The exponential growth of the Internet, one of the greatest engineering and technical feats ever achieved, was made possible by a level of collaboration and cooperation which has few parallels in the history of technological development.
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of ITU. ICT evolution over 150 years – from the telegraph to the telephone to satellites and mobile broadband and on into the information age – has required extensive global collaboration and at ITU we are proud to have played a meaningful role where Member States, industry leaders and civil society come together to achieve consensus positions on the future of technology and take concrete action for effective digital inclusion to ensure that technology benefits everyone.
Our collaborative efforts over the past 150 years have brought lasting benefits to the Internet community and beyond. We are also proud of the partnerships we have built – within the UN family, with the Internet technical community as well as with other stakeholders.
These partnerships are key to creating effective and lasting technological progress. As Deputy-Secretary General, I have seen the UN community develop and share common views on the future of internet governance at NETmundial, and various aspects of the information society at the WSIS+10 High Level Event.
In my previous role as Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) from 1999 to 2006, I promoted collaboration between ITU and international technical bodies working together to develop the future of the Internet – including the development and release of the Emmy award winning H.264 codec which enables high quality video over the Internet and access to technologies via optical fibre and to connect users to the network. While this codec is now used extensively across the Internet, it would not have been possible without the ongoing partnerships that ITU enjoys with technical bodies such as ISOC, IETF, IEEE, W3C and the Regional Internet Registries.
There remain many goals that we all have yet to achieve in bringing the benefits of the connected world to everyone. We must for instance prioritize bringing the Internet to the more than four billion people still without access to this global resource; we need to bridge the digital gender gap, which currently stands at 200 million less women than men online; we must ensure accessible ICTs are available to the nearly one billion people living with disabilities; we must work to ensure that young people everywhere in the world are not only tomorrow’s users, but tomorrow’s creators and innovators; we must enable a safe and secure internet so that everyone, including the most vulnerable segments of society, can enjoy it with confidence and trust, and so it can continue to innovate and grow and increasingly spread its benefits to all corners of the globe.
These goals cannot be achieved by any single individual or organization. We can only succeed if we work together and at ITU we are committed to working with all interested stakeholders in translating this vision into reality.
Next month we will hold our 19th Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Republic of Korea where ITU membership will determine our direction and priorities for the next four years. I can confidently state that our goal to bring the benefits of ICTs to everyone will be reaffirmed and further strengthened. And I believe that ITU will be ever more agile, collaborative, and inclusive – both as a committed contributor to our joint efforts to bring ICTs to everyone worldwide, and in providing a neutral platform for discussions on how to achieve this.
This blog was adapted from a speech delivered at the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul, Turkey on September 2, 2014.
By Houlin Zhao
Houlin Zhao was elected ITU Deputy Secretary-General at the Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey, in November 2006. He was re-elected for a second four-year term in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October 2010. From 1999 to 2006, he served as Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) with his first election at PP-98 in Minneapolis, USA and again at PP-02 in Marrakesh, Morocco. From 1986-1998, he worked at ITU headquarters, as an Engineer/Councilor. Mr Zhao graduated from Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, and holds an MSc in Telematics from the University of Essex in the UK.