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INET 98 - welcome allocution - 21st July 1998

Martine Brunschwig Graf, vice-president of the Geneva Government

M. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor and pleasure for Geneva to welcome The Internet Summit 98. We all know the importance of the issues adressed by this Summit during the few days you will be staying with us.

Geneva is a natural home to intense diplomatic and scientific activity due to the numerous International Organizations located here. As you certainly know, their activities are crucial for all aspects of life (health, telecommunications, human rights, labor regulations, the environment, scientific research, development, intellectual property).

Furthermore the largest exhibition and FORUM in the world, TELECOM, will take place in PALEXPO in Geneva, Switzerland, from 10 to 17 October 1999.

Last but not least, TELECOM Interactive 97 honoured Geneva and the entire world with a Forum which brought together industry and government leaders to discuss the vital issues involved, including standardization issues, as well as policy and regulatory matters.

Thanks to the Internet Society, Geneva is now hosting one of the most important discussion forum about the web and even about the impacts of the new information and communication technologies (NICT) in our daily life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there are certain formulas that sound good! Thus the expression "information highways" has gone round the world quickly. It has even become so popular that everybody thinks to see in these new technical perspectives the advent of a genuine revolution about communication methods.

However if we want to tackle the issue of the new information and communication technologies (NICT) and especially measure their present and future impacts on the citizens, we have to approach the question more globally. It is not technology which will dictate policy, but the policy should be able to put the latest technologies to the service of the general interest.

This evolution is inevitable. It is not suited to Geneva or Switzerland alone but it is the fate of all the countries in the world, from the richest to the poorest. We simply note that it is easier to be aware of this situation and to adapt ourselves to it when one disposes of sufficient intellectual, technical and financial means.

Geneva has a number of winning cards for developping all possibilities created by NICTs and particularly in the field of the educational system. We feel stimulated to undertake such a mission all the more since several Geneva-based companies that are very active in these fields are setting the pace.

The Government of Geneva has already evoked on numerous occasions the project Smart Geneva, of which the objectives can be defined as follows: try to make new technologies available to the greatest possible number of people, by overcoming financial and technical barriers. In a way, this means to set up a technical infrastructure.

But there is no point to build railroads and highways if we do not worry about what runs on them. Even worse, what would highways become if the population did not know how to drive? Consequently, beyond the mission of schools in basic education, we should focus on our citizens in order to allow them to acquire the elements that will enable them to get familiar with new technologies, thanks to permanent education; without which, technical progress could well become an exclusion factor.

New information technologies are not a new Olympus. They are fabulous tools. The world has known other progress tools in the past. However this one has a particular feature: anyone may one day be called upon to use it. Everybody should be able to become a master of his tool. Otherwise he becomes its slave!

Je vous souhaite un magnifique séjour à Genève et surtout de très beaux débats pour faire avancer l'ensemble du monde dans la voie de la communication et de l’information.

Genève/21.7.98

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