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Pursuant to Article 109 of the Tunis Agenda, the thirteenth meeting of the UN WSIS Action Line Facilitators took place within the framework of the WSIS Forum 2019.

The purpose of the meeting was to assess the general progress made within the WSIS Action Lines, as well as to identify measures to strengthen the overall WSIS implementation process. In addition, this year’s meeting also analysed innovating trends in ICTs and the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines to facilitate the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

С2. Information and communication infrastructure
C3. Access to information and knowledge
C4. Capacity building
C5. Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs
C6. Enabling environment
C7. ICT Applications:
C8. Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content
C9. Media
C10. Ethical dimensions of the Information Society
C11. International and regional cooperation

Ms Denis Suzar (UNDESA) said: ‘Every agency who is here is contributing to that action line in one way or another. In our facilitation meeting we tried to capture the recent developments and the Secretary-General's strategy on new technologies, launched in September after the WSIS 2018. The new strategy defines how the United Nations system will support the use of new technologies like AI, biotechnology, blockchain and robot ticks to accelerate achievement of the 2030 Agenda.’ The importance of data and the adoption and use of emerging technologies in the public sector are key. After speaking to 193 member states on e-governance (C7) the most common response was: chat bots. Member states are trying to implement chat bots by using artificial intelligence (AI).

C2 facilitator, Mr Désiré Karyabwite (ITU), said that they organised two sessions. One was done for hybrid infrastructure and technologies for affordable access and the other was 5G. Nobody was interested in 5G. It is important also to look at what can be done with this infrastructure to make it a unique tool. He also spoke about their planned projects and where to connect the last mile.

Ms Sasha Rubel (Programme Specialist, Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO) reported on action line C3 access and C7 e-learning. ‘We have launched our global observatory of science and technology called ghost bin. This is an online platform intended to back stop and support governments in developing policies that support technology and innovation that be accompany them in the elaboration of their digital transformation strategies’, said Rubel. They have initiated work towards a recommendation on open science based on the recommendation on science and scientific research adopted in November 2017 by UNESCO. Work on the Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI) and preserving software source code as a heritage for sustainable development continue to grow.

In line with action line C3, their youth mobile programme to equip young people with the necessary digital skills as counsellors and producers of local content continues. Rubel said: ‘We have been focusing on training young people and specifically young women in developing countries to develop mobile applications through open source software.’

Regarding action line C7 and e-learning and e-science, UNESCO has been building on the Qingdao Declaration which was adopted in 2015 on leveraging ICTs for education and then was followed by the Quingdao Statement which is designed to guide implementation to reach SDG 4. Helping governments and ministries of education to identify gender gaps in educational strategies and programmes will prove beneficial in bridging gender inequality.

Action line C5 and building confidence and securities is facilitated by ITU. There are significant challenges; ensuring trust and confidence ranks highly on this list. A recurring key takeaway message was that there are many organisations and stakeholders addressing these issues and collaboration and cooperation among the stakeholders is important. It is also important to focus on the links between the processes right from the design phase designing the collaboration.

Ms Halima Letamo (WSIS Action Line Facilitador C4, ITU) reported that developing and deploying international security standards, digital ledger technologies (which are being tried out in many, many different domains), and quantum science are key areas of work.

Data is key to knowing how to adapt regulatory frameworks. The last mile, middle mile, and first mile connectivity are key and regulatory solutions that ensure connectivity are essential. A holistic view is needed as is not just about the wires and the ducts but also about the applications riding on them. Ms Sofie Maddens (Action Line Facilitator C6) said: ‘We offer valuable data in terms of data research and analysis. We have our ICT regulatory tracker and measuring regulatory society. All of those tools can really help to achieve better data and better evidence-based decision making.’

Ms Scarlett Fondeur Gil (ICT Policy section, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTAD]) reported on e-business and said that ITU, UNDP, and UNCTAD are also partners in eTrade For All initiative, which is another example of a collaborative model, in this case from the side of the international community. It brings together 30 international agencies and is able to channel technical assistance to developing countries to increase their participation in digital trade. A new product under this initiative is the e-Trade for Women network which supports female digital entrepreneurs in developing countries by sharing experiences and peer mentoring and sharing their voices in domestic and international policy processes because they are not always able to influence how policy affects them. And this, of course, is a contribution to SDG 5.

FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, in collaboration with the ITU facilitates e-agriculture. Mr James Douris (ITU) reported a shift from the interventions focusing on single components of agricultural innovation, towards a systemic approach including knowledge sharing and networking. The potential of data science and innovation to produce sustainable and scalable solutions for achieving SDG 2 are enormous.

On C11, it was said that the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation is a big move in enhancing regional cooperation. This panel has very prominent members and is co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma of Alibaba. German chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed her participation at the upcoming Internet Governance Forum, from November 25 to 29 in Berlin.

While there will always be challenges and opportunities, the end result of the whole action is to build a knowledge-based Information Society and collaboration is key to achieving this.


By Mili Semlani

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