Activities to mark the 115th anniversary of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) were announced recently at a special anniversary launch ceremony attended by over 120 member country representatives, diplomats, industry executives and journalists.
The CTO’s origins go back to 1901 with the creation of the Pacific Cable Board (PCB) established to operate the first trans-Pacific sub-marine telegraphic cable linking Canada to Australia.
In her congratulatory message to the CTO’s Secretary-General Shola Taylor, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II said she was interested to learn that “the anniversary launch event will look to a future of new technologies, as well as reflect of the role of telecommunications over the last century.”
After giving a brief historical account of the history of the CTO, Secretary-General Shola Taylor remarked:
“The ICT landscape is changing fast and the theme of our celebrations aptly captures the developments that are taking place. 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 regulatory environment to attract the high capital investments required for infrastructure expansion. Operators and service providers must also deliver the much needed infrastructure to spur economic growth.”
Celebrated under the theme “From Subsea to Cyberspace”, the anniversary year will include the holding of the Commonwealth ICT Awards for achievements by members in a range of areas including universal access, capacity building, policy and regulatory environments, cybersecurity, and youth empowerment, as well as the Commonwealth Youth ICT Applications Competition aimed at youths in Commonwealth countries, with entry categories for 2016 to include e-commerce, e-education, e-agriculture, and e-health.
Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission and current Chairman of the CTO Council highlighted one of the key present-day challenges:
“In many ways, the current and central issue of universal access to safe, reliable and affordable communication technologies is a race against time, because those who are deprived from accessing modern communication technologies are left further behind by the day.” he said.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma who also addressed the audience at the launch ceremony 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”, Secretary-General Sharma noted.
Also speaking at the launch event was The Honourable Alhaji Alpha Kanu, Minister of Communications of Sierra Leone who said technology had been critical during the West African country’s fight against Ebola and called for more efforts to achieve universal ‘computeracy’.
Also present at the event, Malcolm Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union said:
“The CTO has common objectives and a largely common membership with ITU, so we look forward to working together with CTO to help achieve the SDGs, and bring the benefits of the information society to all the world’s people.” as he concluded his address on the stakes at play in the global digital economy.
Theresa Swinehart, ICANN’s Senior Adviser to the President, highlighted the challenges and opportunities with cyberspace and ICANN’s continued efforts to ensure a harmonious and inclusive development of the Internet.