The Age of Digital Interdependence: How digital cooperation can contribute to the SDGs?

10 Jun 2019

The UN High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation published a report on The Age of Digital Interdependence which addresses possible ways for technology to help achieve the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It tackles the question of ‘digital cooperation’ and how it could contribute to sustainable development goals (SGDs) through cooperating on the social, economic, ethical, and legal levels to maximise the benefits of technologies and reduce its risks. The report invites different stakeholders to commit to a Declaration of Digital Independence which emphasises that ‘humanity is still in the foothills of the digital age.’ It further pinpoints some of the risks faced by mankind including dangerous adventurism among states, exploitative behaviour by companies, regulation that stifles innovation and trade, and an unforgivable failure to realise vast potential for advancing human development. To this aim, the declaration calls upon the stakeholders to collaborate to fulfill digital development. At the end, the report provides some recommendations on key areas including an inclusive digital economy and society, human and institutional capacity, human rights and human agency, global digital cooperation, and trust, security and stability.

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The impact of the Internet on businesses and the global economy has been crucial in shaping new economic models, and at the same time, raising new concerns.

The Internet is one of the primary drivers of economic growth, which is visible in many countries that have placed the development of ICT as one of the primary tools for boosting the economy.

The human rights basket includes online aspects of freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, rights of people with disabilities and women’s rights online. Yet, other human rights come into place in the realm of digital policy, such as children’s rights, and rights afforded to journalists and the press.

The same rights that people have offline must also be protected online is the underlying principle for human rights on the Internet, and has been firmly established by the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council resolutions.

The need for people to gain access to ICT resources and narrow the digital divide is crucial, and is especially relevant now in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also important to understand how access to the Internet affects the level of economic and social development in a country.

Cybersecurity is among the main concerns of governments, Internet users, technical and business communities. Cyberthreats and cyberattacks are on the increase, and so is the extent of the financial loss. 

Yet, when the Internet was first invented, security was not a concern for the inventors. In fact, the Internet was originally designed for use by a closed circle of (mainly) academics. Communication among its users was open.

Cybersecurity came into sharper focus with the Internet expansion beyond the circle of the Internet pioneers. The Internet reiterated the old truism that technology can be both enabling and threatening. What can be used to the advantage of society can also be used to its disadvantage.

The digital divide can be defined as a rift between those who, for technical, political, social, or economic reasons, have access and capabilities to use ICT/Internet, and those who do not. Various views have been put forward about the size and relevance of the digital divide.

 

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