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ITU Hails Mandela for Commitment to Bridging Communications Divide

The International Telecommunications Union was hailing the late former South African President Nelson Mandela Friday for his commitment to bridging the digital divide.

ITU is the UN agency dealing with global communications and technology issues.

"Nelson Mandela was known for his embrace of technology as a catalyst for change and development," ITU said in a statement, citing Mandela's opening of the 1995 ITU Telecom World conference in Geneva.

"The importance of information and communication technologies to human development has grown," Mandela said. "These technologies have transformed the way people live and the manner in which countries develop. They have the potential to enable us to solve many of the critical problems confronting us. If this potential is to be realized, then we must find ways of turning these technologies into a resource for all people..."

He said ITU's central mission must be "to connect the world, bridge the divides and promote human development."

In 1998, Mandela asked ITU to hold its regional Telecom Africa conference in Johannesburg. “It allows our nation to take its place in a forum of critical importance to Africa's future. And it is an opportunity to give practical expression to our desire to be fully part of the rebirth of our continent,” President Mandela said. “As the information revolution gathers yet more pace and strikes deeper roots, it is already redefining our understanding of the world. Indeed, the speed of technological innovation could bring the ideal of the global village sooner than we thought possible. For the developing world, this brings both opportunity and challenge.”

"ITU membership, management and staff join the people of South Africa and the whole world in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela, the revolutionary South African anti-apartheid leader who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and who is hailed as one of the most transforming personalities the world has ever seen," said ITU in a statement.