17th May 2020, Kathmandu
Today (May 17, 2020) marks the 51st World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. The celebration of this day has been grand even in Nepal in previous years. Every year since 1969, ITU has been celebrating this event with great pride as it marks its establishment back on 17 May 1865.
In 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) called upon the UN General Assembly to declare May 17 as World Information Society Day (WISD). However, that changed in March 2006 when the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey, decided to combine the two as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD).
This year too, ITU is hosting a virtual conversation on ‘Connect 2030: ICTs for Sustainable Development Goals’. This theme will allow ITU membership to reflect on the ICT advances for the transition to smart and sustainable development. Furthermore, this day marks the importance of the telecommunications sector to connect diverse groups of people and cultures across the world.
Moreover, the importance of the telecommunications sector has increased with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are maintaining social distancing as a protocol to prevent the spread of the virus. At such times, communication and technology have connected us more than ever.
The Importance of World Telecommunications and Information Society Day
As a matter of fact, information sharing has become an urgency during the pandemic to stay updated. It is important to stay updated for own safety and caution.
The world is experiencing a drastic online shift and it wouldn’t be possible without technology. What we are witnessing today like virtual meetings and online education will soon become the new normal.
On the occasion of this day, ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao says, “These technologies and new innovations hold great potential for human progress; they are a powerful tool to achieve each and every one of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
“Almost half the world’s population is still not using the Internet, and overall growth in ICT connectivity is slowing. Time is pressing,” he adds.
He believes that we should unite and double our efforts in connecting everyone to the global digital economy. It must be done in order to ensure safe and reliable connected life.
Similarly, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres believes that new technologies, from 5G and big data to cloud computing and AI, are powerful tools to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges, including the pandemic.
ITU Strategic Plans: Targets to Complete By 2023
The ITU has set some targets for the ‘Connect 2030: ICTs for Sustainable Development Goals’. One of the targets is to make the internet accessible to 65% of households by 2023 worldwide. Similarly, another is that 40% of the total population should be interacting with government services online.
These targets are prepared to contribute to the five strategic goals of the Connect 2030 Agenda:
(Image: ITU, Connect 2030)
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What does it mean for Nepal?
Nepal is moving forward with the Digital Nepal Framework. Nepal is expecting to lead internet penetration by 2025 in comparison to China and India. Recent reports suggest mobile penetration exceeding 100% and internet penetration reaching 63% in Nepal.
Similarly, statistics from the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) suggest access to the internet in Nepal has reached 71.76% of the total population. Meanwhile, the number of SIM card subscribers is 39.17% more than the total population.
Currently, Nepal ranks 140th in the list of ITU. The government has recently claimed to prioritize digital channels for education, payment, and develop the telco sector. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari announced this at a joint meeting of the Federal Parliament on Friday (May 15).
The telco industry and digital services complement each other and the development of the ICT sector will end of the digital divide. The government has already started making the internet accessible in the rural areas which will boost the process to achieve the target.
If the government succeeds to meet the targets for the Framework, Nepal can move up the ranks in the ITU list.