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Keynote address at World Telecommunication and Information Society Day
Hon. Melvin Hulse, Minister of Public Utilities, Transport, Communication and National Emergency Management Keynote Address on World Telecommunication Day
Belmopan – 14 May, 2008.
Mr. Dean Boyce, Chairman of the Executive Committee; Executives of the Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) Board; Mrs. Karen Bevans, General Manager Business Development & Marketing and staff of the BTL; Commissioners and other Executives of the Public Utilities Commission; Students; distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen: It is indeed an honour for me to be presenting the Keynote address on behalf of the Hon. Melvin Hulse who is unable to be here today due to the second sitting of the House of Representative.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) primary objective, as it celebrates World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, is to bring together the key players in the industry for the exchange of ideas for the optimum benefit of the local and global community.
World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is an opportunity for BTL to demonstrate how much they have progressed in the telecommunication industry and focus on promoting the new products and service of the Company. It is also an opportunity to educate people on the importance of communications and how it can be used in a positive, educational and beneficial way.
The focus for this year’s Society Day is on connecting persons with disabilities. While trying to bring this focus into our reality here, in Belize, we must deal with the fact that many people are not aware of the barriers faced by the disabled. Until they themselves either becomes disabled or has a family member or friend who is disabled, they may never become aware of these barriers. It is with this reality that Theme for the World Telecommunication Union (ITU) “Connecting Persons with Disabilities: Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Opportunities for all” is important in brining into National focus the need for a closer look at integrating everyone into the information age, and not denying access to information to any group.
This theme certainly urges us to address the special requirements of persons with disabilities in our National e – strategies and to encourage the design and production of ICT equipment and services suited to their needs.
In examining our situation here in Belize you may not be surprised to note that majority of our rural communities are currently without modern ICT. The lack of Service in the rural areas could arguably be considered as having the population in those communities disabled.
According to the Belize’s Special Education Unit, some 12-15 % of our population has disability. A large portion of this figure came from the aging segment of our population. This figure is expected to increase over time, and as our population ages, many productive citizens will face new challenges.
The Internet and the services it encompasses offer unique opportunities for communications and improved productivity for all workers not just the disabled. All segments of society will benefit from investments that will provide ICT and with equal access to these services. If equal access to information is provided to all, the gap between those who are able to access the available information and those who are not will eventually disappear in time. Those who do not have access to available information for any reason will be disadvantaged.
As the Minister responsible for Public Utilities and Communication, I am committed to ensure that ICT service reached the all rural and remote locations in Belize. But, a more meaningful commitment will be that of our society and its corporate members to integrating everyone into the information age, and to ensure access to information to all. I am delighted to note that BTL launching of their new Nortel Wireless Solution, in April of this year, already started the process towards this commitment.
This Government is mindful of and appreciates the contribution of BTL in their Community development programmes under its corporate citizenship commitment. The Direct Satellite Links rollout has been impressive and very effective in our urban areas, but unfortunately is not as wide spread as the needs of the Belizean people.
For this reason, the BTL’s Promise of a Nation wide wireless network is something that all of us look forward to. This network holds the promise to finally allow equal access to all Belizean, but more than that it holds the ability to bring the much needed development to our rural areas. This access to the global information resources will enable all our people not just the students and the disabled, but all, to broaden their perspective for the optimum benefit of the local and global community.
There are much more that needs to be done. This Government encourages the call for research and development to facilitate accessibility of ICT for all, including people with disabilities. Programmes that will ensure ICT Training in school curricula; distant learning; the Internet and the emerging technological innovations associated with it are valuable activities that must be undertaken.
I want to appeal to the good corporate citizens of Belize to take up the challenged in having accessible areas within communities Country wide that will enable the disable to use the resources of the internet.
In closing, let me reiterate the Government’s commitment to ensure that ICT service reached all rural and remote locations in Belize. Please be reminded also that the key is the commitment of our society and its corporate members to integrating everyone into the information age, and to ensure access to information to all.
I thank you all for your the anticipated efforts that you will make in finally allowing equal access to all Belizean, but, more than that, the ability to bring the much needed development to our rural areas. We look forward to having access to the global information resources which will enable all our people, not just the students and the disabled, but all, to broaden their perspective for the optimum benefit of the local and global community. May God continue to blessing all of us.