In e-mail to students, Annan urges communication to build understanding

10 December 2003 –

Using the original computer on which the Internet was created, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today sent an electronic message to young people around the world urging them to keep communicating with each other to build bridges of understanding between cultures and societies.

Surrounded by a crowd at an exhibition pavilion at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the Secretary-General sent his message to students participating in the World Summit Event for Schools, a three-month long initiative co-organised by the UN CyberSchoolBus and European Schoolnet offering online activities to students in order to look at the effect of communication technologies on education and human rights.

The school event concludes this week with a live interaction via the Internet between students and a Head of State at the WSIS, which runs through Friday in Geneva and aims to tackle global challenges such as poverty and illiteracy by setting up a road map for the widespread use of information and communications technologies (ICTs).

“I hope you will keep communicating with each other to build bridges of understanding between peoples and countries. By using technology in this way, you will bring us all closer to a more just and peaceful world, in which access to the Internet will be a right enjoyed by everyone,” the Secretary-General wrote in his message.

He told the participants from more than 80 countries they were “an inspiration” and that it was good that on the 55th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “you are exercising your right 'to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.'”

In his note, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, said he hoped that everyone could use the Web to realize that “other people are just like ourselves, even if they speak different languages, or have different abilities.”

“I believe it is important to preserve our local cultures and languages,” he added. “We must also share enough understanding planet-wide to bring peace. Have fun, and think about what you are doing.”

In 1990, Mr. Berners-Lee, working with Robert Cailliau at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), proposed a distributed information system based on “hypertext” as a way to link related pieces of information stored on computers. By hiding network addresses behind highlighted items on the screen, information could be linked between several computers. The name “World-Wide Web” was chosen.

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