Youth and Innovation: From Radio to the Internet of Things

youth-innovation-blogTo commemorate our 150th anniversary, ITU has organized a year of events to celebrate ‘information and communication technologies (ICTs) as drivers of innovation’. February’s theme ‘youth and innovation’, simultaneously highlights the impact that ICTs have on youth, especially when considering online safety, and the contributions that young people make towards the development of technology.

Young people have demonstrated a considerable capacity to create and shape new approaches to technology development throughout history. One such innovator was Guglielmo Marconi who became a pioneer of wireless communications before the age of 30. The Italian inventor, who famously devised Marconi’s law, a mathematic formula for the maximum signalling distance of radio transmissions between antennas, developed a radio telegraph system which could transmit information across a vast distance. His invention has since helped to facilitate communication across the world; today, radio is a ubiquitous communications medium used for a wide range of purposes, from entertainment broadcasts to emergency telecommunications in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

In 1895 at the age of 21, Marconi developed a system of wireless telegraphy which marked the beginning of Radio Communications. With this technology, he sent signals beyond the hill in front of his laboratory. As he developed the radio telegraph system over the next six years, he sent radio messages further and further away, understanding the development of his invention depended on breaking down the barriers presented by distance. In December 1901 at the age of 27, Marconi sent signals across the Atlantic marking the beginning of the era of long-distance radio communications and initiated a worldwide revolution in telecommunications.

Over his 40 year career, Marconi became the symbol of the development of telecommunications and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909 for his pioneering work on the development of radio. ITU Discovery, our telecommunication visitor centre located at ITU headquarters in Geneva, will host an exhibit dedicated to Marconi’s achievements from 12 February – 30 April. The opening ceremony will be held in conjunction with EBU’s RadioHack, a hands-on event for software developers, integrators and engineers to learn how to set up new services, use existing open tools, and contribute to developments in radio.

Today, the increasing affordability and proliferation of ICTs, has stimulated a growing number of young inventors and entrepreneurs in the Information Society.

ITU is committed to youth empowerment in ICTs through initiatives including ITU Telecom’s annual Young Innovators Competition. As part of our 150th anniversary celebrations, ITU is providing platforms to encourage and empower the next generation of ICT experts and leaders to share their vision of the future of ICTs. As such, ITU will welcome over 50 students from 11 Universities around the world – including Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, U.S.A, the Netherlands and Mexico – to our Geneva headquarters as part of the 2015 Project Oriented Learning Environment (POLE) programme. POLE encourages students to work together to develop technologies in an international and interdisciplinary environment.

This year’s theme ‘From Morse Code to the Internet of Things’ will give the students involved an opportunity to develop innovative ideas on the future of ICTs in the coming years. Students will design a prototype – which can range from software to art work –that will be displayed on 17th May 2015 as part of the 150th celebrations.

joshJosh Choi is the Coordinator of ITU’s visitor center, ICT Discovery, an interactive museum and ICT education hub. He has led a number of ICT Discovery special events and established partnership programmes with various organizations including the UN Office at Geneva (Information Service), CERN (European Nuclear Research Center) and department of education of Geneva.

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