This year, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day highlights the theme “Better life in rural communities with ICTs”, which was adopted by ITU Council in 2009 and follows up on the theme for 2010: “Better city, better life with ICTs”.
ICTs are increasingly in demand to meet the Millennium Development Goals. In the rural context, ICTs provide enhanced opportunities to generate income and combat poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy.
Half the world’s population resides in rural districts and far flung communities. This half — three billion people — represent the poorer, less educated, and more deprived cousins of our urban citizens. Indeed, latest figures indicate that as many as 70 per cent of the developing world’s 1.4 billion extremely poor people live in rural areas1. They are also among the least connected to the benefits of ICTs. We cannot allow this situation to continue.
As the leading specialized agency of the United Nations for information and communication technologies (ICT), ITU looks towards its Members to raise awareness of the role of ICTs in creating fresh opportunities for a better life through long-term, sustainable development, not least among the most vulnerable sections of our society.
ICTs and related e-applications are key instruments in improving governance and rural services, such as providing community health care, safe drinking water and sanitation, education, food and shelter; improving maternal health and reducing child mortality; empowering women and the more vulnerable members of society; and ensuring environmental sustainability. As ICTs increasingly dictate lifestyles and behaviour patterns and power the growth of trade and commerce, rural communities must not be allowed to fall behind cities in their quest for connectivity.
The theme of this year’s WTISD aims to ensure that ICTs will contribute to a better future for our rural populations
Broadband connectivity is essential to establish the information and communication highway that will feed both urban centres and rural communities with the means to meet their development goals and aspirations. ITU's Build on Broadband initiative is aimed at increasing the roll out of this state-of-the-art technology. Last September, the ITU/UNESCO-led Broadband Commission, which includes leading proponents from around the world, submitted its report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ahead of the MDG Review in New York.
Developing a global partnership for development and using the power of ICTs to meet the MDGs is a goal in itself. We therefore call upon our Member States, Sector Members and Associates as well as academia and citizens’ groups to pull together every conceivable resource to ensure that rural communities worldwide are fully connected to ICTs. Acting as catalysts, ICTs open the door to myriad solutions in the quest for a more productive and better life in our rural communities.
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which met in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005, called upon countries to consider establishing national mechanisms to achieve universal access in underserved rural areas in order to bridge the digital divide. ITU is committed to connecting the world and to ensure that the benefits of ICTs reach the remotest corners as well as the most vulnerable communities.
The theme of this year’s WTISD, “Better life in rural communities with ICTs”, aims to ensure that ICTs will contribute to a better future for our rural populations. As a means of bringing global attention to this theme, ITU will present the annual World Telecommunication and Information Society Award to eminent personalities who have contributed to connecting rural communities to the benefits of ICT.