World Telecommunication and Information Society Day
Ranjan K Baruah
(With direct inputs from UN/ITU publication and feedback may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are the generations who have seen the transformation of digital technology.
We are seeing things that were not dreamed of till recently. We can't think of a day with digital technology or connection. The mobile phone has become an integral part of our life and it is such a powerful device that without it we may not think of a day. No doubt driven by information and communication technologies (ICTs), our societies have undergone a digital alteration that gave birth to the digital economy and information society. We must admit that ICTs being democratic tools has bought many positive changes all over the world.
The importance of digital technologies has been more realized when there is a lockdown. Online classes or digital classes have shown how important technology is in the present situation. We have no option but to rely on technology and devices during the time of pandemic for our classes and also for work. This has popularized work from home by using technology. The COVID-19 crisis has not only highlighted the critical role of ICTs for the continued functioning of societies but has also brought to the fore the startling digital inequalities between and within countries. The digital divide is another challenge for many and mainly in rural areas and amongst poor people.
On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of accelerating digital transformation and advancing the goals and targets of the Connect 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind. Both the issues are important which include positive digital transformation and minimizing the digital divide so that no one is left behind.
The purpose of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) is to help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other ICT can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide. This day is observed on 17th May and it is an opportunity for us to push for digital transformation by promoting national strategies on ICT development, smart policies to encourage investments, cooperation, and partnership. The focus of WTISD 2021 is "Accelerating Digital Transformation in challenging times". 17th May marks the anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
World Telecommunication Day has been celebrated annually on 17th May since 1969, marking the founding of ITU and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865. It was instituted by the Plenipotentiary Conference in Malaga-Torremolinos in 1973 as Resolution 46. In November 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society called upon the United Nations General Assembly to declare 17th May as World Information Society Day to focus on the importance of ICT and the wide range of issues related to the Information Society raised by WSIS. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/60/252) in March 2006 stipulating that World Information Society Day shall be celebrated every year on 17th May. In November 2006, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey, decided to celebrate both events on 17 May as WTISD.
Previous years Themes:
2020: Connect 2030: ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
2019: Bridging the standardization gap
2018: Enabling the positive use of Artificial Intelligence for All
2017: Big Data for Big Impact
2016: ICT entrepreneurship for social impact
2015: Telecommunications and ICTs: Drivers of innovation
Secretary-General of the UN in his message said that "digital technologies sustain life, work, health and learning for billions of people. In the face of COVID-19, businesses, governments and the digital community have proven resilient and innovative, helping to protect lives and livelihoods. These challenging times have accelerated the transformation everywhere." "Yet 3.7 billion people – nearly half the world's population – remain unconnected to the Internet; and of these, the majority are women. They, too, must be included if we are to make the possibilities of 5G, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, digital health and other technologies truly transformative and sustainable: he added. He also mentioned that "we must also protect against the dangers of digital technologies, from the spread of hatred and misinformation to cyber-attacks and the exploitation of our data."
Houlin Zhao, ITU's Secretary-General in his message said that "the information society has emerged as one of the main lines of defence against COVID-19. There have been many success stories that have shone a spotlight both on the vital importance of ICTs and deep digital inequalities between and within countries."
"In this decisive year, ITU will use World Telecommunication and Information Society Day to unite the world in pursuit of digital transformation in every area of business and all parts of life. It will be an opportunity to strengthen national strategies on ICT development, implement smart policies and effective measures to encourage investments in ICTs and digital skills, and upgrade our services with new technologies ranging from AI to 5G that is central to the digital economy", he added.
We can commit to working together to defeat COVID-19 and guarantee that digital technologies are vital for good that help us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind at any cost. It is up to us how we transform digital technologies and how we make them affordable for all. Different players have different roles and responsibilities. Governments, corporate, international organizations and every individual may make a difference. Sustainable development is not possible if there is a digital divide. Let us ensure that all of us use technology for the good of human beings and all other living creatures on earth.