UN Secretary-General issues policy brief for Global Digital Compact

As part of the process towards developing a Global Digital Compact (GDC), the UN Secretary-General has issued a policy brief outlining areas in which ‘the need for multistakeholder digital cooperation is urgent’: closing the digital divide and advancing sustainable development goals (SDGs), making the online space open and safe for everyone, and governing artificial intelligence (AI) for humanity. 

The policy brief also suggests objectives and actions to advance such cooperation and ‘safeguard and advance our digital future’. These are structured around the following topics:

  • Digital connectivity and capacity building. The overarching objectives here are to close the digital divide and empower people to participate fully in the digital economy. Proposed actions range from common targets for universal and meaningful connectivity to putting in place or strengthening public education for digital literacy. 
  • Digital cooperation to accelerate progress on the SDGs. Objectives include making targeted investments in digital public infrastructure and services, making data representative, interoperable, and accessible, and developing globally harmonised digital sustainability standards. Among the proposed actions are the development of definitions of safe, inclusive, and sustainable digital public infrastructures, fostering open and accessible data ecosystems, and developing a common blueprint on digital transformation (something the UN would do). 
  • Upholding human rights. Putting human rights at the centre of the digital future, ending the gender digital divide, and protecting workers are the outlined objectives in this area. One key proposed action is the establishment of a digital human rights advisory mechanism, facilitated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to provide guidance on human rights and technology issues. 
  • An inclusive, open, secure, and shared internet. There are two objectives: safeguarding the free and shared nature of the internet, and reinforcing accountable multistakeholder governance. Some of the proposed actions include commitments from governments to avoid blanket internet shutdowns and refrain from actions disrupting critical infrastructures.
  • Digital trust and security. Objectives range from strengthening multistakeholder cooperation to elaborate norms, guidelines, and principles on the responsible use of digital technologies, to building capacity and expanding the global cybersecurity workforce. The proposed overarching action is for stakeholders to commit to developing common standards and industry codes of conduct to address harmful content on digital platforms. 
  • Data protection and empowerment. Ensuring that data are governed for the benefit of all, empowering people to control their personal data, and developing interoperable standards for data quality as envisioned as key objectives. Among the proposed actions are an invitation for countries to consider adopting a declaration on data rights and seeking convergence on principles for data governance through a potential Global Data Compact. 
  • Agile governance of AI and other emerging technologies. The proposed objectives relate to ensuring transparency, reliability, safety, and human control in the design and use of AI; putting transparency, fairness, and accountability at the core of AI governance; and combining existing norms, regulations, and standards into a framework for agile governance of AI. Actions envisioned range from establishing a high-level advisory body for AI to building regulatory capacity in the public sector. 
  • Global digital commons. Objectives include ensuring inclusive digital cooperation, enabling regular and sustained exchanges across states, regions, and industry sectors, and developing and governing technologies in ways that enable sustainable development, empower people, and address harms. 

The document further notes that ‘the success of a GDC will rest on its implementation’. This implementation would be done by different stakeholders at the national, regional, and sectoral level, and be supported by spaces such as the Internet Governance Forum and the World Summit on the Information Society Forum. One suggested way to support multistakeholder participation is through a trust fund that could sponsor a Digital Cooperation Fellowship Programme. 

As a mechanism to follow up on the implementation of the GDC, the policy brief suggests that the Secretary-General could be tasked to convene an annual Digital Cooperation Forum (DCF). The mandate of the forum would also include, among other things, facilitating collaboration across digital multistakeholder frameworks and reducing duplication; promoting cross-border learning in digital governance; and identifying and promoting policy solutions to emerging digital challenges and governance gaps.

Commission on the Status of Women: 67th session

The 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), to be held between 6 and 17 March 2023, will have as its priority theme ‘innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls’.

Some of the topics to be discussed under this theme will include addressing barriers to bridge the gender digital divide and promote education in the digital age, and fostering inclusive innovation and technological change to empower women and girls and create safer digital spaces.

The meeting is open to UN member states, UN entities, and non-governmental organisations accredited by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

CSW is the main global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, and it functions as a commission of ECOSOC.

For more details, consult the CSW67 dedicated website.

ITU Partner2Connect Annual Meeting

The first annual meeting of the ITU Partner2Connect Coalition will be held on 8 December from 09:30-17:30 CET at ITU’s Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Partner2Connect Digital Coalition (P2C) is a multistakeholder alliance to mobilize and announce new resources, partnerships, and commitments to achieve universal and meaningful connectivity. It was founded in 2021 by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, in close cooperation with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, and the United Nations Office of the High representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UNOHRLLS).

The one-day meeting will engage high-level representatives and pledge makers from government, private sector, civil society, and other sectors to learn about the progress on committments, discuss the challenges and opportunities for connecting the unconnected, as well as network and share experiences, which will further advance global digital transformation.

Further information about the event can be found on the official webpage.

Bridging the digital divide with Public ICT Access Centres for access to free ICT literacy training and online education

In September 2022, the Ministry of Digital Transformation committed itself to the unveiling of up to 50 ICT Access Centres across the country by the year’s end. The commitment came on the heel of the release of the UNDP’s Digital Readiness Assessment Report in March 2022, which highlighted key problem areas for the country in its quest for whole-of-government, whole-of-society digital transformation as including:

1. The lack of access to broadband internet in public spaces and schools, regardless of area within the country.
2. Older residents and those outside of urban centres receive reduced digital benefits.
3. The effects of COVID-19 exacerbated digital divides on education level.

The Access Centres allow visitors to Connect and Create, Educate and Innovate, while the government has partnered with key organisations such as the Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA) Online Programme, YTEPP, and the Microsoft Philanthropic Group to bring these goals to fruition.

To this date, twelve centres have been installed, while five are open and ready to serve.