the leading UN specialized agency for telecommunications and ICT, ITU is focused on driving innovation together with the Union’s 193 Member States and membership of over 700 private sector entities and academic institutions.

A panel discussion focusing on ICTs as drivers of a sustainable future was anchored by BBC correspondent Imogen Foulkes, brought in key thinkers and doers: Philip Walton, COO, BRCK; Luis Von Ahn, CEO & founder, DuoLingo; Gabriela Styf Sjöman, CTO, Telecom Italia Group; Jian Wang, CTO, Alibaba; and Ulf Ewaldsson, CTO, Ericsson. ITU 150th anniversary Awards ITU accorded recognition to the Founding Member States that signed the convention in 1865. With the re-drawing of national borders over the years, the original twenty are now represented by sixteen countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

Longstanding industry members were also recognized, including Telecom Italia   (hailing back to 1925), Exelis and Telefónica (since 1929); and Sirti (1931). The ITU 150 Awards were presented to eminent laureates who have contributed to ITU’s work: Martin Cooper, Robert E. Kahn, Mark I. Krivocheev, Ken Sakamura, and Thomas Wiegand. Bill Gates was given special recognition for his contributions and his ongoing work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Martin Cooper is a pioneer in wireless communications and referred to as the ‘father’ of portable cellular telephony. He is an inventor, entrepreneur and futurist who conceived the first portable cellular phone in 1973. Cooper knew then that people needed the freedom that comes from anywhere, anytime telephony. Robert E. Kahn played a pioneering role in the development of the Internet.

Kahn has developed the concept of a digital object architecture to provide a framework for interoperability of heterogeneous information systems and is the co-inventor of Knowbot programmes – mobile software agents in the network environment. Mark Krivocheev is best known for his pioneering work in forging a world television digital standard and for HDTV standards, which have made it possible for us to receive high quality sound and picture in our homes. Ken Sakamura designed the TRON open computer system architecture, which will be useful for ubiquitous computing of the future, and helped produce a series of Recommendations, including ITU-T H.642 “Multimedia information access triggered by tag-based identification”, which is a critical element as we move to the age of the Internet of Things and Big Data.

Thomas Wiegand has contributed significantly towards the standardization for multimedia and co-chaired for the development of the ITU-T H.264/ MPEG-AVC video coding standard, which facilitates video streaming on mobile devices and was recognized with a Primetime Emmy Award from the Los Angeles-based Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, led the company that became the worldwide leader in business and personal software, services, and solutions. As co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he shapes and approves grant-making strategies, advocates for the foundation’s issues, and helps set the overall direction of the organization.

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