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Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah, Prime Minister of Vanuatu Charlot Salwai, Ministers, Ambassadors, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

When the decision was made to hold our 20th Plenipotentiary Conference in the United Arab Emirates, it felt like a homecoming for ITU.

We are proud to return to Dubai, where ITU has held major successful events in the past such as WTSA-12, ITU Telecom World 2012, WCIT-12, and WTDC-14. Thank you to the United Arab Emirates for hosting PP-18 and working with us to make it the greenest, and one of the most successful Plenipotentiary Conferences, in our history. Thank you for all you are doing for ICT in the Arab world, the region, and beyond.

Here more than anywhere else, the digital transformation of the economy and society has taken on a whole new dimension. From the ICT Fund to the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021, the United Arab Emirates is a pioneer in the world of ICT. And today, Dubai becomes its capital.

What is most striking is how ancestral traditions of the past coexist with today’s emerging technologies to create a better future.

This new decade promises to bring even more transformative opportunities than the last, in the UAE and elsewhere. New technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things will change how we live, work, and learn in ways that have yet to be imagined. And ITU is in the front seat.  

The challenge before us today is to ensure that these technologies and ICT in general continue to be a source for good for everyone across the world. And that is why the “UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence” is driven by the belief that AI should be a medium for inclusion.

Here in the United Arab Emirates, mobile-broadband penetration is three times as high as the global and regional averages. The percentage of individuals using the Internet in the country approaches 95%. Unfortunately, that is not the case everywhere around the world, far from it.

Right now, over half of the world’s population is still not using the Internet, cut off from today’s digital economy. As we debate over the next three weeks how to build the skills and the ICT infrastructure necessary to foster inclusive economic growth and trust, let us work as one.

As the lead United Nations agency for ICTs, ITU has a critical role to play in helping our Members achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Let us rise to the challenge and use PP-18, our first Plenipotentiary Conference since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, as an accelerator to drive innovation and development and to bridge the digital divide.

In the “Year of Zayed,” let me conclude with the late founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who once said: “Future generations will be living in a world that is very different from that to which we are accustomed. It is essential that we prepare ourselves and our children for that new world.”

Our world is changing fast, and ITU is changing with it. May PP-18 prepare ourselves and our children for that new world. May we always remember that we are stronger together - that what unites us is the common vision of a connected world, where information and communication technology is a source for good for everyone everywhere.

Thank you.