[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]
The moderator, Ms Moira S Patterson, from the IEEE Standards Association, USA, gave an introduction to the panellists stating that the session will focus around the themes related to inclusiveness, connectivity, and information access to all. All panellists had an opportunity to submit their policy statements to the Secretariat prior to this session and those will be included in the outcome documents which will be posted online.
Prof Konstantinos Masselos, president of the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) in Greece, stated that one of the goals of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development is information and communication technologies (ICT) for all. Knowledge and its application are catalysts for any development and are an essential resource for the progress of societies around the world: ‘Limiting our access to the ICT limits our everyday options and possibilities, therefore ICT resources have to become accessible for everyone.’ Among the challenges, he mentioned technical and financial ones. He emphasised the importance of working together in order not to leave anyone behind, especially disadvantaged, marginalised, and vulnerable groups. In order to achieve this, Masselos believes innovation is the tool, and that data needs to be accessible to everyone.
Mr Samuel Kundishora, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Zimbabwe, said that Zimbabwe has modernised its national ICT policies in line with technological developments. The revision of national policies is done through consultations, and risks and threats in the cyber environment are taken into account. The important segment they have tackled is the communication infrastructure. He noted that mobile penetration has reached 100.5% and the optic fibre is stretching to all corners of the country. They believe in the importance of promoting the use of ICTs and access to the citizens, including e-government content. A ‘school connected community’ project done in cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) works actively on promoting access, as well as some projects in the area of health.
Mr Olexandr Ryzhenko, head of the State Agency for E-Governance in Ukraine, noted that the main impact was made with innovation and the collaborative efforts of the government, as well as with the increase in transparency and partnership with key stakeholders, civil society, local government, academia, and businesses. In Ukraine, open data today is considered imperative. Every year Ukraine develops its open data road map which is a guiding document created with the participation of all stakeholders. Ukraine has developed and launched the state’s open data portal which contains more than 25 000 data sets. Their motto is: ‘E-governance is the key to reform in Ukraine and open data is an essential part of e-governance.’
Dr Robert Pepper, head of Global Connectivity Policy and Planning at Facebook, said that their Internet index study looked at 83 countries and 57 indicators in those countries. All data is available publicly for individuals’ own analysis. The study’s top findings are:
- Internet connectivity grew by 8.3 % over the year, and in the least developed countries connectivity grew by 65% in one year.
- One cannot benefit from an application with a 2G ‘skinny connection’. People need 3G or 4G, therefore 4G saw a take-off in the world and that gap is slowly closing.
- Mobile broadband is more affordable.
- The gender gap is clearly noticeable. There are more men than women connected on the Internet. However, countries that focused on gender inclusion have been successful.
Ms Yvette Ramos, vice-president for external relations, at the International Network of Women Engineers & Scientists (INWES), noted that women keep being underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) globally. Their priority actions are aligned with the ITU WSIS strategy principles to build a better future worldwide through engineering and scientific societies including both men and women. The focus is on the role of women engineers and scientists, and activities to implement inclusiveness and access to the Internet for all, especially contributing to poverty reduction strategies and actions. She concluded: ‘Empowering women empowers everyone.’
Mr Rayan Kelly, from the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, explained the vision for harnessing the potential of information systems and promoting meaningful inclusion in four points:
- To recognise and overcome structural barriers that perpetuate the digital divide, and to put people in the centre.
- To shift from a market-driven ‘obsession’ to delivering new, innovative, and effective solutions to existing and proven sustainable technologies and knowledge.
- To ‘truly leave no one behind’. The Internet is a global public good and should not be subjected to proprietary interests.
- To increase transparency to ensure that the data practices of states and corporations do not violate civil liberties, privacy, or the socio-economic rights of individuals, nor harm universal access to basic services such as healthcare and education.
By Aida Mahmutović