Deputy Prime Minister Sorin Mihai Grindeanu,
Secretary‑General Houlin Zhao,
Your Excellencies, it is a great honor to stand where I’m standing here today, and I wish you would all see the sight I’m seeing now.
And it’s such a privilege for Bucharest, Romania, to join you today. So let me start by quickly thanking everyone who made this possible: the ITU leadership team, Secretary‑General Houlin Zhao. 36 years, but he looks so young. And he is so active, and we’re very grateful. So once again, Secretary‑General.
We congratulate all the countries and all the candidates for their hard-fought campaigns. Speaking of campaigns, let me remind you that Romania is also running for the 8th time in a row. We seek a seat on the Council and we’re counting on your support.
It’s true that the world is old and ITU is old. In fact, I believe it is the oldest Intergovernmental organization in the world, dating back from 1865. But it also deals with the world’s newest challenges, while still facing the old. Poverty, disease, hunger, and war itself. Romania joined a year after the ITU was established. And the world was very, very different back then.
The telegraph had been invented only a couple of decades before, in 1844. In 1876 the telephone. 1901 the radio and 1971 the first e‑mail was sent. In 1973 the first mobile phone. 1974 the first personal computer. 1983, January 1, the birthday of the Internet. 1991 the first website. 1994, the first Smartphone.
And over the past two decades the pace of change has shocked us all. It includes social media networks, online streaming and advanced wearable technology and virtual reality and cloud computing. In 2017 the best goal player in the world was an Artificial Intelligence program. This is the world we live in today.
And it is normal to feel overwhelmed by the pace of innovation. But also blessed that we can be here to discuss it, to debate it, to decide what we’ll do further and how we answer the difficult questions that lie before us.
What is the balance between freedom and security. What are the boundaries of Artificial Intelligence. How do we make sure that nobody’s indeed left behind. How do we connect the 2.7 billion people that to this day have never ever been online. And how do we prepare the future generations, the kids you saw here earlier on stage. How do we prepare them for the future of work.
Now yesterday we passed the Bucharest Declaration and I’m very thankful for all of your support. We think it is an important moment because it talks about the basic principles that will make this work. Connecting and uniting, connecting, and uniting. It is the mission of the ITU, and it involves both adopting new technologies, but also preparing all the citizens of the planet to use them. The future for sure will be more digital. But it is not by default better. As technologies are morally neutral and it is in our hands how we will use them.
To conclude, I think there is three key ingredients to this success. To answer these difficult questions.
And the first one is partnership. Partnership between states, nations, but also partnership with the private sector and Civil Society. Working together hand in hand.
The second is a sense of responsibility. In fact, the ITU I think is tremendously important because it essentially writes out our future. How do we want that future to look like? But, you know, what they say, to whom much is given, much will be required. And so please look around you today. Look around you now. And realize the burden of responsibility that comes with your mission in this amazing organization. It is indeed about how our children will live their lives and their children and their children. Generations to come.
Last but not least, there is a sense of altruism that is needed to make this work. 150 years ago, a great Romanian was born. He is not that well‑known around the world, but he did something incredible. He managed to lift off the ground a self‑propelled monoplane for the first time in history of humanity. His name was Trian Vuia and he did leave us with a memorable quote. Asked how he was able to succeed, he said “I work not for my own glory, but for the glory of humankind”.
As you face the difficult questions and the decisions over the next days and weeks here in Bucharest, please keep that in mind. We wish you lots of success. And we are so grateful to host you here in Bucharest.
Thank you and thank you again to everybody who made this possible: ANCOM, all the Romanian authorities, the entire leadership team, Deputy Prime Minister Sorin-Mihai Grindeanu, thank you so much.