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Harnessing technology for a more connected Commonwealth

20 January 2016

With more than half the world’s population still without access to the internet, closing the digital divide between the haves and have-nots should be a “global priority”, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has said.

The Secretay-General was speaking at a conference at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London organised by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) to celebrate its 115th anniversary today. 

“Inclusive technology can transform the daily lives of people, for example, in empowering and generating equitable participation of citizens of small states in their access to online services,” Mr Sharma said, as he welcomed the huge growth in mobile phone users around the world.

Information and communications technologies such as these are a “critical tool” in efforts to achieve ambitious global Sustainable Development Goals in areas such as education, rule of law and human rights, he said. 

At the CTO event, which was themed ‘From Subsea to Cyberspace’, Mr Sharma highlighted the CTO’s “truly exemplary” role in establishing the infrastructure to connect the Commonwealth, from its earliest days when telegraph cables were first being run under the world’s oceans.

Today the CTO is working closely with the Commonwealth Secretariat to advocate for ICT access for all, and helps governments and the private sector to utilise telecommunications as means of connection and inclusion, he noted.

In 2014, the CTO and the Commonwealth Secretariat joined forces to host the first-ever Commonwealth ICT Ministers Forum, at which Ministers agreed on a Commonwealth Cybergovernance Model to guide Commonwealth countries’ cyberspace policy development.

“The CTO is a remarkable example of perhaps the earliest Commonwealth collaboration - a pioneer of multilateral cooperation on technological advancement,” Mr Sharma said. “I am confident that building on that record, the work of the CTO can grow from strength to strength, supporting Commonwealth values and adding global value.”

Shola Taylor, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, in his welcome address, said: “The challenges of building infrastructure to provide for the four billion people currently not connected in the world, stares us in the face. “Governments have to adopt the right policies. Regulators have to ensure that they provide an enabling environment to attract high capital investment required for infrastructure expansion.”

 

Notes to Editors:

To learn more about the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation please visit: www.cto.int

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