ITU celebrated its 150th anniversary on 17 May, marking a long and illustrious history at the cutting edge of communication technologies.
“ITU has earned its global reputation for resilience and relevance,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, applauding the agency’s many contributions as the oldest member in the United Nations system. “Telecommunications – as well as information and communications technology – drive innovation. The digital revolution has transformed our world. New information and communication technologies can help boost the economy and protect the environment.”
“The remarkable history of ITU exemplifies its stellar role in connecting the world to the most advanced and innovative means of communication, from the days of the telegraph to the Internet and mobile broadband, which now allows us to be in touch anytime, anywhere with friends, family, colleagues and even things,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Throughout our 150-year history, we have promoted international cooperation, working to achieve practical solutions to integrate new communications technologies as they develop, spreading their benefits to all.”
ITU was established on 17 May 1865 with the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in Paris to facilitate the transmission of telegraphy across international borders. ITU was initially headquartered in Berne and moved to Geneva in 1948, soon after it became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1947. Ms Doris Leuthard, Minister of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications of Switzerland, delivered the keynote address on behalf of the host country.
The ITU 150th anniversary was marked by celebrations in some 50 countries around the world. A special ceremony was held in Paris to mark the signing of the First International Telegraph Convention on 17 May 1865. A ceremony was also held in Madrid, attended by King Felipe VI of Spain, to commemorate the re-naming of the International Telegraph Union as the International Telecommunication Union in 1932.
Looking towards the future as the leading UN specialized agency for telecommunications and ICT, ITU is focused on driving innovation together with the Union’s 193 Member States and membership of over 700 private sector entities and academic institutions. A panel discussion focusing on ICTs as drivers of a sustainable future was anchored by BBC correspondent Imogen Foulkes, brought in key thinkers and doers: Philip Walton, COO, BRCK; Luis Von Ahn, CEO & founder, DuoLingo; Gabriela Styf Sjöman, CTO, Telecom Italia Group; Jian Wang, CTO, Alibaba; and Ulf Ewaldsson, CTO, Ericsson.