General Assembly Considers Application of Information and Communications Technologies 10 Years after Historic World Summit

GA/11741
15 December 2015
Seventieth Session, 76th & 77th Meetings (AM & PM)

General Assembly Considers Application of Information and Communications Technologies 10 Years after Historic World Summit

Bridging the vast digital divide that existed between countries and genders, as well as the importance of cybersecurity in today’s increasingly dangerous world were among the themes highlighted today as the General Assembly held its 10-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society.

Opening the high-level meeting, Mogens Lykketoft, General Assembly President, said that since the 2005 World Summit, when leaders had declared a “common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society”, huge progress had been made in the information and communications technology (ICT) field. 

According to the International Telecommunication Union, he said, 43.4 per cent of the world’s population was currently online and mobile-cellular subscriptions stood at almost 7.1 billion.  Information and communication technologies were drivers of economic and social development.  However, challenges remained, such as the digital divides among countries, as well as Internet security and human rights issues, he said.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also raised some concerns, noting that while more than 80 per cent of households in developed countries had Internet access, two out of three in developing countries did not.  Additionally, 200 million fewer women than men had access.  He urged the international community to bridge those divides especially in light of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included information and communications technology targets.

The Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy of Tunisia, whose country had hosted the World Summit in 2005, also highlighted the divide, noting that it was 50 times more difficult today for an African child to gain access to technology than a child in a developed country.  It was also much more difficult for a girl to access technology than a boy. 

Echoing that sentiment, the representative of Sweden recalled that the authors of the Beijing Platform for Action, adopted in 1995, had agreed to “increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making” in the face of new media and technology.  It was high time the world delivered on its promises.  Women were leaving the Internet because they were concerned for their safety and integrity, she said, adding that they were the primary targets of hate speech and cyberviolence.

Several speakers today highlighted issues of cybersecurity and the urgent need to address them.  Among those was the representative of Pakistan, who drew attention to the malicious use of information and communication technologies which, she said, posed great risks to international peace and security.  She urged a collective approach to confronting attacks against critical infrastructure and underscored the need to optimize cyberspace management under an institutional framework.

Another recurring theme was the protection of human rights, deemed equally important online as offline.  The Austrian delegate said that the free flow of information was only possible if human rights, including the right to privacy, were protected.  Stressing the need to safeguard online human rights, he said his country attached particular importance to the rights of journalists and human rights workers. 

Several delegations promoted a multi-stakeholder approach to narrowing the digital divide, including the representative of the United States, who said that framework had been set out in the World Summit 10 years ago, which had encouraged bottom-up investment and innovation instead of top-down governmental control.  Government institutions often lacked the capacity and expertise to make decisions quickly, which was incompatible with “Internet speed”.  Moreover, Governmental control could allow repressive regimes to advance censorship.   

She also touted the United States’ recently launched “Global Connect” initiative where national Governments, development agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector would collaborate to have an additional 1.5 billion people online by 2020.  The initiative would encourage countries to integrate Internet connectivity as part of their national development strategies and champion innovative industry-driven solutions. 

Also highlighting ICT achievements nationally was the representative of Chile, who said his country was a leader in its region, with 70 per cent of Internet users in a population of 18 million.  Twenty million devices connected to the Internet and the country had a goal of Internet access for 98 per cent of the populated territory by 2016. 

Also speaking today, including at the ministerial level, were representatives of South Africa (on behalf the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Estonia, United Kingdom, Qatar, Latvia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Brazil, Japan, Cuba, Viet Nam, the Netherlands, Australia, Poland, Switzerland, India, Bangladesh, Zambia (on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries), Ecuador (on behalf of  Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community),the Maldives (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Mexico, Turkey, Malta, Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland, Dominican Republic, Luxemburg, China, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, United Arab Emirates, Republic of Korea, France, and Colombia, as well as a representative of the European Union.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 16 December, to conclude its debate on the World Summit on the Information Society.  

Background

The General Assembly met this morning to convene a high-level meeting on the overall review of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, for which it had before it a Report of the Secretary-General (document A/70/63).  It also had before it a draft resolution (document A/70/L.33).

Opening Statements

Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly, opening the meeting, said 10 years ago, world leaders had declared a “common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society”.  In doing so, they had underscored the power of information and communications technology (ICT) to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Since then, great strides had been made.  Levels of ICT access, use and skills had improved across the world, and according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)’s annual Measuring the Information Society Report, 43.4 per cent of the world’s population was currently online and mobile-cellular subscriptions had reached almost 7.1 billion.  ICT had played an important role in promoting economic and social development.

However, challenges remained, he said, noting the digital divides among countries as well as Internet stability and security, data ownership and human rights issues.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognized that ICT would be a key cross-cutting enabler for meeting the new Goals and should be integrated into the implementation strategies. Internet governance should promote equitable distribution of resources and ensure a stable and secure outlet.  Fundamental freedoms and other human rights exercised off-line should be equally exercisable online.  Based on the experience of the past 10 years, multi-stakeholder collaboration to achieve the vision of the World Summit on the Information Society and the Sustainable Development Goals should be applied.

