[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]
The session was moderated by Mr G. Anthony Giannoumis, from Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, who invited the 2 winning teams (out of 14) of the student innovation WSIS entrepreneurs who participated in the WSIS Hack against hunger to pitch their solutions. The winners presented two solutions: A-Grow, a web/mobile application from Jamaica, and MCFLY, an artificial intelligence and remote sensing application deployed in one province in China.
Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin, of the Strategic Planning and Membership Department at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), mentioned that all eyes are on the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development where the spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and global interconnectedness are expected to play a big part in ensuring that the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are achieved. She reminded participants that there were 12 years left to achieve the 2030 agenda, and there is a need to harness the force that ICTs can play. Bogdan-Martin also emphasised the need to closely align the WSIS process with the SDGs.
Mr Giorgi Cherkezishvili, deputy minister at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, responded to questions about the use of ICTs and the responsibility of governments in achieving the 2030 Agenda, by stating that the SDGs cut across various sectors and that ICTs can also be used across sectors, by influencing goals and increasing capacities. Cherkezishvili added that the role of government is to create platforms and ecosystems to allow growth for startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In Georgia, there have been reforms such as developing infrastructure, for example, in fibre optic. He also noted that it is not commercially viable for the private sector to develop infrastructure, and he thus believes it is the role of governments.
Giving a perspective from Portugal, Ms Paula Meira Lourenço, member of the Board at Autoridade Nacional de Comunicações (ANACOM), responded to the questions about the Internet not simply being a right but a basic need by saying that Portugal has been providing fixed broadband to cover next generation premises. She added that it comes with a responsibility to promote access for everyone. Lourenço referred to the WiFi for European Commission project which gives member states up to €120 million to implement free wi-fi access for everyone in over 5 000 municipalities.
Mr Dan Sjöblom, director general of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority, responded to a question about the Swedish approach to the 2030 Agenda by stating that Sweden wants to be a leader regionally and globally in terms of achieving the agenda. He mentioned that Sweden is focusing on including everyone and not leaving anyone behind, in a bid to remove the digital divide. He added that the government is digitising government activities and rolling out broadband, with quantitative targets and short deadlines. He believes that if governments take their responsibilities seriously, market forces will do their job. Sjöblom informed participants that the regulator is working outside the Swedish borders with Stockholm University to implement a project to strengthen regulatory interaction among regulators in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In response to questions about big data, analytics and text mining, Dr Derrick Cogburn, director at the Internet Governance Lab/Institute on Disability and Public Policy, highlighted Google search trends in 2004 which remained relatively flat until 2012 when there were spikes about these terms. Referring to the WSIS action lines and SDGs, he mentioned the need to evaluate progress – for example the SDGs have 11 mentions of persons with disabilities (PWDs) while the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) did not include such a focus. Cogburn shared that they have studied the annual reports from the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) since 2006 and the results show an increase in transcript availability from 11 in 2006 to 215 in 2017. The studies are on inductive theory, highlights, clusters, and deductively looking at data sets.
A participant raised the question of digital literacy. Lourenço and Cherkezishvili agreed that their governments have initiatives to give laptops to school-going children, while Cogburn and Sjöblom agreed on the increase in support for PWDs. Cogburn described an online degree which has been offered by the American University since 2009, which focuses on PWDs. Fifteen fellowships are offered for participants from South East Asia.
By Sarah Kiden