The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum has continued to be a multistakeholder model of ICT governance for the last 10 years. The 10th annual forum officially started in Geneva on 9 April and was opened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary General Mr Haulin Zhao.
Mr Mustafa Jabbar (Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology of Bangladesh) presented his views and the increasing digital plans of Bangladesh in his keynote speech as the new Chairman Elect of WSIS Forum 2019.
‘Technology can be a key that unlocks long term prospects or it could be a curse that deepens inequalities depending on the policy response that is chosen, said Ms Gulden Turkoz-Cosslett (Deputy Assistant Administrator of UN Development Programme [UNDP]) reinforcing the role of ICT in our lives today.
WSIS Forum 2019 has over 3000 participants and about 150 sessions. Ms Arancha Glezlaya (Executive Director, International Trade Centre) said that WSIS is an inspiring process, especially with the mix of digital revolution with economic empowerment of women— it is a powerful cocktail.
ICTs are a game changer for global change. Mr Jojo Ferris (Head of the Olympic Refuge Foundation, International Olympic Committee [IOC]) underlined the key contribution of the IOC to advance social development through sport for vulnerable and displaced communities.
Internet Society (ISOC) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) representatives both spoke about the importance of WSIS to discuss and develop ICT policies via a multistakeholder process. Mr Sebastian Bellagamba (ISOC Regional Bureau Director for Latin America) said that while Internet accessibility has spread at a faster rate than any other trend in the world; the 49% is unconnected and lacks access. Hence to bridge this gap, Bellagamba urged that all agencies and parties in ICT development should collaborate to connect the hardest and remote parts of the world to connect. ISOC, for instance, has partnered with private sector and governments in regions in Africa and Latin America to build community driven networks to increase access for the unconnected.
Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin (Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU) effectively pointed out the ten year journey of the WSIS process and the success achieved in building an inclusive and development oriented Internet and information society. While half of the world’s population is now connected versus when WSIS started and the number of mobile connections exceeds that of the people on our planet, there is still a lot of work to be done in regulating the Internet and connecting the other half.
WSIS and the sustainable development goals (SDGs)
For this reason, Dr Daniela Bronstrup (Co-chair of UN IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group [MAG]) said that the 14th global IGF which will be held in Berlin this year will be integral in making sure it is more inclusive and brings in underrepresented regions like the Global South. It is one world and the Internet is indeed that force that can achieve the SDGs.
ICTs are a driving force in achieving SDGs. Mr Wang Xinzhe (Chief Economist, Ministry of Industry and IT, China) said that China prioritised its broadband and IT infrastructure to accelerate ICT use for business and public welfare. He also believes the work on delivering high-speed Internet has helped China to easily improve its economic performance and now it is prioritising rural ICT development to promote universal access.
The WSIS process, its developments, and challenges have been enlisted in the outcome document of WSIS +10 said Prof Vladimir Minkin (Chair, ITU WG on WSIS and SDGs). He reaffirmed that, ‘The process will not stop at 2020 and in fact act as a catalyst to bring in more innovative technologies. Hence the process should go on untill 2020 to achieve SDGs 2030. For this, he also called upon added co-operation from civil society, private sector, governments, and effective collaboration between all.
Digitalisation should horizontally cut across the development sector reiterated Ambassador Amandeep Gill (Executive Head, UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation). The Technology Bank in this regard is doing a lot of ground level work to recognise needs and diagnostic solutions for ICT deployment in least developed countries (LDCs). SDGs are cross-cutting across various sectors with technology being the most directly impactful. This benefit needs to be leveraged to explore the full potential of how SDGs can benefit from technology.
By Mili Semlani