WSIS 2017 – High-level policy statements: concluding session

4 May 2016 16:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]

Mr Philipp Metzger, (Director-General, Federal Office of Communications, Switzerland) started the session by underlining the importance of cooperation between all stakeholders, especially between national and international levels of governments. Although this was not a new idea, it was nonetheless not implemented often enough, and not with the right attitude. The issue of trust was then addressed by Metzger. He urged everyone to make the most of the unique opportunity Geneva presented this year with both WSIS and IGF 2017 taking place in the city, bringing together experts and decision makers from all sectors to discuss digital policy issues and their links to the sustainable development goald (SDGs).

Mr Jean Philbert Nsengimana, (Minister of Youth & ICT, Rwanda) took the floor and stressed the increased and perhaps unprecedented levels of participation in this year’s WSIS by all stakeholders, especially the private sector and civil society. He proposed that WSIS could be the, ‘Leading platform in terms of associating SDGs with new technology.’

The session reviewed each of the fourteen High-Level sessions, their highlights and key messages in the past, presented by their High-Level Track facilitators. Topics covered by the sessions and presented by the facilitators focused on the SDGs and use of ICTs in reaching them. The key themes and messages visited by presenters and participants both during the original sessions and the concluding session highlighted emerging issues of trust, and the digital divide from an infrastructure, affordability, adoption rate, awareness, and relevant content point of view. In addition, the role of governments was touched on in facilitating a competitive market for reduced prices, and there were also points raised on the crucial role of government initiatives, private-sector investment, and cutting-edge technology directly linked to overcoming poverty. In this context Pakistan’s example of including a separate provision in its ICT document to address the digital divide was praised.

The importance of skills building according to specific needs of nations was addressed. These efforts need to focus not only on developing countries, but also developed ones, especially in areas of cyber security and big data. Projects facilitating ICTs to reach SDGs were cited, such as Congo’s free public hotspots at bus stops, and Paraguay’s implementation of 4G networks.

The need for an enabling regulatory environment for both innovation and investment, and the need to focus on skills and capacity building, not just early in life but throughout an entire life and at all levels of education and training, was also addressed.

How trust and confidence in use of ICTs by businesses and communities determined the limit or the enabler of growth was also reviewed. The multi-disciplinary nature of trust, not only in the aspect of security but also safety, reliability, and usability was underlined. Microsoft’s call for a Digital Geneva Convention to limit and define state behaviour was explored.

Among best practice shared in different fields were:

  • Multilingualism in Africa, outlining the importance of quality local content.
  • Projects using ICT to combat Ebola epidemics in West Africa.
  • The Indian government’s programme for a projected 600 million people to be trained in digital literacy in the next three years.
  • Inclusiveness initiatives in Colombia such as connected prisons which provide access and ICT training to inmates.
  • Portugal’s development of digital competency for all ages through education.
  • Singapore’s policy sandbox for FINTEC.

The gender divide was another issue addressed: As 90% of jobs in the future will require ICT skills and knowledge, the critical importance of training girls and women in STEM fields was mentioned, citing gender mainstreaming practices and awareness programmes by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Trademark Association (INTA).

Closing remarks by Nsengimana and Mr Houlin Zhao (Secretary General, ITU) underlined key further achievements in SDGs, including gratitude, respect, and commitment.


by Su Sonia Herring