Collaborating in the digital economy with a specific focus on the key role of SMEs in the digital ecosystem was the theme that kicked of the ITU Telecom World Forum Debate. The opening session provided unique and powerful perspectives from heads of state, government and international organizations worldwide.
Taking to the floor first, Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union, spoke of the importance of ICTs as enablers, noting that “Within the ICT industry, it is the innovative small and medium enterprises – tech SMEs – that are key to industry disruption, to job creation, and to the technological innovations that are taking the industry forward.”
Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister, Luxembourg spoke of the transformation currently underway in this digital era, and the tremendous potential impact which we cannot afford to miss. “None of us can afford to miss the train. In Luxembourg we consider impact of digital as a huge opportunity to create value and make the world a better place.”
Speaking of the opportunities and challenges the fast-changing and evolving ICT ecosystem holds for Vanuatu, Mr. Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, Prime Minister and Minister responsible for ICT and Telecommunications added “we value learning from experiences of other countries, and note synergies and cost efficiencies that could be achieved in designing, implementing, or advocating certain initiatives on a regional or international level.”
Crown Prince Tupoutoʻaʻ Ulukalala of the Kingdom of Tonga outlined the importance of inspiring collaboration, explaining how ITU Telecom World itself, “this annual flagship event has inspired Tonga as the first Pacific country to liberalize its telecoms sector in 2002. In a short time the benefits were realized.”
Prajin Juntong, Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Kingdom of Thailand, spoke of taking inspiration from His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s many innovative ICT projects and legacy, ensuring that “ICT is not for those who can afford it but we must allow those who are most in need to benefit from it to not be left behind.”
Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) commended the unique strengths of the event, providing dialogue between international organizations and the private sector to “collectively identify opportunities and challenges.” He also took the opportunity to inform delegates that UNCTAD was today joining the EQUALS initiative, which aims to tackle the gender digital divide.
Commending ITU as a “platform to manage the emerging digital ecosystem,” Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Director General of Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), United Arab Emirates, challenged delegates-as they began the week’s debates-with topical questions such as “Can we ignore the value of collaboration?, or “Are we making sure we are applying enough innovation?”
Following the Forum Opening, debates began in earnest with the Leadership Summit, which convened highest-level experts from public and private sectors to explore why working together is so important for growing the digital economy.