Every third week of September, global attention shifts to the United Nations Assembly Hall.
Heads of state descend upon New York to outline their countries’ views on international issues, and to signal their diplomatic priorities for the next 12 months. Once again, we provide an analysis of the digital issues covered by the speeches.
This year, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, set the tone by including digital issues alongside top priority issues such as climate change and crisis management. Trust ‒ or rather, the lack of trust ‒ provided the context for what is ailing today’s world: what Guterres described as ‘a bad case of “trust deficit disorder”.
Trust is also diminishing in the digital sphere. The risk of weaponisation of artificial intelligence (AI), the growing misuse of technology by criminals, and the widening gender gap in digital access are some of the issues highlighted in the Secretary-General’s speech, and in the work of the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation which he established in July. Yet, there was hope that things can be improved. In both the offline and online worlds, trust can be rebuilt.
Most national statements which reflected on digital issues ranged between focusing on opportunities (digital technology as an engine of social and economic progress) and focusing on risks (digital technology as amplifying the risks for a secure modern society).