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[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]

This session discussed how information and communication technologies (ICTs) could accelerate the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). It was moderated by Mr Deepak Maheshwari, from Symantec, India.  The overarching themes in the discussion included the use of ICTs for development, building trust in the Internet, and inclusive decision making.

Mr Elsworth Johnson, minister of state, office of the attorney general and minister of legal affairs, Bahamas, began by sharing some ICT initiatives from his nation. The Bahamas is a small nation where the government had identified ICTs as a driver of socio-economic development. The minister gave examples of ongoing projects in ICT literacy, rural development through Internet areas, tele-health centers, and blockchain in government. Some of the immediate results were a reduction in corruption and bridging social-economic gaps. He also announced that the Government of Bahamas had applied to join the ITU.

Amb. Julian Braithwaite, Permanent Representative of the UK to the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, focussed on cybersecurity. The UK had hosted key cybersecurity initiatives such as the London Process. Moreover, it has a renowned cybersecurity centre. He reiterated his country’s policy for a free and open Internet, a competitive and predictable environment, and building trust in the Internet and inclusive policy making through the multistakeholder process. In response to a question on whether there was a need for a new cybersecurity treaty, he took the view that the current international law was sufficient. Rather than dedicating resources to a new initiative, he called for the strengthening of existing work streams such as educating users, building a cybersecurity culture and capacity building. 

From the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) the Deputy Secretary General, Mr Masanori Kondo, introduced APT’s work which is centred around contributing to international and regional policy making. He acknowledged the diversity of the region which has the highest number of Internet users globally.  He explained how urbanisation was deepening the digital divide as services were concentrated in cities. Noting that the region was not homogenic, he made a case for more data on the region and committed to more participatory decision making.  

Ms Lynn St. Amour, chair of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) narrated the history of the IGF, explaining how the forum has grown since its inception in 2006. Groups such as national and regional IGFs, best practice forums, dynamic coalitions and intersessional public policy initiatives have organically formed throughout the years. She described the symbiosis between the forum and these groups, and how they have helped diversify the IGF. Noting that Internet governance issues were ever evolving, she appealed to governments and the private sector to engage more with the forum.

Mr Paul Mitchell, general manager, technology policy at the Microsoft Corporation, gave the private sector’s perspective on creating an enabling environment. He spoke of his company’s aspiration to get more people connected to the Internet, particularly in developing countries. He cited examples of Microsoft’s partnerships in connecting the unconnected in the USA where some of the challenges identified included the lack of supporting infrastructure, such as electricity. In his view, some of the practical issues that could accelerate digital transformation include the reform of spectrum allocation policies. He said that he is looking forward to data driven solutions in developing countries through more use of artificial intelligence and cloud services.

Mr Kemal Huseinovic, chief, department of infrastructure, Enabling Environment and E-Applications (IEE) from the ITU, explained his organisation’s work in realising the SDGs. The ITU envisions an enabling environment that attracts investment across all layers of ICT – infrastructure, services, application and content. He singled out digital inclusion for small states and marginalised groups, digital literacy, an increase in local content and building of trust in ICTs as measures that could improve the ICT environment. He also noted the need for policy collaboration with other sectors such as health and finance, and stated that the ITU would host initiatives to improve policy coherence across government services. 


By Grace Mutung'u