15 May 2009

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

"I Urge Policy Makers and Industry Leaders to Find the Means to Make the Virtual World Safe for Everyone"

Message on the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, 17 May 2009

VIENNA, 15 May (UN Information Service) - World Telecommunication and Information Society Day marks the founding of the International Telecommunication Union on 17 May 1865, and commemorates its role in connecting the world.

Over the past two decades, the Internet has been transformed into an unmatched global resource that spans the worlds of knowledge and entertainment. Now with more than 600 million users in Asia, 130 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 50 million in Africa, it is an ever-expanding means of communication. It lies at the fulcrum of our increasingly interconnected and networked societies, driving the world's economies, fostering trade and commerce and promoting better health care, food production and education. With these tremendous strides, safeguarding the Internet's vital systems and infrastructures against attack by cybercriminals has taken on great importance.

The theme of this year's observance is "Protecting Children in Cyberspace". Children and young people are among the most prolific users of the Internet and mobile devices. As they surf through cyberspace seeking information and entertainment and building social networks, they are also among the most vulnerable to exploitation. Without safeguards, their precious lives are at grave risk in the vicious world of cybercriminals and paedophiles that prey on easy targets.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the right to education and access to information, as well as the right to engage in play and recreational activities. The Convention also accords the child protection against all forms of exploitation and inducement to engage in any unlawful activity. It is our duty to ensure that the provisions of the Convention are applied rigorously so that children can safely access the Internet and other online resources without fear of falling prey to unscrupulous predators.

The virtual world has exciting possibilities for nurturing children and helping them grow into creative, productive adults. But we must mind the pitfalls that could scar them for life. I urge policy makers and industry leaders to find the means to make the rapidly evolving virtual world safe for everyone.

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