[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]
Dr Jovan Kurbalija (Director, DiploFoundation; Head of the Geneva Internet Platform), opened the session with remarks on cooperation that exists between DiploFoundation and international institutions that deal with digital policy. He invited the panellists to share their views on digital societies.
Mr Malcolm Johnson (Deputy Secretary-General, ITU) stressed the need for global connectivity and added that while 85% of the world’s population has access to a 3G connection, only 50% connect. He called for incentives and subsidies for poorer people to connect to the Internet. He highlighted the role of ICTs in developing countries and their influence in meeting the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Johnson noted the huge economic opportunities that ICTs present and the need for the right regulatory and business environment to tap into these opportunities.
Mr Sanjay Kumar Rakesh (Joint Secretary, Ministry for Electronics and IT, Government of India) listed the digital initiatives undertaken by the government of India. He added that the schemes have helped the government to cut down corruption and red tape with efficient targeted service delivery. This, he added, has helped the government save billions of dollars. While 90% of the area in India has mobile connectivity, only 70–80% of the population has access to mobile. Hence the government is working on schemes to make it easier for people to access the Internet via mobile phones. Additionally, the government plans to train over 60 million people in digital literacy and roll out government services via mobile applications.
Mr Robert Hanser (Huawei) added that by developing infrastructure, digital solutions can be made more accessible, leading to socio-economic growth. He added that the private sector is keen on investing, if governments present the right policies and incentives for investment.
Mr Pavan Duggal (President, cyberlaws.net) highlighted the need for cybersecurity and trust to realise the benefits of ICTs. He added that without cybersecurity, the rest of the components of a digital society would be unreliable. He pointed out that with no international cybersecurity law, loopholes are being exploited by cybercriminals, making cyberspace a dangerous place for users. He added that more countries are increasingly looking at bilateral and multilateral deals with other countries to safeguard their cyber sovereignty. He called on global stakeholders to ensure that these challenges are addressed to keep the Internet from fragmenting.
Kurbalija highlighted that India leads in the number of bilateral agreements in cyber security signed in the last three years.
After a live poll, the panel identified hacking and security as key issues that affect smart cities. Rakesh added that societies need to analyse and understand issues objectively to overcome fear and use technologies based on merit. Given the opportunities present by ICTs, Johnson stressed the need for various stakeholders to collaborate, cooperate, and coordinate together to tackle the challenge. The panel agreed in general that key challenges like security need to addressed collectively to make the best use of ICTs.
by Krishna Kumar Rajamannar