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Speech by my mentor,mother and a sister Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by David Gomolemo Gouwe, South Africa Aug 14, 2008
Peace & Conflict , Technology   Interviews
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Honorable Ministers
Distinguished delegates

There is a poster that UNICEF published some years ago which some of you may be familiar with. In that poster a child is asked “What would you like to be when you grow up?’ The child responds, with a very calm face “ALIVE!”

When I had the honor to chair the Council of the International Telecommunications Union in 1999 I suggested to my fellow councilors that to me the UNICEF poster was the most representative picture of the challenge that was before us. I was trying then to remind my colleagues, most of whom, like me, were engineers, that our work was about people’s lives, not just engineering.

Today I am truly honored to have been asked address this august meeting on the subject of accelerating development through Information and Communication Technologies or ICTs. It is my singular pleasure to do so.

I would however like at the outset to say that ICTs are very powerful tools that can be used for both good and bad. Today, thanks to ICTs, we are able to watch a war being raged getting a minute by minute account of killings taking place thousands of kilometers away from us. Wars are also fought using ICTs to identify and destroy lives and property using command and control technology among others. It goes without saying therefore that the use of ICTs, like any other tool, if not in a proper context can bring more harm than good.

My participation at this Conference convinces me that there is no need to persuade any of the distinguished participants that ICTs can be used to accelerate our development goals. The link between telecommunications and development has been made for many years, mainly by academics. The first international recognition of what is today referred to as the digital divide was in the mid seventies in the report of the ITU High Level Commission chaired by Sir Donald Maitland called the ‘Missing Link’.

About twenty years later, Vice President Al Gore of the United States talked about the Global Information Infrastructure or GII when he addressed delegates to the World Telecommunications Development Conference of the ITU in Buenos Aires. This was a historic speech which was a political recognition of the Internet which he termed a network of networks. It was also the first time that the global nature of this network of networks was brought so sharply into the political consciousness. It is in this speech that the concept of the knowledge economy was also brought into sharp focus when he stated that at that time, in 1994, eight out of every ten new jobs being created in the United States were arising from knowledge economy.

He also informed the delegates that the government had asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take measures intended to connect every school and clinic in the USA to the Internet. This was ten years ago.

At that time, although telecommunications were considered as an important part of development, the technology was not really seen as being linked so closely to most of our daily activities in the manner it is today.

While in the US the focus was on the infrastructure in Canada and Europe the emphasis was already on its impact on society hence the term Global Information Society was used as opposed to Global Information Infrastructure.

A year after Buenos Aires Conference, which was a meeting of telecommunications ministers, in 1995, President Mbeki, then in his capacity as Executive Deputy President of South Africa addressed the G7 Summit on the Information Society. In that address President Mbeki called on these leaders to include developing countries in this important dialogue about our common future and invited them to hold a similar conference with leaders from the developing world. The Information Society and Development or ISAD conference then took place in May 1996 in Midrand, South Africa.

The G7 meeting marked the first stages in the involvement of leaders at the highest level in the issues of ICTs and the ISAD conference marked the first international high level meeting linking the Information Society with development.

The recognition of ICTs as an important tool for development increased with time. In 2000 the G8 meeting in Okinawa adopted the Okinawa Charter on the Global Information Society which recognized that these leaders had an important role to play in assisting developing countries to bridge the digital divide. That charter established the Digital Opportunities Task Force or DOT Force made up of the G8 and nine developing countries including Egypt, South Africa and Tanzania. The report from this group was instrumental in shaping many current efforts in this field including those of the UN ICT Task Force and the NEPAD e-Africa Commission.

The past three years have seen the most dramatic changes in how ICTs are perceived and treated. In these years leadership in ICT matters not only moved laterally from being the domain of the ministries of communications but also vertically from being led by Ministers to Heads of State or Government. This alone is a clear demonstration of the central role that these technologies have come to occupy in the development agenda of nations both developing and developed.

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David Gomolemo Gouwe

May the Almighty be the hand that guides you and hello to you all, people of the global village!

I have acquired lots of working experience in my line of work and as an HIV/ AIDS, gender and sexuality activist. I am also a student studying towards my BA in Communication Science and LLB with the hope of becoming what life requires me to be. I want to fight questionable ethos and preserve human rights and to be an activist in critical areas of our social existence. Life experiences have made me the kind of a man I am. I foresee the best that my enemies would not understand, what I know and understand has made me a threat to most simply because of my direct nature of addressing issues as they unfold.

My advice to most young people out there is that it is never too late to change any bad habits and we are all destined for better things and please do not entertain anything evil. When it comes to work-related matters do not be scared to criticize constructively. Let your voice be heard by those who care.

Note that most will get promotions and you will be suppressed and the only thing that you can do is to not let your fears mute your voice. Most will wish that you were dead and some will send you a goon squad. Stand firm in what you believe. Be heard and emancipate others. Let your voice echo your good intentions globally. Fear no one.

You can try and e-mail me at gomolemo@thegolf.co.za . Please note that I represent people of the world, my features represent the African nation with Nigerian, South African and coloured roots. Let's talk some more and make the world realise that we are connected irrespective of our geographical barriers. I just love you all, people of the world. God Bless!
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