Bill Gates amongst icons honoured with ITU’s 150th Anniversary Award

In my chat with Houlin Zhao, newly appointed secretary general of the ITU, we discussed his vision for innovation and recognizing significant contributions. Bill Gates will be honoured by ITU as the ITU celebrates its 150th anniversary on Sunday, 17 May. The ITU is the United Nations agency governing and setting standards for ICT with over 190 country members and 700 corporations/organizations.

The programme includes a keynote speech by Ms Doris Leuthard, Minister of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, Switzerland; panel discussions with eminent laureates of the ITU 150 Award; and forward-looking movers and shakers in the ICT industry, from DuoLingo, BRCK, Alibaba, Ericsson and Telecom Italia Group.

The history of ITU has been interwoven with landmark inventions and innovations in communications over the past 150 years. In the 1850s, soon after Samuel Morse started a service in the United States, telegraph lines crossed national borders and new international agreements had to be forged. On 17 May 1865, twenty nations gathered in Paris to sign an international framework, and formed the International Telegraph Union. See photos.

The theme for the 150th anniversary “Telecommunications and ICTs: drivers of innovation” is in line with ITU’s role as the United Nations specialized agency for ICTs.

Information and communication technologies are recognized as powerful cross-cutting enablers to achieve an environmentally sound and sustainable future in the post-2015 era. ICTs can be used effectively as delivery vehicles for health, education, governance, trade and commerce as well as meet global challenges, such as combating climate change.

 Bill Gates, Robert E. Kahn, Thomas Wiegand, Mark I. Krivocheev, Martin Cooper and Ken Sakamura will be honoured with ITU’s 150th Anniversary Award. Recognition will be accorded to ITU’s Founding Member States and to its long-standing industry members.

 There will be a panel discussion on ICT’s Driving a Sustainable Future with Luis Von Ahn, CEO & founder, DuoLingo; Philip Walton, COO, BRCK; Jian Wang, CTO, Alibaba; Ulf Ewaldsson, CTO, Ericsson; and Gabriela Styf Sjöman, CTO, Telecom Italia Group.

The following week, the ITU will be hosting the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva where I will be speaking on the ICT trends and innovation. I will share insights in future blogs.