Nº 1 2015 > A major milestone
ITU celebrates 150 years
On 17 May 1865, the International Telegraph Convention was signed, marking the commitment of ITU’s founding members to work together to connect the world. Ever since this first meeting almost 150 years ago, ITU’s membership has risen to face the challenges of the rapidly evolving telecommunication/information and communication technology (ICT) sector, by “innovating together”.
“The story of ITU is one of international cooperation — among governments, private companies and other stakeholders. Our continuing mission is to achieve the best practical solutions for integrating new technologies as they develop, and to spread their benefits to all,” said outgoing ITU Secretary General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, on 21 October 2014, at the ITU 150th Anniversary launch event during the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP‑14), held in Busan, Republic of Korea.
A variety of celebratory events are planned throughout 2015 to commemorate the major milestone of 150 years of ITU history.
A rich and varied history
Since 1865, ITU has grown to 193 Member States and over 700 Sector Members, with academia being granted membership in 2011. ITU has a rich history of multilateral public-private partnership. ITU’s mandate has continually expanded to meet the needs of the growing telecommunication/ICT sector — which has seen landmark events such as the invention of voice telephony, the launch of the first communications satellites, and most recently, the arrival of the information age and the spread of its associated benefits across the globe.
ITU’s collaborative work on currently emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), next-generation networks and smart cities is vital as “smart” technologies have become increasingly adopted in sectors ranging from health to security. As Mohamed Al Ghanim, Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), United Arab Emirates, said at the 150th Anniversary launch event, “Today, every Member State plays an important role in pursuing the development process for this organization, keeping up with the accelerated rate of constant ICT breakthroughs and innovations.”
A year of celebrations
This year of anniversary celebrations will be an opportunity to highlight the history of ICTs as well as achievements of ITU and its members over the past 150 years.
The festivities began in January, with ITU welcoming the new leadership team — Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General; Malcolm Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General; François Rancy, Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau (BR); Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT); and Chaesub Lee, Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB). In January, they participated in online debates, discussing their vision for the future of the Union. This also encompassed the Connect 2020 Agenda, the international community’s shared global vision for the development of the telecommunication/ICT sector adopted during the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference. This agenda comprises four high-level strategic goals — growth, inclusiveness, sustainability, innovation and partnership — and 17 measurable targets to be achieved by 2020, as described in the Plenipotentiary Resolution entitled, “Connect 2020 Agenda for global telecommunication/information and communication technology development” (see article in ITU News No. 6, 2014).
The year 2015 also marks the launch in September of the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda. Due to their far-reaching application in sectors such as education, employment and health, among others, ICTs are integral to achieving the renewed sustainable development goals. ITU will also launch promotional activities around the high-profile World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, in January, under the theme, “Innovative Investment in Future Broadband Networks”.
From February to December, monthly themes (see table) highlight ITU’s commitment to “innovating together”. The thematic calendar includes events that are strategically defined by ITU’s areas of action and core competencies — from accessibility, radiocommunications and the digital switchover to gender issues — showcasing the extensive reach of ITU’s work.
Events to be held throughout the year range from video features about the future networked car to webinars with youth on the future of radio. The different activities will also be captured on social media — Join ITU by following our channels and be part of the conversation.
On 17 May, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD), ITU will host its key 150th Anniversary event in Geneva, Switzerland, with the theme, “Telecommunication/ICTs: Drivers of innovation”. A range of activities will take place throughout the day, including a live feed from national celebrations. The ITU150 Awards winners will also be announced to honour individuals from government, the ICT industry, academia and civil society that have contributed to improving lives of world citizens through ICT innovations developed, promoted or implemented by ITU. Nominations can be submitted before the 15 March by ITU Members via http://www.itu.int/en/150/Pages/awards.aspx (ITU Members only). The anniversary day activities will be followed by a gala dinner offered by Switzerland to celebrate the founding day of ITU.
A number of national celebrations will take place throughout 2015 and so far, more than 50 activities have been planned by various organizations worldwide to celebrate ITU’s 150th birthday. They will span the globe and mirror the reach of ITU’s work and capabilities. Commitments range from commemorative stamps, exhibitions, conferences, webinars and e‑learning platforms.
The ITU’s 150th Anniversary celebrations truly mark a major historic milestone. Houlin Zhao, now ITU Secretary-General, highlighted this at PP‑14, observing, “Over the last 150 years, ITU has demonstrated its ability to lead telecommunications and ICT development in the world”. Noting the continued and dedicated support from ITU’s members, he is confident that ITU and its members will continue to work together to provide even better telecommunications and information and communication technologies, to ensure a better life for all.
ITU looks forward to welcoming you to one of the 150th celebratory events. Or why not join in and organize your own activities within your country or region? Information can be found on the 150th Anniversary website at: www.itu150.org.