[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]
In his welcome speech Mr Malcolm Johnson (ITU) thanked people from the UN for the excellent collaboration with the ITU and for integrating ICTs into their own approaches. He invited facilitators to report about interaction with their communities and asked all stakeholders to share their opinions.
Mr Jaroslaw Ponder (ITU) and Ms Gitanjali Sah (ITU) co-moderated the session. They introduced the aim of the session and asked WSIS Action Line (AL) facilitators to brief us about recent developments, and to identify the key priorities, opportunities, and challenges for their respective ALs towards the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Mr Deniz Susar (UNDESA) reported on ALs C1, C7 (e-governance), and C11 (cooperation). He assessed the ongoing WSIS Forum and highlighted an example of collaboration within AL C1 in Latin America. In AL C7 he noted sessions that showed how e-government can make governments more efficient, transparent, and open by engaging citizens in decision-making and also by open data initiatives. As main challenges, Susar mentioned the lack of indicators and insufficient monitoring, and a low number of successful conversions of strategies into actions.
Mr Torbjorn Fredriksson (UNCTAD) reported on AL C7 (e-business). The main challenge now, he said, is to come from an agreement on paper to implementation. He referred to the growing opportunities in e-business thanks to improved connectivity. However the gap across countries is still enormous (compare the UK with almost 75% of its population already making online purchases with developing countries with ca 5%).
Mr Hani Eskandar (ITU) reported on AL C7 (e-agriculture and e-health). He explained why the health and agriculture sectors had been merged. He showed the connection between both sectors by using the example of nutrition. Also many common applications and tools are very similar (data collection, e-learning, surveys, etc.). Eskandar identified a huge gap in terms of how sectors perceive the use of ICT in agriculture and health. There are some 120 e-health strategies but fewer than 10 e-agriculture strategies. He asked for collaboration across sectors, concluding that the silos should be pulled down.
Mr Mike Nxele (ITU) reported on AL C4 (capacity building) paying special attention to the e-health sector. ICT infrastructure is not a problem; the real challenge is how people use applications that are provided by the infrastructure, he said, as he briefed us on several e-health sector case studies.
Mr Preetam Maloor (ITU) reported on AL C5 (Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs). He listed points that rose during WSIS discussions: ensuring multisectoral dialogue and multistakeholder dialogue and the participation of all stakeholders, placing the security issue as a fundamental part of the overall design of the ICTs, putting cybersecurity strategies at the core of national digital agendas, speeding up adoption of standards in order to narrow the standardisation gap, and supporting capacity building.
Mr Cedric Wachholz (UNESCO) presented the experience of several ALs C3, C7 (e-learning, e-science), C8, C9, and C10. He identified 2015 as a turning point in the adoption of the SDGs. He highlighted the WSIS+10 outcome document and the climate change agreement. Wachholz shared the lessons learned from organisation of the SDG 16 high-level dialogue co-organised by his team.
Ms Sofie Maddens (ITU) reported on AL C6. She stressed the need for a cross-sectoral approach. She recommended bringing the discussion into other forums, for example regulatory ones. She also suggested that data is really a key in understanding how ICTs could be used in other sectors.
Mr Omar Baddour (WMO) reported on AL C7 (e-environment). He identified opportunities: awareness raising about climate change in less developed countries and funding support in building climate risk early warning systems (EWSs). The challenge is to make these EWSs cost-effective and sustainable.
Mr Riccardo Passerini (ITU) presented AL C2 (ICT infrastructure). He stressed the role of mobile infrastructure that could play an important part in narrowing the digital divide. Challenges identified included affordability of cross-border connectivity (land-locked problem), harmonisation of standards, and mobile coverage allowing sufficient data speeds.
Dr Haidar Fraihat (UNESCWA) briefed the audience on the co-operation of UNESCWA (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) with the WSIS process. There is a need to focus not only on infrastructure, but also on superstructures and peaceful use of outer space. For example, satellites are important for agriculture and location services.
Ms Susan Teltscher (ITU) introduced the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development. She described what her organisation did during the WSIS event and stressed the role of ICT indicators. Teltscher called for improving the availability of statistics and identified opportunities such as ensuring that ICT statistics are collected and included in national strategies, and new data sources from mobile operators and social media, for example, are used.
The last speaker, Mr Vladimir Stankovic (ITU) informed the audience about the developments in the WSIS stocktaking process. Stankovic shared outcomes and statistics from the WSIS Prizes 2016. He concluded by mentioning suggestions for improvements that were received by the WSIS 2016 participants: empowering the WSIS Prizes champions as ambassadors, ensuring more space for champions to promote their stories, simplifying the visualisation and categorisation of the WSIS stocktaking platform, and increasing promotion of WSIS, especially the WSIS Prizes.
In the final discussion one of the participants appreciated the new format and the way the WSIS outcomes and the SDGs have been streamlined. Another participant raised the question of digital responsibility.
by Radek Bejdak