[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]
Mr Houlin Zhao, secretary-general, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), stated that WSIS 2018 has shown how the power of information and communications technologies (ICTs) can be leveraged to make progress on a range of important issues, from gender to cybersecurity and Internet of Things. Zhao acknowledged the role of the co-organisers, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Zhao thanked all the partners, WSIS action line facilitators and co-facilitators, the cChairman of WSIS Forum 2018, the interns and the volunteers. He advised that the outputs from the discussions are available on the WSIS website, asserting that what has been accomplished at this year’s forum will shift important events in the following months.
Mr Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, deputy director-general, telecommunication sector, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), United Arab Emirates and chairman of WSIS Forum 2018, had the floor next. He expressed his certainty that stakeholders recognise the significance of accelerating progress to achieve the targets of the WSIS action lines, and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The chairman noted that the need to use ICTs to sustain development was also recognised. The WSIS 2018 policy sessions, he stated, looked into the activities that different countries are undertaking to reach their goals, the trends that are currently rising, and the efforts needed for excellence. WSIS also presented additional evidence on the importance of international co-operation that can achieve the digital inclusion and bridge the digital gap. Connectivity and the Internet can play an essential role in the endeavors to achieve inclusion and equality, the chairman stressed. He also said that the primary trend highlighted by the panellists was employing big data analytics and mechanisms for achieving the SDGs.
Ms Sasha Rubel, UNESCO communications specialist, addressed the closing ceremony on behalf of the director-general of UNESCO. Rubel stated that UNESCO underlined four pillars on which knowledge society must be built on – freedom of expression, universal access to information and knowledge, respect for cultural and linguistic diversity and quality education for all – in the sessions it facilitated. UNESCO has, throughout he forum, advocated for an Internet guided by human rights, openness, accessibility and multistakeholder participation, believing that these elements are crucial for the Internet and ICTs to assume their rightful place in sustainable development. Rubel called on governments and partners to continue to leverage the power of ICTs to help achieve the SDGs, and promote the free flow of ideas.
Ms Scarlett Fondeur Gil, ICT policy section, UNCTAD, recognised UNCTAD’s involvement with the other organisations in the UN group on the information societies. She stated that UNCTAD will advocate for the advancing of the role of the information society in the achievement of the SDGs, at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). She also expressed UNCTAD’s enthusiasm to continue the dialogue on digital economy and trade throughout 2018 until WSIS Forum 2019.
Ms Minerva Novero-Belec, policy specialist at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), stated that UN agencies are better informed after WSIS 2018 presentations and engagement with the participants. This will help frame the UNDP’s continuing support to their programme countries, in the frame of a new strategic plan that recognises the role of ICTs in achieving the 2030 Agenda. She emphasised that the fact that the UNDP considers ICTs and their use to be relevant for all SDs.
Zhao acknowledged his colleagues - Mr Malcolm Johnson, deputy secretary-general of the ITU; Mr Brahima Sanou, director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau; and Mr Chaesub Lee, director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau.
Zhao opened the floor for open discussion. A representative of the UN Major Group for Children and Youth gave a brief statement on behalf of the children and youth. Dr Reha, the director of the National Centre of Data in Yemen, called upon international organisations to come to Yemen’s aid. Ms Andrea Saks, the chairman of the Joint Coordination Activity on Accessibility and Human Factors, described their WSIS workshop that had sign language interpreters and had a participant that helped design Wayfindr (an ITU-approved open standard to help blind and vision impaired people travel independently using turn-by-turn indoor audio navigation services). Ms Madeleine Scherb, president of the Health and Environment Program, expressed her desire for more African women to participate in the WSIS Forum 2019.
Zhao officially declared the closure of the WSIS Forum 2018 at 16:48 CET.
By Andrijana Gavrilović