United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said the high-level review of the World Summit on the Information Society was timely coming just three months after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  ICT could be the engine for achieving those Goals.  The international community must focus on bridging the digital divide, including the gender divide.  More than 80 per cent of households in developed countries had Internet access, however, two out of three households in developing countries did not, and 200 million fewer women than men had access to the Internet.  Those divides must be bridged.  Mobile technologies had the potential to do so and innovation in financial technology could promote financial inclusion. 

He urged promotion of a global culture of cybersecurity, which required a shared commitment by all partners to protect human rights while fighting cybercrime.  By 2020, there would be six times as many devices as people connected to the Internet, the implications of which should be considered towards ensuring that the Internet evolved into an inclusive space for the public good.  In that regard, he welcomed the General Assembly’s decision to extend the mandate of the Internet Governance Forum by 10 years.  The United Nations would work to advance freedom of expression, cultural diversity and human rights online through efforts at the country, regional and global levels.  It also would promote the World Summit as a key platform for discussion of ICT as well as a means of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Statements

SIYABONGA CWELE, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the World Summit was just as relevant today as it was at its inception and could serve as a catalyst for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The advent of broadband had transformed education and health, and had proven to be a useful tool for the delivery of government services overall.  However, challenges in telecommunications were further impacted by illiteracy, high levels of unemployment and poverty.  Equality of opportunities, especially relating to gender and digital inclusion tools to cater to people with disabilities were some of the critical factors, which had not been adequately addressed. 

He stressed the need to manage Internet challenges, such as privacy, data protection, cybercrime, network security, equal access and participation by all countries.  While having a digital society yielded benefits, it must be ensured that citizens, especially youth, were educated about the threat of cyber opportunism.  It also must be a collective responsibility to invest in youth programmes, training them not only in e-skills, but also in developing e-applications to mitigate security threats such as cybercrime.  The gender digital divide was another major concern, he said, emphasizing that women remained the most vulnerable as cyberspace was used to exploit them.  The imbalance in the development and distribution of software and information technology (IT) equipment remained a barrier for uptake, rapid deployment of ICT and use by citizens.  He added that the same rights of people offline must be protected online. 

GÜNTHER OETTINGER, representative of the European Union, said that 10 years ago, the World Summit had raised the importance of ICT to the top of the global agendas.  At that time, the disruptive effects of technology were only beginning to emerge.  In the last 10 years, the international community had witnessed an increase in access to communications that was profoundly changing society.  Some 3.2 billion people were now using the Internet and there had been greatest growth in access in developing countries. The reasons were supply- and demand-driven.  Supply was facilitated by public-private partnerships and demand depended on citizens’ need to communicate, access to health and education, and their drive for information and innovation.

In September, the speaker said, Heads of State had agreed to a new set of objectives and targets, including increased connectivity by 2020.  The international community must achieve that target in order to bring the advantages of the digital economy to all.  Connecting the unconnected remained a high priority.  There was a risk that a new digital divide would develop between those with access to digital services and those without.  Indeed, the international community faced future fragmentation between those with full access and those limited to basic Internet services.  Another issue at the heart of the European environment was related to local content.  Even if networks were available, people would only connect if the content was useful and entertaining, and in a language they understood.

MARINA KALJURAND, Foreign Minister of Estonia, said that ICT had helped her country create a well-functioning partnership between people, industry, and government.  Effective governance of the Internet must be perceptive to the less traditional structures and include close coordination among all stakeholders, including government, industry, civil society, and the technical and academic community.  For Estonia, cyberthreat was not an “abstract doomsday scenario”, she said, recalling attacks on Estonian governmental servers and financial services, which had caused “considerable nuisance”.  With the help of numerous countries, Estonia had been able to take control of its own services and test and reinforce its laws and policies.  It was critical to provide assistance and cooperation to technologically less developed countries in order to help bridge the digital divide, which not only existed between developed and developing countries, but also between men and women, she said, emphasizing the need to address women’s empowerment in the digital age.

NOOMANE FEHRI, Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy of Tunisia, said that Tunisia was offering to the United Nations and regional communities a multi-stakeholder ICT platform to follow up on the international community’s advancement.  The country had been right to invest in empowering its youth in 2005, and in 2011, the regime had been toppled.  “We call that youth empowerment,” he said.  Tweeting youth were keeping the pressure on the politicians.  “We now have a stable country with a start-up democracy,” he said, adding that the world found that a good showcase, as evidenced by the award five days ago of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet for its decisive contribution to building a pluralistic democracy.  In effect, 11 million people had been awarded the prize, thanks to technology and the engagement of youth, women, and civil society. 

