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ITU Telecom World 2016 launched proceedings, welcoming influential participants from public and private sectors and across the ICT industry, including SMEs, from around the world.

Proceedings began with the Opening Ceremony, in the presence of H.R.H Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Kingdom of Thailand, Chan-o-cha Prayut, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Thailand and Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union.

Addressing an audience of event participants and special guests which included Heads of State and Ministers, Heads of UN Agencies, Regulators and industry leaders (in order of speaking), Chan-o-cha Prayut, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Thailand outlined key components of the event, including highlights of the Thailand Pavilion and the Event's core focus on collaboration, the digital economy and SMEs, noting the ""Thai government and ITU have placed emphasis on the cooperation of entrepreneurs, SMEs and start-up groups.""

Acknowledging his appreciation for H.R.H Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's most valuable and committed support for ICTs, in particular for social development, ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao noted Thailand's remarkable progress in ICT developments. Mr. Zhao extended his sincere condolences to the Royal family and the Thai people and voiced his hope that the event, with its focus on development through the digital economy, will in some small way be able to contribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's work and legacy.

H.R.H Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn officially opened the Event, noting how it offers ""investment opportunities for SMEs and start-ups which help accelerate economic growth in many countries.""

Forum Opening
Collaborating in the digital economy with a specific focus on the key role of SMEs in the digital ecosystem was the theme that kicked of the ITU Telecom World Forum Debate. The opening session provided unique and powerful perspectives from heads of state, government and international organizations worldwide.

Taking to the floor first, Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union, spoke of the importance of ICTs as enablers, noting that ""Within the ICT industry, it is the innovative small and medium enterprises - tech SMEs - that are key to industry disruption, to job creation, and to the technological innovations that are taking the industry forward.""

Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister, Luxembourg, spoke of the transformation currently underway in this digital era, and the tremendous potential impact which we cannot afford to miss. ""None of us can afford to miss the train. In Luxembourg we consider impact of digital as a huge opportunity to create value and make the world a better place.""

Speaking of the opportunities and challenges the fast-changing and evolving ICT ecosystem holds for Vanuatu, Mr. Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, Prime Minister and Minister responsible for ICT and Telecommunications added ""We value learning from experiences of other countries, and note synergies and cost efficiencies that could be achieved in designing, implementing, or advocating certain initiatives on a regional or international level.""

Crown Prince Tupouto'a' Ulukalala of the Kingdom of Tonga outlined the importance of inspiring collaboration, explaining how ITU Telecom World itself, ""This annual flagship event has inspired Tonga as the first Pacific country to liberalize its telecoms sector in 2002. In a short time the benefits were realized.""

Prajin Juntong, Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Kingdom of Thailand, spoke of taking inspiration from His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's many innovative ICT projects and legacy, ensuring that ""ICT is not for those who can afford it but we must allow those who are most in need to benefit from it to not be left behind.""

Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) commended the unique strengths of the event, providing dialogue between international organizations and the private sector to ""collectively identify opportunities and challenges."" He also took the opportunity to inform delegates that UNCTAD was today joining the EQUALS initiative, which aims to tackle the gender digital divide.

Commending ITU as a ""platform to manage the emerging digital ecosystem,"" Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Director General of Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), United Arab Emirates, challenged delegates, as they began the week's debates, with topical questions such as ""Can we ignore the value of collaboration?"" or ""Are we making sure we are applying enough innovation?""

Following the Forum Opening, debates began in earnest with the Leadership Summit, which convened highest-level experts from public and private sectors to explore why working together is so important for growing the digital economy.

During the 4 days of the event, Forum sessions will delve into an exciting set of topics such as artificial intelligence, how ICTs can meet the UN's Sustainable development goals (SDGs), intelligent transport systems and autonomous (driverless) vehicles, digital financial inclusion and fintech and financial incentives to invest in the global roll out of ICT infrastructure, collaborative innovation and the tech-SME ecosystem.

Parallel to the Forum, the Exhibition will showcase digital solutions and investment opportunities from governments and industry from both emerging and developed markets, including tech-SMEs.

During the week, participants will be able to learn more on the ITU Telecom World Awards,recognizing excellence and innovation in ICT solutions with social impact from SMEs and corporates alike. Winners will be announced during the closing ceremony on 17 November.

ITU Telecom World 2016 will also provide perspectives from across ITU and its membership and partners, with a host of exciting co-hosted events from across the ITU community.

It will also include a number of important agreements and contracts signed between Governments, Regulatory bodies and the private sector.

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