ICT4SDG | Infrastructure
May 17, 2020

WTISD 2020: Working towards ‘Connect 2030’ in the time of COVID-19

By ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao

Every year on 17 May, we mark World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. It is a day in which we recognize and highlight the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower people and transform lives for the better.

WTISD falls on the anniversary of the founding of ITU on 17 May 1865 when the first International Telegraph Convention was signed in Paris.

For 155 years, ITU has helped to steer the progress of ICTs. Through wars, famines and global pandemics of years past, our members have continued to work together to advance technology to change and improve people’s lives.

And now, more than ever, there is a greater need for robust and reliable information and communication technologies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted why we must continue to work hard to close the digital divide.

As billions of people around the world are adjusting to a new life amid the COVID-19 crisis, digital technologies have been instrumental to keeping economies and societies connected. They are helping school children stay in school through e-learning tools. They are helping people to access critical medical services through telemedicine and other technology-led solutions. They are helping keep food chain infrastructure moving through intelligent shipping networks.

And although networks have felt the strain of COVID-19 – with some companies reporting surges of more than 300 per cent on their network – there has been minimal disruption to the connectivity. This is an incredible achievement.

But as billions of people around the world now rely on ICTs to work, study and keep in touch with loved ones as the crisis continues to spread around the world, bringing these technologies to all is more urgent and important than ever before.

Closing the digital divide

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted why we must continue to work hard to close the digital divide. Today, 3.6 billion people remain offline, unable to access online education, employment or critical health and sanitation advice.

Indeed, ICTs are not only on the frontline of the COVID-19 response. From the positive effect of e-commerce on the reduction of poverty to optimizing agricultural practices to combat hunger, closing the gender gap and developing technology-led strategies to combat climate change, technology has the power to change lives.

One thing is clear: the world needs the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the SDGs need ICTs.

I am confident we will come out of this crisis stronger and with a renewed impetus to work together to build a better digital world where no one is left behind.

That is why we must seize this opportunity to speed up the development of our digital society.

As the UN specialized agency for ICTs, ITU is mobilizing our membership and the broader ICT and development community to work together to connect everyone, everywhere.

Connect 2030 Agenda: On the path to success

Our Connect 2030 Agenda is a roadmap for all our members and others to bridge this gap. It lays out a path to create better environments for investment in ICT infrastructure and facilitates the development of new technologies like 5G.

With 10 years left to achieve the SDGs, Connect 2030 serves as an accelerator for digital inclusion.

 

The COVID-19 crisis puts the world to the test. I am inspired by the dedication of ICT workers, the resilience of networks, and the response of the ITU family and ICT community at a time when technology is needed the most, but now is the time to leverage this response to work to close the digital divide.

I am confident we will come out of this crisis stronger and with a renewed impetus to work together to build a better digital world where no one is left behind.

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ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

WTISD 2020: Working towards ‘Connect 2030’ in the time of COVID-19

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