However, he went on, the youth who had enabled the revolution remained jobless.  He called on the international community to bridge the digital gap, noting that it was 50 times more difficult today for an African child to gain access to technology than a developed country child.  He also noted generational and gender gaps; it was much more difficult for a girl to access technology than a boy.  Such gaps must be bridged in order to achieve a safe and sustainable developed world.  The digital economy was the answer to delivering equality of opportunity, and Tunisia aimed to connect every household with broadband.  Also important was fighting terrorism and achieving safe cyberspace, while applying the rule of law and staying true to human rights values.  Private companies should strengthen their cooperation on those matters.

ANDRÉS GÓMEZ-LOBO (Chile) said his country assigned a high priority to the 2030 Agenda and believed that ICT was a powerful tool that could be used to speed up the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Chile was a leader in its region in telecommunications, with 70 per cent of Internet users in a country of 18 million.  Twenty million devices connected to the Internet and the country had a goal of Internet access for 98 per cent of the populated territory by 2016.  However, challenges remained, such as broadband access, especially in rural and isolated regions of the country.  Chile was taking measures to address that, by improving infrastructure and developing communication technologies.  In that regard, he highlighted the recent announcement by the country’s President outlining a vision for 2020, which included a series of related measures and projects.  Human rights considerations were an important part of that process.  The same rights and obligations in the “real” world should be afforded to Internet users, and be interpreted as complementary, by integrating privacy and freedom of expression.

JOHN WHITTINGDALE, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport of the United Kingdom, said that revolutions in technology had transformed business and access to information, education and culture, and were improving the lives of billions.  The international community must ensure that those benefits reached all.  Some 3.2 billion people were now online, but there was more to do to close the digital divide.  The United Kingdom had kept its pledge on overseas aid, and many of the programmes it funded were driven by ICT.  The international community should create an enabling environment, he said, adding that he was pleased that the World Summit review emphasized, among others, independent and non-discriminatory regulation.

He said his country had demonstrated the critical importance of a multi-stakeholder approach.  Societies thrived when there was access to information.  Independent media with freedom of expression held the powerful to account.  However, in many parts of the world, that faced threats, and restrictions on social media were undermining human rights.  Journalists feared attacks and intimidation and arbitrary libel suits, and bloggers were also under threat.  The United Kingdom called on all to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and considered that one of the major achievements of the Review was the affirmation that human rights applied equally online as offline.

HESSA AL JABER (Qatar) highlighted progress since the World Summits on Information Society in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005.  Qatar was part and parcel of that progress and had transitioned from a natural-resource economy to a knowledge-based one.  Numerous partnerships between the public and private sectors had provided its youth with a good education, including in information and communications technologies.  Qatar had a national 2030 vision, which was in line with the goals set out by the World Summits and contained in the Millennium Development Goals, especially with regard to Internet access and security.  The country was redoubling its investment in infrastructure, upgrading services and building “smart” cities.

MĀRĪTE SEILE, Minister for Education and Science of Latvia, said that in her country, ICT had become a key driver of the economy, enabling a wide range of public services that were now available through the Internet.  However, those positive changes had brought new challenges, namely, the broadband digital divide.  To bridge those gaps, people must be educated about new technologies both at the school level and through life-long learning, she said, also emphasizing the importance of addressing the gender digital divide.  Technology could also be used to preserve linguistic and cultural diversity.  That was particularly important for smaller languages, as most online content was available in just 10.  She said that ICT would be key enablers in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The World Summit review had shown the readiness of all stakeholders to engage in a meaningful dialogue and to arrive at an outcome text that took stock of the past 10 years.

JOSÉ CLASTORNIK, Executive Director of the National Agency for the Development of Government Electronic Management and Information Society and Knowledge of Uruguay, said that the year 2005 had been a milestone with the adoption of the Tunis Agenda on the information society.  A number of profound changes had occurred in his country, among them, the passage of legislation, as well as creation of an ICT authority.  Government entities, including Parliament, had given equal importance to access to information and to protecting personal data.  Uruguay had invested in infrastructure, and its citizens had several ways to access the Internet, as the country had set its sights on faster and free Internet for its people.  Uruguay had been among the first countries to provide free computers at school.  The spirit of equality was the hallmark of Uruguay.

DAVID OCAMPOS (Paraguay) said his country was trying to reduce the digital divide by developing networks and sourcing support from private donors.  However, the divide was not so much about Internet coverage, but rather about the development of individual capacities, which should be enhanced regardless of income levels.  Over the past two years, Paraguay had worked to develop the online content of its public institutions, which had led to a higher level of transparency that could in turn fight corruption, and by 2016, he hoped that all Paraguay’s citizens would be able to download relevant public documents.  Paraguay had focused on distance learning and had school programmes.  The country aimed to provide one tablet for each student to combat illiteracy overall and digital illiteracy.  It had cooperated with other nations to address cybersecurity.  Paraguay favoured a multi-stakeholder approach and was raising awareness about Internet governance.

