Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ITU, TSF strengthen emergency telecom

Given the high profile disasters that took place during the Tsunami episode alongside earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides, forest fires as well as a spate of disasters in recent time, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Telecoms Sans Frontiers (TSF) have entered into partnership to strengthen availability of emergency telecommunications services.

This follows a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed last weekend between ITU and TSF in Egypt by the Secretary General of ITU, Dr. Hamadoun Toure and TSF President, Mr. Jean-Francois Cazenave.

The MoU, according to the Chief, Media Relations and Public Information at ITU, Mr. Sanjay Acharya, would open the door to greater coordination of efforts in this area, adding that the meeting which took place at Alexandria, Egypt, between April 14 and 17, 2007 was an assemblage of about 400 participants including senior government and telecommunication regulatory officials, United Nations agencies, NGOs, academics and the private sector.

He also said that the legacy of lost and broken lives, economic upheaval and sheer devastation has imposed long-lasting impediments to sustainable development and global efforts at poverty reduction, emphasizing that the poor, especially those living in remote and isolated areas, are the most vulnerable and disaster-prone, and international attention has inevitably focused on least developed countries and small island developing states.

“Access to information and communication facilities is essential for providing vital early-warning information as well as quick response for humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation in the aftermath of disasters,” he said, just as the partnership was aimed at strengthening international cooperation in the use of information and communication technology for disaster mitigation.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Dr. Toure lauded TSF, saying the group is doing excellent work in the field of providing assistance to disaster zones and ITU looks forward to the potential impact of the collaboration.

“TSF has demonstrated how telecommunications can be used to strengthen emergency response efforts and save lives,” he said.

Also speaking the founding President of TSF, Mr. Cazenave, said his organization is very proud to collaborate with ITU.

“We sincerely hope that this will encourage telecommunications operators to recognize the potential of their products and services to save lives. We welcome them to join us in this common cause,” he said, stressing that disaster has spelt havoc around the world, profoundly impacting its victims, their environment and livelihoods.

The conference was organized by ITU in collaboration with the League of Arab States; the Arab Ministerial Council of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), Health and Environment; World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), and the Arab Academy for Science & Technology & Maritime Transport. The conference was inaugurated by the Minister of Social Solidarity of Egypt, Dr Ali Al-Moselhi.

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