WSIS 2016 – High-level policy statements: concluding session

4 May 2016 16:30h

[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]

Mr Jaroslaw Ponder (ITU) moderated the concluding session which began with Mr Samuela 'Akilisi Pohiva (Honorable Prime Minister of Tonga) noting that ICT cuts across last year’s groundbreaking international agreements, the Sendai framework on risk reduction, the UN sustainable development goals (SDG), and the various agreements on climate change, with their potential to for positive global change.

The session consisted of reports from the different high-level policy sessions, whose facilitators summarised main points on content, opportunities and challenges, emerging trends and new priorities, as well as pertinent case studies.  [Read separate reports from the four Moderated High-Level Policy Sessions: Sessions One, Three, Five, and Seven; Sessions Two, Four, Six, and Eight; Sessions Ten, Twelve, Fourteen, and Sixteen; and Sessions Nine, Eleven, Thirteen, and Fifteen]

Common elements in the reports included the importance of addressing the SDGs; the need for constant capacity building; substantive local content; cross-policy platform sharing, especially with global, regional, and local IGFs, CSTD, and WSIS meetings; infrastructure; development; investments and costs; and the need to diminish different divides and dichotomies such as poor/rich, urban/rural, young/old, north/south, local/global, and others.

Dr Tomasz Janowski (United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV)) who facilitated the 2030 Agenda, reported how the session had focused on the broad theme of the WSIS action lines and the 2030 agenda, and the need to align these processes, especially concerning the issues of infrastructure, services, legislation, innovation, and entrepreneurship and capacity building. He closed by saying ‘the SDGs are about leaving no one behind. Our goal overall is to ensure that no one is left offline.’

Dr Shailaja Fennell (Lecturer in Development Studies, Centre of Development Studies and Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom) moderator of the high-level panel on knowledge society capacity building and eLearning, noted the key vision that the knowledge society needs to be socially inclusive, but also to look at social justice in order to achieve the SDGs. In addition, she noted the importance of working with youth and the need for regular upgrading in our dynamic setting.

Ms Karen McCabe’s (Senior Director of Technology Policy and International Affairs, IEEE, USA) report on the high-level panel on the WSIS action lines and SDGs, stressed the importance of ‘a friendly platform for investment in infrastructure, so that we can enable new and emerging technologies that come into the ICT space’. She noted case studies of collaboration between governments and citizens, and cooperation between commercial and non-commercial stakeholders.

From Session Four on inclusiveness, access to information and knowledge for all, Mr Klaus Stoll (Executive Director, Global Knowledge Partnership, Germany) reported diverse approaches to four commonalities:

Connectivity without content is not really connectivity.
Local empowerment, local content, local solutions: diversity and language are indispensable.
ICT is relevant for all SDGs.
Awareness and capacity building, ranges from basic literacy to coding and involvement in high level Internet governance processes.
He noted that the ICT forums are moving from talking towards doing.

Ms Chinmayi Arun (Executive Director, Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi, India) reporting from Session Five on bridging the digital divide noted that the digital divide remains a critical issue, with contributing factors including problems of infrastructure, affordability, skills and awareness, and relevant content. She noted that the WSIS+10 outcome document contains a strong commitment to bridging the digital divide.

From Session Seven on the enabling environment, Ms Anriette Esterhuysen (Executive Director of the Association for Progressive Communications, APC, South Africa) reported that an enabling environment is a cross-cutting issue, as the action line that underpins all the other action lines and the integration of SDGs as we move beyond Agenda 2030. Esterhuysen emphasised the importance of human rights and the need for stakeholders to work together at all levels and across silos.

Ms Elizabeth Thomas-Raynaud (Senior Policy Executive and Director, International Chamber of Commerce, Digital Economy and BASIS) facilitator of Session Eight on ICT applications and services, noted the importance of better communication, of leveraging ICTS, of a citizen-centred approach to e-government, and of user-targeted technology. She pointed out that ‘digital development provides an opportunity to leverage ICT applications and services to reduce the time that it will take us to get there’.

Session Nine on the WSIS and SDGs was facilitated by Mr Nigel Hickson (Vice President, Global Stakeholder Engagement ICANN) who stated that the key point that came out of this session was the virtuous circle created as we use ICTs: as the take-up of ICTs accelerates, it reduces the digital divide and enhances our ability to meet the targets of the sustainable development goals. ‘So the key issue amongst the panel was on the acceleration of the use of ICTs and to try to facilitate the take-up of ICTs in a holistic manner’, he said.

Ms Marilyn Cade (President of ICT Strategies, mCADE LLC), facilitator of Session Ten on the digital economy and trade shared that the vision that has become clear is that the digital economy and trade are essential for the success of all of the SDGs because we clearly cannot solve the poverty, food, or other problems ‘unless we also are engaged in embracing the digitisation of the economy and the complete integration of digitisation that is transforming the world today’.

Mr Greg Shannon (Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Strategy, The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy; Chief Scientist, CERT Division, Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute) facilitated Session Eleven on bridging the digital divide. He spoke of access as a key component of the digital divide, with relevant content and effective use essential for meaningful access. He said that ‘innovation is the solution to bridging digital divides and the bridging of those divides will also improve innovation.’

From Session Twelve, Ms Anna Slomovic (Lead Research Scientist, Cyber Security and Privacy Research Institute, George Washington University, USA) addressed action line C5, building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, action line C6, enabling environment and SDG 13, action on climate change. The session had a diverse panel that included delegates from four continents representing governments, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, and the private sector, demonstrating and expressing that ICTs can be used to bridge the digital divide, and that a multistakeholder approach can assure that resources are sustainable and available for generations to come.

Dr Cisse Kane (President of the African Civil Society on the Information Society (ACSIS)), facilitator of Session Thirteen on bridging the digital divide, shared the group’s view that to overcome the digital divide we must bring on board people who do not speak languages of the computer, stressing that we must take into account local languages and local cultures.
Session Fourteen on SDGs, financing, and the role of ICTs was moderated by Iffat Gill ( Founder/CEO, ChunriChoupaal-The Code To Change) who synthesised two priorities: zero poverty and knowledge as a powerful catalyst for the uptake of ICTs, with knowledge being the key to uplifting underserved communities from poverty.

Ms Lori Schulman (Senior Director, Internet Policy, International Trademark Association (INTA)) facilitated Session Fifteen on diversity, media, cultural diversity, and heritage, as well as an ethical society and knowledge societies. She reported that the most important word coming out of this very lively and engaging session on what NGOs are doing to empower communities to create local content is cyber-optimism. She stressed the need to create points of accessibility for all.

Chair Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda (Ambassador and Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, USA) concluded in a positive tone – ‘We are all in this together; we are all trying to collectively bridge the digital divide, create enabling environments, and understand how to use the WSIS framework to achieve the SDGs.’

Mr Houlin Zhao (ITU Secretary-General) closed the meeting with appreciation for all involved, presenting a plaque and medal to Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, Chairman of the Forum, for his excellent inspiration for the work of WSIS and his support of the ITU.

by Virginia (Ginger) Paque