Tale/innlegg | Dato: 31.05.2006
Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre
Opening address at the Conference ”Ukraine and the Information Society – the Road Ahead”
Kiev, 31 May 2006
Information and Communication Technology – The Gateway to a Democratic and Prosperous Future
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Mr Gaidutsky, Presidents, CEOs, Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to address this joint Norwegian, Ukrainian and Swedish conference on information and communication technology.
It is also a great pleasure to be here in Ukraine’s capital Kiev for the first time – with the aim of sending a signal of interest, friendship and solidarity with Ukraine. – Yes, it is a reflection of the growing relations between Norway and Ukraine.
As I will describe later for the students at the Mohyla Academy, the ties between our two countries date back more than a thousand years, to the age of our great Viking kings and princes and their family ties. Today we are resuming our partnership, exchange and communication in a number of important areas. Ukraine is Europe’s past, Ukraine is proving to be Europe’s present. And the development of Ukraine will be of vital importance for Europe’s future.
Personal bonds and knowledge of each other’s culture count. Our ancestors traded in fish and fur, now we are trading in phones. Longboats and horses have been replaced by IP technology and broadband.
This conference is to testify this change – and on behalf of the Norwegian Government I am pleased to be present.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Norway strongly supports Ukraine’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic cooperation structures. We want to support Ukraine on its way towards democratisation and modernisation, in the development of a vibrant civil society. This process has begun. It will – as all historic processes – not be easy. But it is a road worth travelling - for the people of Ukraine, for Ukraine’s neighbours and for the rest of Europe.
Today, I will particularly propose to my Ukrainian counterparts that we step up our collaboration in the field of research and education. Higher education, openness, democratic standards and more open borders are vital for the free passage of ideas and impulses back and forth between our countries.
Ukraine is in the middle of a major development process that involves many sectors of Ukrainian society.
Politically, the country has won international admiration for the decisive steps it has made to ensure free national elections, and for the media freedom that resulted from the Orange Revolution.
Internationally, Ukraine is gaining a reputation as a constructive and reliable partner. It is actively contributing to regional stability and playing an important part in operations to preserve international peace and stability.
Culturally, Ukraine is asserting itself on the international scene, whether in fine arts or in popular music. And as a Norwegian, deprived of a national team at the World Cup Finals, I’m looking forward to watching your team next month – as I am to see Sweden – representing Scandinavia!
Ukraine has also made remarkable progress on the playgrounds and pitches of the economic sector in recent years, and GDP has grown significantly. This has also benefited people in general, as average household income has increased.
The commercial ties between Norway and Ukraine are developing rapidly. Bilateral trade is increasing, but there is scope for further growth. We want to see this happen.
Cooperation between Norway and Ukraine is particularly close in the telecom sector. And this is why I have the pleasure to attend this event.
Telenor is the largest Norwegian investor in Ukraine and the largest Western European investor in the Ukrainian telecom sector, with a track record dating back to 1997. This is the most successful example of Norwegian-Ukrainian business cooperation ever. The Norwegian government supports the strengthening of such ties.
Ukraine’s favourable economic path is due to its impressive technological development. Here as elsewhere, the introduction of new technology is leading to more efficient use of available resources and greater output, resulting in sustainable economic growth.
The revolution in information and communication technology around the world is at the core of this technological transformation.
In Ukraine the ICT revolution is taking place at a particularly impressive pace. In less than ten years, mobile telephone penetration has gone from zero to more than 70 per cent.
Telenor has taken part in and helped shaping this revolution, as co-owner of Kyivstar. Telenor, the largest network operator in Norway, has also been instrumental in transforming my country’s information infrastructure into a world-class system. This goes beyond technology.
The explosive increase in the global use of information technology is also transforming our societies and our way of life. It is opening up arenas for the exchange of ideas and practices across boundaries in virtually all aspects of life. In this respect it is a wall breaker for democracy and exchange that no political regime can restrict in the long run.
One of the main achievements of the Orange Revolution is that Ukraine has now established full freedom of the media. Ukrainian journalists made a significant contribution to the struggle for full democratic freedoms. It is important that this freedom is defended and preserved as it is a fundamental pillar of democracy.
Exchanges lead to changes. Networks create new workplaces.
Ukraine’s development over the past couple of years is a powerful testimony to the tremendous positive impact the free dissemination of information can have.
However, not all aspects of the information society are positive. Providing channels and means of communication is one thing, the content is another. We therefore need to establish legal mechanisms to ensure proper protection.
Governments need to regulate this new technology to make it accessible to everyone and to ensure that costs are minimised for the individual user and for society as a whole. Equal access to the Internet is another aspect of equal civil rights in a modern society – and it is the responsibility of elected governments to secure access for all.
It is most appropriate that Telenor and Ericsson, two global leaders in telecom and information technology, should be organising this conference in cooperation with the Information Society Institute of Ukraine and the Ukrainian authorities. The purpose is to facilitate an open dialogue between government officials, business representatives and NGOs. By inviting leading European experts and CEOs, the organisers have created a forum for sharing ideas and experience.
Firstly, the ideas presented here should contribute to a common understanding of the road ahead in the ICT sector.
Secondly, you should seek to agree on a long-term strategy and specific steps for promoting continued progress in this sector to the benefit of the people.
Thirdly, you should seek to address legitimate concerns raised by the widespread penetration of Internet access. One such issue is to make sure that vulnerable groups also have access. For instance, special programmes can be designed to help elderly people overcome the technology barrier.
Finally, you should focus on the basic, positive effects of Internet access. As access becomes more widespread, the Internet can serve as an efficient tool for the authorities to provide information to the citizens. It can be used to ensure effective interaction with the clients and users of public services, for example as application procedures become digitalised.
All in all, Internet access should facilitate and inspire people’s active involvement in public affairs at all levels of society. This in turn can contribute to a vibrant, accountable democracy.
I wish you all a successful conference. I am sure that Ukraine – and Norway - will benefit from the vast experience and expertise gathered in this room.