RASHID ISMAILOV, Deputy Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation, said that the World Summit had been the first global event dedicated to building information societies as a new phase of civilization.  It was difficult to overestimate the significance of technologies for developed and developing countries.  The review had showed that there were many issues to be resolved.  The new Internet platform over the past 10 years had not been set up on a global scale.  The infrastructure should be regulated by an international regulatory system.  Thanking the coordinators of the preparatory process, he noted with satisfaction the consensus achieved although that had been very complex.  Supporting the draft outcome document, he thanked everyone who had actively participated in its preparation.

JOSÉ ANTÔNIO MARCONDES DE CARVALHO, Undersecretary for Environment, Energy, Science and Technology of the Minister of External Relations of Brazil, associating with the Group of 77 and China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that the majority of the poor remained excluded from the benefits of ICT.  For every user, there were two marginalized, he added, stressing the need to ensure Internet access for all.  The digital divide continued to widen because access to information would only be bridged when content and technology were geared towards local needs and priorities.  The international community must collectively devise a shared political vision of ICT as a development catalyser, taking into account countries’ differing capacities for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  That would include recognizing the effective participation of all stakeholders, including government, the private sector and civil society.  The same rights that people had offline must be protected online, he said, urging stronger safeguards against abuse and violation in cyberspace. 

YASUO SAKAMOTO, Japan, said it was important to achieve an environment where all could access every item of information easily.  That meant developing communication infrastructure, ensuring accessibility and improving literacy.  It would become more important in the future to vitalize the distribution of information with quality and quantity, both domestically and internationally, and ensure free flow of information.  To that end, a multi-stakeholder approach focused on discussing and sharing experiences about Internet governance was crucial.  The active use of ICT was essential for solving global challenges, such as poverty and hunger, education, gender equality and health care.  A globally connected space that brought all people together was emerging for the first time in human history, the speaker said, pledging Japan’s efforts towards the implementation the World Summit outcomes. 

JORGE LUIS PERDOMO DI LELLA (Cuba) said that although statistics had improved over the past decade, there were still unacceptable levels of poverty in the world.  The use of ICT had a dark side as well, and had the potential to jeopardize peace.  He expressed concern at the covert use by States of information systems to attack other countries, and called on all to work together to ensure that the Internet was a “zone of peace and prosperity”.  The Cuban Government was aware that societal problems lay at the heart of any strategy for ICT use.  The international community should work to digitize societies and make the Internet available to all.

NGUYEN MINH HONG, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications of Viet Nam, said that his country presently had more than 136 million mobile subscribers and was in the process of promoting computerization and development of the software industry.  To narrow the gap of information access between urban and rural areas, the Government was looking into policies that would mobilize public contributions to enhance efficiency of Internet access in rural areas.  Most of the schools in Viet Nam were equipped with Internet access, yet more remained to be done for rural schools.  Connecting medical centres and hospitals, especially through the broadband connection, had enabled remote medical examinations and consultation of complex cases.  However, the gap in information access was growing.  To continue the successful implementation of outcomes set by the World Summit, he recommended prioritizing the discussion on bridging the digital divide and ensuring equal access to information and services for every citizen.

URI ROSENTHAL (Netherlands) said that major challenges remained to enable all to benefit from universal access to information and knowledge.  Inequality in that regard was deepened as the digital divide grew wider.  It was essential for the world to make greater use of the Internet for economic growth, innovation and development.  Ensuring a secure and trusted cyberspace was an obligation to be shared by all stakeholders within their respective roles and responsibilities.  The Netherlands was exploring the idea of establishing a data centre in The Hague that could provide guidance and training to help overcome challenges in using “big data”.  It could also help explore ways to profit from the benefits in responding to the humanitarian crises of today and tomorrow.  Strengthening partnerships to build capacity would advance both development and resilience, he said, encouraging public and private partnerships from both developed and developing countries to strengthen cyber capacity and expertise globally. 

NERIDA O'LOUGHLIN (Australia) said that the centrality of the Internet to the world’s economies and societies could not be underestimated, as the review process showed.  Australia, with a population of almost 24 million, had almost 13 million Internet subscriptions and more than 21 million mobile phone subscriptions, as of June.  But the country could not be complacent if it was to reap the full benefits of a highly connected information society.  Even a developed country like Australia experienced a digital divide, such as differences in access to broadband between cities and rural and remote communities.  In Australia, only one in four IT graduates and fewer than one in 10 engineering graduates were women.  Australia applauded the World Summit for delivering on its vision of a people-centred, development-oriented information society for all.

WITOLD KOŁODZIEJSKI (Poland) said that governance of the Internet — foundational for the functioning of a modern knowledge-based society — must be an open, bottom-up process, shaped by all stakeholders.  The multi-stakeholder model was a tool for enabling the international community to build an open, free and un-fragmented Internet, whose fragmentation was a colossal threat for the international community.  The Internet should be changed, modified and improved, but that should be done cautiously, so as not to destroy values and technical solutions that made it the special medium it was today.  At the same time, the progress of civilization should not be measured only by the spread of ICT. 

