[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]
Moderator Mr Pierre Mirlesse, from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, EMEA, opened the floor by introducing the high level participants and the theme of the session, which was to focus on information and communication technology (ICT) applications, services, and strategies.
Mr Ibrahima Guimba Saidou, minister of the information society and special adviser to the President of the Republic of Niger, talked of the challenges in creating and implementing strategies for a large country such as Niger. Saidou stated they have been investing heavily in ICT infrastructure but still struggle with connecting the unconnected. They have brought together all related ministries, donors, international partners, NGOs, civil society, and startups in a truly multistakeholder approach to connect remote areas and transform the rural areas which comprise 80% of the country. They have also launched a programme called Smart Village which aims to connect villages while focusing on youth empowerment and women’s entrepreneurship, and addressing development issues through technology.
Mr Elmir Velizade, deputy minister at the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan, talked about the key activities carried out by the Azerbaijan government, in a country where the Internet penetration rate is 80%, 72% of which is broadband, and where there are 112 mobile phones per 100 people. The most widely used ICT technology is e-government services followed by commercial banking and insurance services. Azerbaijan participates in regional projects which focus on using satellites for Internet access, TV and radio broadcasting. The country has data centres, a G-cloud with a fibre optic gateway which connects Europe and the Middle East. Velizade wrapped up by calling for more regional cooperation projects.
Mr Raul Heredia, deputy permanent representative of Mexico in Geneva, was asked about the biggest challenges in establishing a national plan regarding ICTs in Mexico. Heredia stated that Mexico is a very large country, and this constitutes a challenge when it comes to connectivity. One of the priorities of the Mexican government is data mining and analysing what are the services most demanded by the population. This effort has led to the creation of a catalogue which lists services to be digitalised. This set of services was communicated to the Business Coordinating Council to determine the strategy of the national digitalisation plan. Thirty-two states in the country collaborated to get certificates, which was a big success in terms of legitimising the ICT services provided by these states. Finally, a National Digital Coordination office was created which reports directly to the President. This process was found to be the best and most effective way to digitalise a large federated country.
Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi, CEO of the Information Technology Authority of Oman, talked of the ambitious 2013 PKI National Infrastructure Program the country has launched. He also mentioned that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had announced Oman as one of the top five countries in technological advancement in 2016. Ruzaiqi elaborated on the PKI programme which mostly relies on mobile connections. It provides e-signatures, digital signatures for all government documents, and electronic stamps and timestamps, and all government agencies are required to use this infrastructure to set up their systems online. So far 12.5 million digital identities have been issued and 9.2 million transactions have been made through the system. More than 23 government agencies use the system for information, as well as the private sector. The fact that the system is based on open source code was highlighted as a very important point by the minister. Finally, it was stated that Oman was also named among the top 30 countries in the world where registering a business is easiest.
Mr Marc Vancoppenolle, head of Global Government Relations of the Nokia Corporation, listed incentivising investment, reducing the costs of putting infrastructure in place, balancing net neutrality where differentiating traffic without discriminating against it is the goal, and balancing data protection with the ability to use the data for business purposes as ways of enabling the digital economy. Creating correct cybersecurity frameworks for the Internet of Things (IoT), and looking into the policies of different sectors to make sure they are up to date for digitalisation were also mentioned. Vancoppenolle said that we are moving into the fourth industrial revolution where the interconnection of all physical elements and infrastructure in various fields such as digital health care and digital production networks is possible, and where physical production goods can be manufactured with minimal tooling. He stated that the fourth revolution will also bring disruption to labour and employment which can be faced by implementing new skills education to mitigate the risks of high unemployment.
Dr Kwaku Ofosu-Adarkwa, managing director of 25th Century Technology Limited, took the floor mentioning he has been involved with the WSIS process for the last 16 years, and that building synergy between action line C7 and target lines A and 6B were priorities in Ghana. He stated that the connectivity rate in the country, including broadband connectivity, was very high with 79% broadband connectivity. Another important point for Ghana is waste management posing a big challenge. Forty per cent of the waste cannot be collected due to inefficiency in the private sector and at the policy level. He concluded by calling for bold steps in developing economies to keep the environment clean, by utilising ICTs and the policies related to ICTs.
The moderator asked about the speed at which the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are being achieved and how they are being monitored. Azerbaijan answered that their Statistical Committee was measuring SDG achievements with UN indicators and the progress of the digital economy with European indicators. Niger stated that they were at the other end of the spectrum, and measurements needed to be relative and put in context,since comparing everyone by the same standards is problematic. Mexico supported this view by stating the importance of relativity and adaptability to the conditions of each country basing it on SDG indicators.
By Su Sonia Herring