With nearly four billion people still unable to get online, UN forum to tackle 'digital divide'

People using the Internet in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: ITU/G. Anderson

6 December 2016 – The 11th annual United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) opened in Jalisco, Mexico, where delegates from across the world will join thousands more online to weigh the challenges of today's digital age and equal access opportunities for all members of society.

International organizations, Governments, academics, and technology leaders will gather at the IGF to address the urgent need to intensify global efforts to bridge the digital divide. The data predicts that by the end of 2016, close to four billion people will still not be using the Internet, meaning, among others, that two out of three households in developing countries simply do not have access to it.

“Today, the Internet has an impact on just about every aspect of life. It has undeniably sparked innovation and entrepreneurship, created new forms of public engagement and economic activity,” stated Lenni Montiel, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said in a news release.

“This helps people connect, organize and act towards a common purpose,” he added.

Mr. Montiel also stressed that one of the main goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to “significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020,” adding that it also established a new universal standard for development that leaves no one behind.

Each year, the UN convenes the IGF meeting, through the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, to unify various stakeholders and discuss Internet governance issues, as well as opportunities and challenges in an open, inclusive and transparent forum. This year's theme – Enabling Inclusive and Sustainable Growth – aims to explore the ability of the Internet to foster development in sustainable and inclusive ways.

The forum, which runs through Friday, 9 December, will also address a broad range of other issues and topics: Internet and Sustainable Development; Access and Diversity; Youth and Gender Issues; Human Rights and Freedom of Expression Online; Cybersecurity; Multistakeholder Cooperation; Critical Internet Resources and Internet Governance Capacity Building and Emerging Issues.

The IGF is recognized as the widest-reaching international forum on Internet governance, and is at the forefront of identifying and debating critical issues that shape international agenda. . Its mandate was renewed for 10 years at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in December 2015.


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