May 16, 2008
World Telecommunication Day 2008 Message

by Minister of Telecommunications Dr. Jerrol C. Thompson 16.MAY.08

In 2007 Hamadoun I. Touré of Mali was elected as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-Genera with the support of many nations including overwhelming support from the Caribbean. It was a remarkable achievement.{{more}}

Each year the ITU celebrates the World Telecommunications Day on May 17th with various themes delivered in the Secretary Generals Message. This year the theme is Connecting Persons with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All.

In his statement he stressed that “the key to the information society is universal access”. In exerts from his message he said. Everyone must have equal opportunity to participate in the digital age. And no one should be denied the potential benefits of new information and communication technologies (ICT), not least because they are hampered by their disabilities. As ICT brings a range of innovations in the workplace, at home and in every facet of our lives, these benefits must also be harnessed for the benefit of persons with disabilities.

The World Summit on the Information Society has urged that special requirements be made in national e-strategies for persons with disabilities along with other marginalized and vulnerable groups. A further call was made to encourage design and production of special ICT equipment, software and services which facilitate accessibility to ICT for all, including persons with disabilities.

The last World Telecomm-unication Development Conference (WTDC-06) held in Doha, Qatar in 2006, created a new Special Initiative on “Access to telecommunication services for persons with disabilities”. The Doha Plan of Action endorsed the Tunis Commitment of building ICT capacity for all, including persons with disabilities, through the promotion of universal, ubiquitous, equitable and affordable access to ICT. It encouraged the adoption of universal design and assistive technologies to ensure that the benefits are evenly distributed within societies.

The ITU therefore calls upon all stakeholders (policy makers and regulators as well as operators and industry) to raise awareness on the need to adopt policies and strategies that would meet these goals.

Since liberalization of the telecoms market we have seen rapid growth in mobile phone penetration now in excess of 104%. Internet broadband continues to grow and the new submarine cable can help make broadband ubiquitous. As Minister of Telecommunications Science Technology and Industry, this nation must also focus on meeting the ICT needs of persons with disabilities and empowering every citizen with information and knowledge, improving the lines of communication to the remotest and most vulnerable and rural groups, and building an inclusive information society geared towards the advancement of a better, more peaceful and productive world.

At this time in our nation’s growth we are launching other initiatives and we invite you to participate. The 5 day Internet Fiesta starting May 18th will inspire you but don’t stop there. The National ICT Training Project in Collaboration with the National Center for Technological Innovation is providing training at many learning centers throughout the nation and you must jump on board. You can now interface with your government through a range of electronic government initiatives. If you are serious about starting an ICT business, we can also provide you with the space, technological advice and business support to make that start and we will follow you along the way inside the new incubator facility or outside of one and so increase your chances of success. Opportunities are readily available for businesses to build web sites and market their product throughout the globe.

As we celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, we invite all stakeholders – manufacturers, service providers, international organizations, public and non-governmental organizations as well as policy makers – to join us in our endeavour to connect everyone, the young the old and especially those around the nation who live with disabilities, to the remarkable digital opportunities offered by ICT.