ANUSHA RAHMAN KHAN (Pakistan) said ICT was a true driver of economic growth.  Broadband proliferation was Pakistan’s policy priority and it had achieved notable progress in that regard through legislative and policy frameworks.  The ICT journey had led to an increasingly interconnected world with the novel use of cyberspace resulting in economic and social opportunities for Internet users.  The current focus should be on bridging the digital divide to enable access for excluded populations to the immense knowledge platform.  The benefits of a shared cyberspace were enormous, however, some worrisome trends in safety and security had emerged.  The malicious use of ICT posed great risks to international peace and security, and attacks against critical infrastructure should be dealt with collectively.  The global community should agree on standards, especially for women and children, to enhance cooperation among States to ensure stability and security.  She also underscored the need to optimize the management of cyberspace under an institutional framework.

CATHERINE A. NOVELLI (United States) highlighted the progress made since World Summit meetings in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005.  More than 3 billion people worldwide, or about 40 per cent of the population, currently had Internet access with the number of users in developing countries almost doubling in the past five years.  Those significant achievements were in part due to the framework for multi-stakeholder cooperation laid out in the original World Summit 10 years ago, which had encouraged bottom-up investment and innovation instead of top-down governmental control.  Governmental institutions often lacked the capacity and expertise to make decisions quickly, which was incompatible with “Internet speed”.  Governmental control could also allow repressive regimes to advance policies and censorship.  The United States recently launched the “Global Connect” initiative, which aimed to bring an additional 1.5 billion people online by 2020.  Through that effort, her country would work with national Governments, development agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to encourage countries to integrate Internet connectivity as part of their national development strategies as well as champion innovative industry-driven solutions. 

MAJA FJAESTAD (Sweden) said the overarching goal of her country’s foreign policy was the participation of women and girls in the sustainable development process, and civil society was a crucial partner in that regard.  Sweden had made progress in ensuring that women and girls had equal access to technology and information.  At the Beijing Conference in 1995, a platform of action had been agreed to “increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making” in the face of new media and technology.  It was time for the world to deliver on its promises.  Women were leaving the Internet because they were concerned for their safety and integrity; they were targets of hate speech and cyberviolence, which was both a security and human rights issue.  That digital divide should be closed.  The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), Member States and all stakeholders should work to enhance the use of information and communications technologies for the empowerment of women.

PHILIPP METZGER, Director of the Office of Federal Communications of Switzerland, said that everyone, including women, men, young people and children, as well as people with disabilities should be able to access technology.  However, many challenges persisted, which needed to be tackled in a more targeted way.  Empowering women and girls and achieving gender equality were at the very heart of human rights, he said, stressing that ICT opened a new public and political space for that.  Bridging the gender digital divide was therefore an essential component to bringing about sustainable development for all.  The gender gap in ICT must be addressed in various dimensions of access, affordability, skills and usage.  Switzerland was committed to building additional capacities that would allow all stakeholders to shape discussions, including through the launch of the Geneva Internet Platform, which focused on supporting small and developing countries.

J. S. DEEPAK (India) said that since a large proportion of the next billion Internet users would come from developing nations, policies which enabled access should be formulated with the full involvement of all stakeholders from the developing world.  Since the 2005 World Summit, India had leapfrogged many stages of development in accessing technology, which had led to a huge increase in demand for digital services.  As the international community dealt with changes in Internet governance, it was important to keep in mind that that was not a zero-sum game, but could be a win-win for all.  The Internet was not a scarce resource, but a powerful, enabling, global platform that could be used for the benefit of all.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the group of least developed countries and associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that the goal of providing everyone in the least developed countries with affordable access to the Internet by 2020 had become one of the “early harvests” that needed to be achieved.  The overall credibility and attainability of the Sustainable Development Goals would largely depend on countries’ ability to meet that deadline.  However, the hard reality was that, to date, only 5 per cent of households in least developed countries had Internet access.  While most had modern and relevant information and communications technology policies commensurate with their national realities, progress was slow.  International cooperation was critical for setting up the necessary infrastructure, as was appropriate technology transfer.  Policy interventions, supported by technical assistance, could unlock the potential of young entrepreneurs and others, thereby helping the least developed countries advance their development efforts.  Speaking briefly in his national capacity, he described efforts under way in Bangladesh to bring ICT to people at the grassroots level.

CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that ICT could help address the economic, social and environmental challenges faced by the 32 nations in the Group.  The broad application of such technologies in reducing paperwork during customs clearance and border crossing, and the use of e-payments and e-tracking of shipments could significantly accelerate the flow of goods and services across national borders, lowering the trading costs and promoting international trade.  ICT could also play a major role in the broader development of those countries, including by increasing competitiveness and productivity through more efficient production of goods and services, disaster preparedness, early warning systems, rescue, mitigation, relief and response, improvements in delivery of health care, education and other social services and the creation of employment opportunities. 

