Nº 3 2014 > World Telecommunication and Information Society Award Laureates
Carlos Slim Helú
Chairman of Grupo Carso and President of the Carlos Slim Foundation
Carlos Slim Helú, Chairman of Grupo Carso and President of the Carlos Slim Foundation, studied Civil Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where he also taught Algebra and Linear Programming while studying for his degree. A Mexican, son of Lebanese immigrants and a self-made man, Mr Slim is a widely known successful businessman and philanthropist.
Mr Slim’s interest for technology is long standing. He has achieved success in the world of business through investments in a diverse range of industries, as reflected in the portfolio of the Carso Group, which include infrastructure and construction, financial services, retail and commercial services, as well as telecommunications, where his América Móvil is currently the leading supplier of telecommunication services (fixed line, mobile, Internet, and television) in Latin America. The company also operates in the United States and Europe. He is committed to the promotion of technologies for development and has been co-chairman of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development since 2010.
Carlos Slim Helú promotes social development in Mexico and Latin America through the Carlos Slim Foundation, which has changed the lives of millions of people. The foundation’s initiatives include early childhood development, providing over 360 000 scholarships to students and young entrepreneurs, setting up over 3600 digital classrooms and libraries in Mexico, the rehabilitation of Mexico City's historic district, the preservation of Mexico's natural areas and the construction of Museo Soumaya, home to one of the finest art collections in the world. Mr Slim has received a number of awards for his business and social activities, including the Lebanese Gold Order of Merit, the Order of Leopold II (awarded by the Belgian Government), and the Red Cross Badge of Honour and Merit.
Changing the lives of millions – Entrepreneurship plus philanthropy
In his acceptance speech as winner of World Telecommunication and Information Society Award 2014, Carlos Slim Helú said “This is a true honour and a real pleasure and pride for me to receive an award together with her Excellency Park Geun-hye, President of the Republic of Korea and his Excellency President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who, furthermore, has been a very dear colleague in the work of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which we both co-chair.” Speaking of “Broadband for sustainable development” — this year’s theme of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day — Mr Slim stated “it is clear that sustainable development is a real global need, and a real regional need… and broadband is the strategic tool to achieve these needs”. He described how using broadband in the areas of education, health care, finance, the environment, and innovation, could “lead to vigorous economic growth that is both sustained and sustainable, with social advancement, offering equal opportunities for all”.Participants in the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award ceremony were shown a documentary featuring examples of Carlos Slim Helú’s activities, including his Foundation’s social, high-impact programmes focused on the most vulnerable populations to ensure digital inclusion for all. Here we share some of the highlights from the documentary.
In 1965, at the age of 25, Carlos Slim Helú laid the foundations for Grupo Carso and Grupo Financiero Inbursa. In the following years he embarked on activities in several different sectors and by the end of the 1980s his holdings had grown to become one of the largest business conglomerates in Latin America. In December 1990, in a partnership with France Telecom, Southwestern Bell and a group of Mexican investors, he bought 20.4 per cent of Telmex stock and gained control of the company. In 2002, he founded América Móvil, which is now the leading company in Latin America and is present in 26 American and European countries (including the United States). In terms of population access, América Móvil is the second largest telecommunication operator in the world excluding China. A noteworthy innovation by Carlos Slim Helú in his telecommunications business is Telcel — his pioneering prepaid system for mobile phones.
Telmex's growth in Mexico increased fixed broadband access from 67 000 in 2002 to nearly 9 million now, representing an annual growth rate of 56 per cent. Regarding mobile broadband, América Móvil data traffic has increased more than 15-fold since 2008 — at a rate of about 80 per cent per year — increasing Internet penetration, supporting economic growth, and reducing inequality, unemployment and poverty.
”Our main challenges today, in all countries, are high-quality digital education and offering good jobs to everyone”, says Mr Slim. In line with this view, Telmex has been active in providing training in the area of information and communication technologies. Since 1991, Telmex has built state-of-the-art educational facilities in different venues, making modern technologies available to low-income communities. Telmex has installed more than 3600 digital classrooms and public digital libraries throughout Mexico, in addition to innovation hubs (technological innovation spaces) that provide free access to computer equipment, high-speed Internet, and introductory courses and training on information and communication technologies. Mr Slim says that “Operators have to offer customers the best conditions in quality, price and technology over multiple platforms. In Latin America, we are creating free digital libraries mainly in public schools where people can go to learn and surf the web for free with loaned computer equipment at high speeds. In Telmex’s bibliotecas digitales, IT training is provided, while people can borrow laptops and take them home. The company is developing thousands of Wi-Fi hot spots for its customers.”
