[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]
The High-Level Track Facilitator, Dr Jovan Kurbalija (Founding Director of DiploFoundation, and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform) started the session by reflecting of the need to 'connect various dots' in order to advance the ICT for development agenda. First, there is a need to connect the WSIS action lines with the goals of the 2030 Agenda. Second, different international organisations working with different ICT issues need to connect the dots and enhance coordination. Finally, there is also a need to connect the international community’s perspective and the discussion taking place in Geneva, with the local realities in countries around the world.
Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin (Chief of Strategic Planning and Membership Department, International Telecommunications Union (ITU)) talked about ICTs as the sustainable development goal (SDG) 18, or 'the invisible SDG', a goal that is not actually included among the original 17, but is a key element that impacts all the other SDGs. She reminded the audience that at WSIS 2015, the ITU developed a matrix combining the SDGs and WSIS’ action lines, a mapping exercise which improved the understanding of interconnections and synergies between both agendas. Furthermore, the ITU has also incorporated the SDG agenda in its strategic plan, its operational plan, and in the ICT for SDG portal which gathers stories that demonstrate the role of ICTs in achieving the SDGs. Finally, Bogdan-Martin stressed the importance of bridging the digital gap and affirmed that ‘it’s a leadership imperative to bring all of the world online’.
Mr Anir Chowdhury (a2i’s Policy Advisor, Bangladesh) discussed the benefits of public-private-public partnerships. He noted that the P from ‘public’ is unusual as people always talk about public-private partnerships, but that extra P is very important for Bangladesh since it means that all stakeholders work together to achieve development. He then went on to explain how the government of Bangladesh is employing innovation and technology to solve citizens’ problems and increase civic participation. Some examples included the use of decentralised digital service units that deliver public services and are run by entrepreneurs, or the use of Facebook pages as channels of communication between citizens and public officers. When it comes to lessons learned, Chowdhury highlighted three elements: (1) Governments have to the be more citizen-centric; (2) Governmental actions need a holistic approach and to avoid silos; (3) There is a need to incentivise innovative thinking across all sectors.
Ms Ouattara née Sanon Hadja Fatimata (Minister, Ministère du Développement de l'Economie Numérique et des Postes, Burkina Faso) talked about the importance of the digital revolution when it comes to improving people’s quality of life. In that context, Burkina Fasso is highly interested in the growth of the digital economy to support development and promote the autonomy of its men and women. Ouattara mentioned infrastructure projects that her country is carrying out to connect villages and cities and to boost inclusive socio-economic development. Other projects that are central for Burkina Fasso are a regional broadband connectivity project for West Africa, and e-government initiatives that provide online services to citizens, and improve transparency in procurement processes at the government level.
Ms Clarisa Estol (Secretary of Investment Promotion, Ministry of Communications, Argentina) talked about the work of Argentina’s Communications Ministry to address the digital divide. She acknowledged that Argentina shares the same problems that many countries have, and the WSIS event is, in that sense, a valuable knowledge-sharing forum. Estol explained that the country is still dealing with high poverty rates and that ICTs could be a powerful tool for inclusion. This linkage between ICTs and eradication of poverty should not only point at ICT infrastructure and networks, but also at services such as e-government that can bring citizens and governments closer, while strengthening ICT literacy among the users of those services. Finally, she mentioned a recent programme to expand access to smartphones for underprivileged communities as a successful public-private partnership in the digital sector.
Mr Ravinatha Aryasinha (Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN Geneva, and Chairman of the Personal Representatives of the Group of Fifteen (G15)) spoke from the perspective of the G15, a forum that gathers developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America. He explained that the G15 is currently working on four main areas of co-operation: migration, intellectual property, renewable energy, and ICTs. He highlighted that these types of small-group arrangements have many benefits, and that by working through these smaller structures, international agencies can have a more profound dialogue with member countries and better understand their needs and challenges.
Dr Yvette Ramos (International Network of Women Engineers & Scientists (INWES), and Swiss Engineering, Switzerland) reflected on the role of ICTs as key boosters of inclusive development. The work of the organisation Ramos represents focuses on industry 4.0 (Internet of Things), and the transformation of societies through innovation. She highlighted the crucial role of female engineers and scientists along with male colleagues to contribute to the SDGs. She called for direct and simple approaches to development challenges and action plans that can have a positive impact for all.
Prof. Yuko Murayama (International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), Japan) explained the work of the IFIP, the biggest organisation of ICT researchers and practitioners worldwide, with more than half a million members from all continents. The institution was created in 1960 under the auspices of UNESCO, it has 13 technical committees and 117 working groups dealing with different issues in the field of ICTs.
Dr Cisse Kane (President, Société Civile Africaine sur la Société de l'Information (ACSIS), Senegal)
presented the work of ACSIS which is located in Senegal but works with all African countries to advance the ICT for development agenda. He highlighted the central role of ICTs in every aspect of our lives and the importance of taking into consideration both the benefits and hazards of the digital revolution. He mentioned that there are some African countries where connectivity is as low as 30% and the gap is widening. There is a need to mobilise financial resources to bridge the gap and help Africa become a relevant market for the digital economy.
by Tamar Colodenco