Citing the “very wide digital divide” between landlocked developing countries and other groups of countries, she said the main hindrance to the full utilization of ICT was the higher cost of acquiring technologies.  For that reason, a priority area of the Vienna Programme of Action was specifically focused on ICT development in such countries.  She called on development partners to fully support land-locked developing nations in promoting their national broadband policy and developing the necessary infrastructure.  Development partners should also continue to support efforts of those and transit developing countries to facilitate access to ICT and transfer of skills, knowledge and technology, on mutually agreed terms.  Sustainable Development Goal 17 placed an emphasis on the enhancement of North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation in accessing science, technology and innovation, and also spotlighted the importance of promoting and using ICT infrastructure in advancing the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. 

SERGIO SHCHERBAKOV (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of CELAC, said that the region had continued strengthening cooperation in digital matters with projects, innovation-oriented activities, human resources training and the dissemination and transfer of new technologies.  CELAC would defend, protect and ensure neutrality, as a principle of Internet governance.  It was important to promote greater participation in that process as well as promote strategies to strengthen cybersecurity and prevent cybercrime.  At the same time, curtailing ICT use for organized crime and terrorism must always be conducted in strict observance of international law.  Actions contrary to the international legal frameworks were unjustifiable, illegal and unacceptable.  CELAC was also deeply concerned about the vulnerability of children in situations such as trafficking, smuggling, organ sales and child pornography, as well as the harassment and abuse suffered by women and girls online.  An information society must allow the international community to create, utilize and share information and knowledge.  Concluding, he said that international cooperation was the only viable option to foster the positive effects of ICT.

RUEANNA HAYES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, underscored that ICT and the Internet would remain essential tools in facilitating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, as well as a key means to leverage the inventiveness, collaboration and partnerships required to make it a reality.  The Sustainable Development Goals had already laid the basis for closing linkages between ICT development and the attainment of goals on education and gender equality as well as the empowerment of women and girls, among others.  The Caribbean regional experience with the challenge of expanding the use and dissemination of ICT and deploying those technologies in support of development efforts highlighted the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure that policy decisions reflected the needs and realities of a quickly evolving sector.

CARICOM had established an “ICT for development” programme along with a Regional Digital Development Strategy, she said.  However, mobilizing resources for investment in new technologies, particularly in the area of infrastructure for broadband connectivity, remained a challenge.  She spotlighted the role that could be played by official development assistance (ODA) and other forms of concessional financial flows, and called on the international community to enhance its support to CARICOM in the development of the ICT sector through the provision of additional resources, strengthened partnerships, increased technology transfer and capacity building that was tailored to meet the particular needs of the region’s small societies.  In light of the Paris climate accord, CARICOM looked forward to the use of such technologies in the protection of the environment.

AHMED SAREER (Maldives), speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said the SAMOA Pathway, small islands States’ “blueprint” for sustainable development, had identified the need for enhanced access and use of ICT infrastructure as necessary for sustaining strong economic growth.  Small island developing States faced unique challenges, including geographical isolation and vulnerability to environmental risk and natural disasters.  ICT, therefore, had great potential to enhance development.  At the same time, remoteness from markets and the subsequent inability to scale them, along with limited technical and human capacity, posed significant challenges to utilizing ICT.  Lack of access to affordable and reliable technologies also remained key challenges.  Efforts were needed in capacity building.  However, the digital divide continued to widen because of access to information, in and of itself, had not resulted in knowledge.

He welcomed the outcome document’s inclusion of ICT in disaster and humanitarian assistance.  An increasing number of countries were utilizing the technology in disaster risk management through remote sensing, geographic information systems, seismic surveillance systems, and improved tsunami monitoring networks.  For small island developing States, which were some of the most vulnerable countries to natural hazards, disasters and climate change, it was imperative that there be adequate knowledge sharing and technology transfer.  He called for greater cooperation between developed and developing countries so that adequate capacity building and technology transfer increased resilience in those countries.  “We have in our hands the ability to truly transform our world.  And let us not waste this opportunity,” he stressed.

ALEJANDRA LAGUNES SOTO RUIZ (Mexico) said that the world had seen enormous change since the World Summit in 2003 and 2005.  ICTs were crucial tools for economic and social progress.  Mexico had an ambitious reform agenda, which among other measures, aimed to close digital gaps by promoting sustainable inclusive development.  Governments needed to be more innovative.  It was also important to have mechanisms which allowed the international community to monitor implementation.  Mexico was leading efforts to improve access to standardized public data through an international data charter, which had been adopted by 18 Governments.  For Mexico, the Internet was a unique platform, which fostered development, education, health, and civic participation. 

ÖMER FATIH SAYAN (Turkey) said that in the last decade, the international community had seen how ICT played a role in development.  Daily living habits had changed dramatically in the last 10 years.  Turkey was taking strong steps to create a transformed country using ICT in e-government services, aiming also to provide one of the first 5G — fifth generation — services by 2020.  The digital economy was an important topic, as it was a growing part of the global economy, and there was a strong relationship between ICTs and gross domestic product (GDP).  Yet, the digital divide remained on the international community’s agenda. Connectivity had to be the core focus.  Recently, the United Nations had set new targets with its Sustainable Development Goals.  For quality education, decent work and economic growth, the international community had to explore ways to use ICTs.  Upholding human rights, especially freedom of speech, remained all the more relevant.