In 1986, Mr Slim created the Carlos Slim Foundation. In 1995, he created the Telmex Foundation. These two foundations are the largest in Latin America, and they have provided support to millions of people in Mexico and throughout the American continent. Created to provide high impact programmes focused on the most vulnerable segments of society, the Carlos Slim Foundation alone has benefited over 29.7 million people. Based on the principles of social responsibility, efficiency and opportunity, the foundation supports initiatives in education, health, nutrition, social justice, culture, human development, natural disaster relief, economic development, environmental protection and conservation. Its programmes contribute to improving the quality of life of people in all age groups, fostering human capital development and providing opportunities for the growth of individuals and their communities.
In 2013, the Carlos Slim Foundation and the Khan Academy joined forces to provide access to world class education to Mexican and Latin American people, free of charge, through online training courses on the web. More than 4200 educational videos are currently accessible online.
In January 2014, the Carlos Slim Foundation and Coursera joined together as partners to deliver graduate studies in the Spanish language, online at no cost, to millions of people. The partnership will focus on three objectives: improving access to high-quality Spanish educational content; creating educational content aimed at improving the possibilities for individuals to find a job; and increasing access to physical venues where students can personally attend Coursera training courses. The initiative includes a major project to translate the best courses from Spanish. A network of learning centres will be created to provide students with a rich educational experience, combining on-line and off-line courses to improve retention of knowledge and learning outcomes.
The learning centres will take advantage of existing Telmex infrastructure, with the support of the Carlos Slim Foundation's programmes for digital education and culture. The programmes operate digital libraries, fourteen of which are located in highly populated low-income areas. The centres will have access to the Telmex Hub, a technological innovation pole located in Mexico City.
In March 2013, Mr Slim played host to the ITU's seventh meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which he co-chairs with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. “The Broadband Commission is documenting best practices, so we can know and learn from what is being done in different countries. However, with such rapid technological change, serious challenges are arising, due to a lack of the deep structural changes accompanying civilizational change. We are seeing very high unemployment, especially among youth. What activities will create new jobs? Where are these new jobs being formed? We need to promote sectors which will create these new jobs. Governments should introduce IT in their activities, and promote digital culture and economic activities that are creating new jobs. It is clear that IT is a key tool for economic growth. There are huge vistas of opportunity opening up to create millions of jobs, with the possibility of developing hundreds of thousands of apps and content that can be used by everyone connected via the web”, said Mr Slim.
The Broadband Commission’s meeting was held in parallel to the 2013 Digital Village, which was attended by ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré and many commissioners. That year, the Digital Village attracted an audience of over 154 000, becoming the largest digital inclusion world event. The Digital Village was open to all kinds of people, regardless of age or level of technological skill.
A year later, in 2014, the Carlos Slim Foundation, Telmex and Telcel again organized the Digital Village in Mexico City's main square. This edition offered an even wider array of digital training and educational activities including workshops, support to entrepreneurs, introductory courses on computers and the Internet, as well as courses on robotics, three-dimensional (3D) animation, advanced programming, and healthcare applications. During the 2014 edition of the Digital Village, Mr Slim announced the training for employment initiative; a platform to provide online courses making it possible to learn 20 different skills, for example to work as a computer technician, or to take up a job in the field of construction, electricity or carpentry.
The 2014 Digital Village was attended by 49 global leaders who spoke to the participants and to the millions who connected live online. The videoconferencing facilities offered Internet connection of 100 Gbit/s. The Digital Village broke its own record as the world's largest digital inclusion event, with more than 258 000 participants in 2014, including children, young adults and senior citizens. The youngest participant was only 2 years old and the oldest was 97.
”Telecommunications are the nervous system of this new civilization, they are fundamental for the growth and development of all countries”, says Mr Slim who, as a philanthropist, has contributed to the economic and social development of Mexico and Latin America.
Mr Slim takes the view that “Technology and innovation are what makes it possible for human civilization to advance.” As he noted in “The State of Broadband 2012: achieving digital inclusion for all,” report (published by ITU in September 2012), throughout history, technology and innovation have transformed the way we live and brought about civilizational change. “Today, the digital revolution is transforming our world and our societies even faster, some of which are now connected through voice data and video at the speed of light… The telecommunication network represents the circulation system of the knowledge society, with advances in IT and computing leveraging our knowledge and brainpower. The development of the Internet has triggered profound socio-economic and political changes, and is transforming the services industry. Broadband Internet should be accessible to all — this is the aim of work under way at the United Nations and ITU. In 2010, ITU and UNESCO launched the Broadband Commission to provide universal access to broadband and universal access to connectivity. Today, being connected is crucially important — everyone has to be connected; everyone should have access to knowledge and understanding — for education, health, business and entertainment. The Broadband Commission is working for digital inclusion for all by 2015,” Mr Slim wrote in the report’s “Featured insight 1: How broadband is changing our society.”
An entrepreneur with a heightened sense of social responsibility, Carlos Slim Helú is also passionate about history, the arts, astrophysics, nature and sports but above all he is devoted to his family. ”Our will must always overcome our weaknesses,” he says at the end of the documentary.