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2018

The European Commission launched an annual scoreboard to monitor women's participation in the digital economy. The Women in Digital (WiD) Scoreboard is a tool to measure and assess the participation of women in the digital economy through four types of analysis: 1) evaluating the general characterisation of the performance of individual Member States, 2) pinpointing areas for improvement by analysing individual indicators, 3) assessing progress over time, 4) pointing out the need for improve relevant policy areas. The scorecard revealed a gender gap in all 13 indicators at EU level which is largely manifested in the area of ICT specialist skills and employment; 76 % for ICT specialists and 47 % for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics graduates. Nonetheless, the difference is reduced within the younger age group (16 to 24) between women and men vis-à-vis digital participation; 55% of women compared to 60% of men. This gap is even reversed in certain countries where women overperform men in digital participation. 

The UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development 2018 – Realizing the SDGs by, for and with persons with disabilities shows that people with disabilities are at a disadvantage regarding most Sustainable Development Goals, but also highlights the growing number of good practices that can create a more inclusive society in which they can live independently”, noted UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The report further underlines the digital divide between persons and disabilities who still can’t share the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICTs). This gap amounts to 30% for internet use and 10% in access to internet in the household in some countries due to accessibility and affordability issues. This further poses challenges for disabilities to reap the benefits of internet technologies to improve their lives and hence realize the various SDGs for persons with disabilities. The report pinpoints some recommendations to strengthen the ICT ecosystem to ensure inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities which includes: promoting the principles of Universal Design in the mainstream ICT industry and the public sector, adopting national ICT accessibility policies and regulations, involving all relevant stakeholders and increase funding to support low-cost ICTs for persons with disabilities, and develop and publish comparable data on access to and use of ICTs disaggregated by disability as well as on accessibility of ICTs.

During the G20 Summit in Argentina from 30 November – 1 December 2018, the leaders of countries and global organisations reached an agreement on areas for development and economic growth through an agenda that is people-centred, inclusive, and forward-looking. The G20 Leaders’ declaration building consensus for fair and sustainable development focuses on digitalisation and emerging technologies for innovative growth and productivity. To this aim, it endorses different measures that include, but not limited to, overcoming the digital gender divide, promoting digital inclusion, and enhancing digital government, digital infrastructure as well as measurement of the digital economy. Additionally, The G20 leaders marked a desire to embrace the G20 Repository of Digital Policies aiming at espousing the adoption of innovative digital economy business models. In that sense, the declaration emphasises the importance of the interface between trade and the digital economy. It further calls upon the digital industry to collaborate to combat the exploitation of the internet and social media for terrorist purposes.

United Nations Secretary-General kicked off a global task force including public and private sector as well as finance leaders – serving in their personal capacities – from both developed and developing countries to recommend strategies to the digital finance of Sustainable Development Goals. “Not just financial institutions, but entire financial systems are being transformed by the digital revolution. We have an historic opportunity to ensure that what emerges are financial systems that put people at the centre”, said Maria Ramos, co-Chair of the Task Force and Chief Executive Officer of the Absa Group Ltd. (South Africa) and Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. The Task Force on Digital Financing will meet in Davos in January and is expected to present its preliminary report of recommendations to the Secretary-General in September.

The International Telecommunication Union Plenipotentiary Conference (ITU-PP18) was convened during the period of 29 October – 16 November 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. During the conference, Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General underscored that “[w]e have many challenges ahead of us. Far too many people around the world are still waiting to reap the benefits of the digital economy. Substantial digital divides still exist within and between countries. We need to continue our efforts to leverage ICT to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. I am pleased that PP-18 supports ITU's work towards this end." The main PP-18 decisions focused on harnessing new technologies as a source of good with special focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) and the role of ITU in supporting the advancement of these goals through information and communication technology (ICT). These targets are divided into five strategic goals: growth, inclusiveness, sustainability, innovation, and partnership. To this aim, the ITU member states has further approved a revised resolution on the use of ICTs to bridge the digital divide. It reinforces the benefits of ICT in developing countries through providing opportunities for digital services and enabling the digitalisation of infrastructure which, in turn, upholds the digital economy. 

A ministerial forum under the theme of Bridging the Digital Divide was convened during the fifth World Conference (WIC) on 8 November 2018. The forum, which was attended by ministerial officials, heads of telecommunication companies, scholars, and experts from 14 countries, tackled different topics including digital divide and economic development, digital divide and information sharing, and role of international communication on bridging digital divide. Zhuang Rongwen, Chinese Minister of Cyberspace Administration noted in his speech: "[w]e should strengthen cooperation in enhancing people's internet literacy and abilities and strengthen the training of digital skills to help them improve the awareness and capability of network security protection." During the keynote speech session, Chinese and foreign guests emphasised the challenges and opportunities to narrow the digital divide. Some of the key highlights included eliminating the gap between the rich and the poor, informalisation of education, promoting entrepreneurship, fostering economic globalisation and global digital market, and constructing a ‘Digital Silk Road’ in the endeavors to bridge the digital divide.

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