GERHARD HESSE (Austria) said the 2030 Agenda demonstrated the global nature of the Internet.  The free flow of information was possible only if human rights, including the right to privacy, were protected.  Offline and online rights must be safeguarded, including that of journalists and human rights workers.  Their safety was among Austria’s human rights priorities. Social media and citizen journalism played a crucial role, especially in areas not covered by traditional media.  The Internet and ICT overall were important tools for determining socioeconomic growth.  However, inequalities within countries persisted.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the gap between rich and poor was the highest in 10 years.  That had impacted social cohesion and long-term economic growth.  Information and communications technologies alone would not change existing inequalities, but they were essential for sustain development.

ALEX SCEBERRAS TRIGONA (Malta) reiterated his call to apply the legal concept of Common Heritage of Mankind to the Internet’s critical infrastructure.  The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality was no longer applicable, as cybersecurity deficiencies demanded a variety of governmental interventions.  Instead, a focus was now on regulating the Internet through the application of general international law principles and customizing rules, as done with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Furthermore, not enough time had been devoted to examine ways to safeguard international Internet governance from the “pre-eminent” role of any single Government.  Protecting the Internet for present and future generations while enhancing universal accessibility should be the overriding objective.  It was becoming clear Internet governance problems could not be solved on a national basis, as illustrated by European Union efforts and the recent “cyber-pact” between the Russian Federation and China.  “That the [United States] is the technology leader of the Internet whilst China has the largest number of users makes our task much more urgent”, he stated, calling for “Protection of the Internet as part of the Common Heritage of Mankind” to be put on the General Assembly’s agenda for its seventy-first session. 

STEFAN SCHNORR (Germany) said that, since the Geneva and Tunis summits, the international community had made great strides in setting up a global information society, greatly expanding Internet coverage.  However, digital divides persisted, not only between developing and developed countries, but also between different groups within societies.  Expressing support for a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society, he said that included the protection of fundamental rights, both online and offline.  Joint initiatives of Brazil and Germany had played a large part in the considerable progress made in recent years, both in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.  The World Summit had distinguished itself as a successful platform; however, too many new issues had been loaded onto the process, obscuring the core elements and the importance of the 2005 Tunis agenda.  In addition, the Internet should never be in danger of being controlled by just one set of stakeholders, be it business, Governments or any other groups.  It was vital to ensure a level playing field for all users.  In that regard, even more and different stakeholders should be involved in future negotiations on ICT issues.

RITA FORSI (Italy) said that her country had been deeply engaged in the World Summit and supported numerous projects to implement its actions.  The Information Society forum had achieved important goals in coordination, information exchange and knowledge-sharing.  Italy was fully committed to promoting ICT in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which was why it supported multi-stakeholder governance structures based on a coherent set of Internet governance principles.

RICARDO MOR SOLÁ (Spain), associating with the European Union, said that in the past decade, there had been great strides made in ICTs, transforming humankind at a fast pace.  In 2015, the international community had seen the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, a transformative document which had led to a paradigm shift.  ICTs must be facilitators in helping the international community comply with that agenda.  A fair tax regime was necessary to foster innovation and new businesses.  A 10 per cent increase in Internet speed led to an increase of 1.4 per cent growth in developing countries, he said, noting that investment in ICT infrastructure could help reduce poverty and inequality within and between countries.  The international community’s approach should be multidimensional and include an understanding of what constituted access.  It was a collective responsibility to ensure that no one was left behind.

PIA RANTALA-ENGBERG (Finland) said that the 2030 Agenda was the most important framework for the whole United Nations system and for all Governments.  The World Summit process was a significant contributor to that agenda.  Therefore, the link between the process and the Agenda must be strong and functional, she stressed, noting that the outcome document included that objective.  The follow-up high-level meeting in 2025 would also serve that aim.  The World Summit process had greatly influenced Finland’s development policy and cooperation.  Over the past 10 years, her country had significantly invested financially and through expertise in the preconditions for digital development and cyber-capacity-building in developing countries.  It was vital to ensure that all groups, including civil society, minorities and vulnerable groups were able to participate in digital development and decision-making in shaping the information society.

AMPARO ARANGO, Director of the Foreign Affairs Institute of Telecommunications of the Dominican Republic, said that it was important to bridge the digital divide to overcome imbalances in societies.  Technology had the potential to provide new generations with the necessary tools for innovation.  Hence, going forward it would be critical to focus on the vital role ICT as a catalyst for development.  Besides working in partnership with other stakeholders, a working group should be established, tasked with creating indicators for countries to guarantee that the 2030 Goals benefitted from ICT.  Regarding national and regional strategies, she emphasized the need to tackle online harassment and abuse suffered mostly by women and girls.  She reiterated her support for the democratic nature of the World Summit review and said that through new technologies more people would become involved in such discussions.

