The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is recruiting US IT vendors to help bridge the digital divide.
Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the ITU, met with Silicon Valley leaders yesterday with the aim of cementing ties with the private sector and promoting the use of ICT to bridge the digital divide.
Among the participants were executives from communications, hardware, Internet, software and venture capital firms, including Intel, Cisco Systems, Nokia Siemens Networks, Hewlett Packard, Google, IBM Venture Capital Group, Visa International, Microsoft, as well as Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Speaking at the opening of the "UN Meets Silicon Valley" event, Dr Touré focused on three main trends that appear to be influencing the ICT industry: innovation and cybersecurity; changing business models; and the development of new markets.
"Innovation is a key source of new products, added value and fresh growth in revenues," Dr Touré says. "I want to challenge you to think beyond the borders of Silicon Valley, beyond even the borders of the US, to the emerging markets in the rest of the world." He said that closing the digital divide should not be seen as charity, but as a sound business model attractive to industry.
The Secretary-General stated that ITU is a unique intergovernmental organisation which also boasts of strong relations with business. ITU has more than 650 members from the private sector along with its 191 member states.
"The ITU has a noble mission: to provide access to the benefits of ICT to all the world's inhabitants," Dr Touré says. "To achieve that goal, we need to work in partnership with governments, the private sector and civil society, and to exploit the dynamism of regions like Silicon Valley."
A road map to connect the unconnected by 2015 was set out by the World Summit on the Information Society that was organised by ITU in 2003 and 2005. With world leaders recognising the potential of ICT as an enabler for development, Dr Touré says the moment is ripe to harness the culture of innovation and competition in Silicon Valley to connect the world.
ITU has been charged with building the infrastructure required and ensuring security in cyberspace as well as bring together all stakeholders in meeting the goals of the Summit.
The Secretary-General urges industry in Silicon Valley to rekindle the pioneering spirit of California and join with ITU.
"Technological change is our business," says Dr Touré. "ITU has traditionally provided a forum where equipment manufacturers, network operators, service and application providers and others concerned with the development of ICT can together discuss the development of profitable new market opportunities, and learn from each other's experiences."
In the area of standardisation, ITU has been steering work in cutting edge technologies including next-generation networks (NGN). It has also been working on managing frequency spectrum in the most efficient ways, which will in fact determine how new information and communication technologies will be developed and function in the 21st century and beyond.
Dr Touré adds that the development of NGNs will focus more attention on the critical issue of cybersecurity, which will be a major priority for ITU in the coming years.
"Today's networks are ever more complex, creating inevitable weaknesses that can be exploited by hackers and cyber-terrorists," he says. "The move to a single unified platform should make these cybersecurity threats more manageable."