Government officials, academics, civil servants and private sector leaders gathered in Bangkok, Thailand on 17 May 2012 to celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2012. The Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT), Thailand, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), hosted the event as a special parallel activity of the Sixty-Eighth Commission Session of ESCAP.
The origins of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day date back to the signing of the First International Telegraph Convention on 17 May 1865, which marked the establishment of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
In November 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society was called upon the UN General Assembly to declare 17 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. In November 2006, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey, decided to celebrate the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day on 17 May of every year. 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 information and communication technologies (ICT) can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide.
The theme of this year’s observance, “Women and Girls in ICT”, highlighted the important role of ICTs in gender equality and women’s empowerment. The speakers emphasized the need to overcome the engendered digital divide through comprehensive policies that enable women and girls to enjoy equal access to, and equal benefits from, ICTs.
“ESCAP is committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to the building of more sustainable development and just societies for all, women and men, girls and boys. In this, ICT is and will continue to be a tool – we must not let it become an obstacle”, Director of the ESCAP Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division, Dr. Xuan Zenpei said in his opening remarks to the participants.
Dr. Eun-Ju Kim, Regional Director of the ITU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific delivered the video message of ITU Secretary-General, Dr. Hamadoun Touré, while re-emphasizing “the importance of awareness as well as implementation of gender equality – especially those disabled and underprivileged - through various levels of educations, sender-sensitive policy and regulation, and industrial code of conducts to achieve inclusive and sustainable information, knowledge and moving toward smart society in the digital era”.
The keynote address, delivered by H.E. Mr. Woravat Auapinyakul, Minister Attached to the Prime Minister’s Office of the Kingdom of Thailand, delivered a message of support for bridging the digital divide and gender gap in the region. He emphasized education as a key component of the effort towards achieving gender equality, and highlighted how ICTs are already benefiting women and girls of the region in numerous ways, including the use of telecentres to create opportunities in E-commerce and E-education.
The theme of this year’s WTISD, “Women and Girls in ICT”, aims to ensure that this vulnerable female half of the world’s population will march forward as equals. 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 bringing attention to the world’s women and girls and used the power of ICTs to empower them as equals.
The event proved to be an excellent example of how through the regional coordination mechanism, the UN can best deliver as one. More about WTISD