Ms. LUCAS (Luxembourg), associating with the European Union, said that while real progress had been achieved, additional efforts were required to turn the vision into reality.  It was time to reaffirm commitments to the world society, especially on the heels of the recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which rightly took into account ICT’s role.  Her country fully backed the belief that ICT was crucial to achieving sustainable development.  Luxembourg would continue to support programmes to promote ICT around the world, especially in Africa.  Bridging the digital divide would ICT to serve as development instruments, she said, emphasizing that men, women, young and the elderly must be able to benefit from the information society.  Commitments undertaken within the framework of the meeting’s final document would assist in achieving those goals. 

WANG MIN (China) said that in order to promote the development of an information society, bridging the digital divide was a top priority.  Information access and communication were an integral part of the 2030 Agenda, including full commitment to universal access to ICT applications and capacity building for developing countries.  The interconnectivity of the worldwide infrastructure should also be improved, along with strengthening collaboration and international cooperation.  Efforts should be devoted to establishing a multilateral, democratic and transparent global Internet governance architecture that assured equal participation.  Lastly, cybersecurity and IT were “the two wings that fly a bird” — inseparable and mutually enhancing.  In that context, the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter in cyberspace should be adhered to, laying a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace.  He noted that the Second World Internet Conference would be taking place in China between 16 and 18 December under the theme “An Interconnected World Shared and Governed by All — Building a Community of Common Destiny in Cyberspace”. 

ZHANAT ZHAKHMETOVA (Kazakhstan) said that it was essential to work towards Internet access for all, including fixed and mobile broadband connections in rural areas.  Rapid changes continued to take place in technology and governance, she continued, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that social networks became truly interactive and supported democratic processes, human rights, and the sharing of medical and scientific advances.  In 10 years, Kazakhstan had created the infrastructure needed for an “electronic government”.  Some 70 per cent of its citizens now had Internet access.  She also mentioned national laws that would give an opportunity for further ICT development, enhance usage of cloud computing and implement enterprise architecture.  Other legislation aimed at creating open government, increasing the amount of open data available and supporting the creation of a unified service centre, would allow citizens to receive governmental services from one place.

FRANTIŠEK RUŽIČKA (Slovakia) said that mobile technologies, cloud computing, big data, business intelligence and social networks had had a multifaceted impact on every aspect of people’s lives.  Yet, the Internet still had not become a reality for everyone.  The international community needed to bridge the digital divide through broadening connectivity and access to ICTs to the population in developing countries, people with disabilities and women.  Slovakia had developed a complex set of incentives for supporting start-ups focused on ICTS, and stood ready to share its best practices with all. 

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that her country had long recognized the potential of ICT for innovation and economic transformation. It had invested considerably in the sector, and today, 100 per cent of the country’s population had mobile coverage.  National ICT development had supported her country’s emergence as a global economic player.  The potential, however, remained inaccessible for too many people worldwide, and those without access had been increasingly marginalized.  The time had come to extend the principle of “leaving no one behind” to information and communications technology.  Women’s involvement must be enhanced, she said, noting that the gender divide in the United Arab Emirates was marginal but much work remained.  While extremist groups had used the Internet as a tool for recruitment and radicalization, the World Summit review rightly recognized that threat and was working to combat it. 

JANG-KEUN LEE (Republic of Korea) said that since the World Summit, technology had been catalytic in the development of Internet and mobile communications.  That had created new jobs and industries and made it easier to share information around the world.  But bridging the digital divide remained a major challenge.  Internet governance based on inclusive multi-stakeholder cooperation was also an important issue that should be addressed moving forward.  Universal access to the Internet could be achieved.  His country had once lagged far behind, but today ranked highly on indexes as one of the most wired countries in the world, as a result of national investments.  The Republic of Korea was ready and willing to share its experiences of economic development with the international community.

DAVID MARTINON (France) said that all agreed with the development objectives, but the international community’s discussions were made difficult by differences in approaches and by misunderstandings.  ICTs would continue to play a decisive role.  The international community had updated its objectives, including by accepting to commit itself in a binding way on climate change.  Innovation and information and communications technologies were a major plus when it came to sustainable development.  Despite progress made, the digital divide remained.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda had launched a mechanism for facilitating technological progress, and France wished to see it succeed, as it was both a United Nations mechanism and a multi-stakeholder one. 

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia), associating with the Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, said that ICT must have a people-centred approach if it was to achieve a better quality of life for all.  Challenges remained, particularly in the area of giving greater recognition to the role of ICT in sustainable development.  Bridging the digital divide, within and between countries, was crucial to that end as was the inclusion and empowerment of women in ICT.  It was most crucial to generate synergy between the follow-up to the results of the World Society and the 2030 Agenda.  The establishment and development of technology transfers were powerful engines of economic growth, he added, welcoming such mentions in the outcome document.  Colombia would support the promotion of ICT to foster greater trust in the use of such technologies for development.

For information media. Not an official record.