General Assembly, Concluding Review of World Summit on Information Society, Commits to Bridging Digital Divides, Building Connected Communities

GA/11744
16 December 2015
Seventieth Session, 78th & 79th Meetings (AM & PM)

General Assembly, Concluding Review of World Summit on Information Society, Commits to Bridging Digital Divides, Building Connected Communities

The General Assembly today reaffirmed its common desire and commitment to the vision of the World Summit on the Information Society to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society, as the 193-member body concluded its two-day high-level meeting reviewing the summit outcomes. 

Further terms of the wide-ranging text expressed Member States’ common desire and commitment to ensure that everyone could create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life premised on the United Nations Charter, and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Ministers and heads of delegations recognized the need for Governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, the technical and academic communities and all other relevant stakeholders to continue to work together to implement the World Summit vision beyond 2015.

Concern was expressed in the text, however, that there were still significant digital divides, such as between and within countries and between women and men, which needed to be addressed through, among other actions, strengthened enabling policy environments and international cooperation to improve affordability, access, education, capacity-building, multilingualism, cultural preservation, investment and appropriate financing.

Acknowledging, in that context, the existence of a gender divide, the text encouraged all stakeholders to ensure the full participation of women in the information society and women’s access to new technologies, especially information and communications technologies for development.

The resolution extended for another 10 years the existing mandate of the Internet Governance Forum as set out in paragraphs 72 to 78 of the Tunis Agenda. During that period, the Forum, it states, should progress on working modalities and the participation of relevant stakeholders from developing countries.

Exhausting the list of speakers before the action on the text, the Assembly heard from 25 Member States, both large and small; 10 representatives of non-governmental organizations and civil society; and a sizable contingent of United Nations entities, including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  That organization’s speaker, honing in on a recurring theme of the two-day meeting, said that with over half the world’s people still unconnected to the Internet, it was too early to talk about the information society in a global sense. 

The representative of Norway, picking up on that theme, said that the unfinished task of connecting everyone to the Internet remained an urgent policy priority, not just for economic reasons, but to promote universal values and a sense of belonging. 

Universally accepted principles were also addressed by the representative of Lebanon, who urged protection of privacy and personal data and communications.  Governments’ regulations, he stressed, should not impede essential human rights in the name of security.

As the meeting drew to a close, a representative of the Internet Society said the outcome document failed to fully recognize the transnational nature of the Internet as a borderless “network of networks”.  It sought to apply national solutions to global problems, particularly those related to safety and security. 

Also speaking in the General Assembly today were representatives of Liechtenstein, Singapore, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Egypt, Israel, Argentina, United Republic of Tanzania, Slovenia, Bahrain, Sudan, Portugal, Syria, Costa Rica, Albania, Peru, Morocco, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Representatives of three additional United Nations entities spoke, namely, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Additional non-governmental organizations and civil society representatives included IT for Change, Center for Democracy and Technology, Access Now, M17M.org, Association for Progressive Communications, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Telenor Group, International Chamber of Commerce, and Telefónica International USA.

The General Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 17 December to elect members of the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission and to take up the report of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).

Background

The General Assembly met this morning to continue its 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).  For further details, please see Press Release GA/11741.

Statements

STEFAN BARRIGA (Liechtenstein), drawing attention to the digital divide in the use of information and communications technology (ICT), said that the poor were excluded in both developed and developing countries.  A divide also existed between women and men, as well as between generations, which must be bridged.  ICTs were essential for sustainable development and should be aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and thus, the follow-up and review of the Agenda should give due attention to ICTs.  Those technologies had transformed society by altering the way communities and individuals interacted.  That was not without its consequences, particularly for children who were the victims of cyberbullying.  Importantly, fraud and terrorist activity had permeated information and communications technologies, the use of which also infringed on privacy.  It was important to protect human rights online and offline by staying true to human rights law.

KAREN TAN (Singapore) observed that 10 years ago a mere 16 per cent of the world had access to the Internet.  Today more than 40 per cent engaged it as an integral part of life.  Nonetheless, some 4 billion still remained unconnected.  On a national platform, although 87 per cent of Singapore citizens had broadband access and 9 out of 10 had access to a smart phone, there were still certain groups unable to benefit fully from such technology, including the elderly, persons with disabilities and those who could not afford Internet services.  Several programmes had been established to improve that, including initiatives tailored to the elderly and affordable financial packages for low-income families, as well as special technologies fitted for the disabled sector.  In addition, Singapore, through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), was striving to advance ICTs on a regional level, with the ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2020, aimed at creating a digitally-enabled economy.  Turning to Internet governance, she stressed that it must be inclusive and responsive to be fully effective, engaging Governments, industry, civil society and other stakeholders.  The Internet Governance Forum was an effective platform for discussing the wide range of issues on that matter.

BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET (Belgium) said that the digital gap remained a big challenge at three levels — in countries, between countries, and between men and women.  Her country was committed to reducing the gap, bearing in mind that ICTs were never an end in themselves, but an instrument for citizens to act and shape their own destinies.  That included economic growth and strengthening of human rights.  The opportunities presented by ICTs for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals were well known, but those targets could not be fully implemented without necessary skills and regulatory frameworks, which must be at the heart of the international community’s efforts to encourage development.  On Internet governance, Belgium supported the multiparty model, which showed that general interest trumped specific national interest. 

VINCENT RIGBY (Canada) outlined ways his country was supporting communities in developing countries, from Kenya to the Caribbean, to reap the benefits of ICT.  He stressed the need for steady progress on closing the digital divide, not only between and within countries, but also between women and men, and girls and boys.  It was important to enable environments that encouraged investment, competition and public-private partnerships.  Training and capacity building would ensure that people had appropriate skills and capabilities to use ICT.  Canada would invest millions in the next several years to harness digital innovations that created inclusive economic opportunities and supported democratic development in developing countries.  Multi-stakeholder cooperation would be critical in the years ahead in order for individuals in every corner of the globe to create, access, use and share information and knowledge.

CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) said that her country had recently launched a cybersecurity strategy, which that aimed to boost confidence and understanding about the issues as an important part of supporting economic growth.  In implementing that strategy, New Zealand would continue to contribute to building cybersecurity capability in developing States, with a particular focus on the Pacific region.  New Zealand’s aid programme would recognize that improved connectivity was a catalyst for sustainable economic development.  It also recognized that many emerging cross-cutting issues in Internet governance had both technical and public policy dimensions.  As the Internet continued to develop and new uses emerged, ongoing dialogue would be necessary to ensure the full participation of all Governments in that environment, she added.

AHAMED LEBBE SABARULLAH KHAN (Sri Lanka) said that his country’s information technology literacy grew from a mere 3 per cent in 2005 to almost 50 per cent in 2014.  The national broadband policy helped narrow the digital divide and harness the power of information and communications technology for development.  Sri Lanka had also accorded specific importance to the growing role of cyberspace and security-building initiatives for the future.  Additionally, it had enacted far-reaching laws prohibiting cybercrime, including sexual abuse, child pornography and hate speech.  As a society comprised of diverse races and religions, Sri Lanka was well aware of the danger of Internet abuse and mindful of its duty to introduce all measures to ensure tolerance.  All those developments would assist the country in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

SAAD ABDULLAH N. AL SAAD (Saudi Arabia) said that the Internet had proved to be an effective tool in all facets of life.  Saudi Arabia had made sure to connect broadband Internet for every citizen in every housing complex in the Kingdom, including in remote areas.  Having committed to large-scale projects, his country had received several awards from 2012 in the area of electronic governance services.  Saudi Arabia had pride in its active participation in Internet governance and continued to support the Summit outcomes through, among other measures, participating in the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

YANIMAN SUPRAWOTO, Secretary General of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of Indonesia, said that challenges remained in better responding to emerging information and communications technology issues.  In order to pursue and sustain a safe, secure, reliable, and tolerant utilization of those technologies for development, the international community must continue to promote the importance of ethics for the information society, including through the establishment of a code of cyberethics.  The implementation of the World Summit outcome document must strengthen the role of technology in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda as well as in the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  Indonesia would also continue to support multilateral and multi-stakeholder approaches in Internet governance, which engaged Governments, private businesses, civil society and all other relevant stakeholders.

AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said that the implementation of the World Summit outcomes required adequate financing and investment in ICT infrastructure, capacity building and technology transfer.  Developing countries’ implementation of the outcomes was linked to their acquisition of capacity.  Turning to cybersecurity, he said that ICTs had become a target for malicious use.  The international community should enhance collaborative efforts to combat security threats and prevent the terrorist use of those technologies.  Egypt attached great importance to the World Summit principles, which reaffirmed the multilateral, transparent and democratic nature of managing the Internet.  He underscored the importance of respecting sovereign rights of States in that regard.

DAVID ROET (Israel) said 40 per cent of the world’s population had some form of access to the Internet.  Small-scale farmers in Africa could connect wirelessly to GPS technology to track lost livestock and manage disease outbreaks among the herd.  That progress was possible because of cooperation between all stakeholders, including the private sector, and by fostering an environment that encouraged investment and innovation.  Despite the progress achieved, a gap persisted between countries, which should be bridged.  In that regard, special emphasis should be placed on women and people with disabilities, who were among the most vulnerable and had the least access to channels of communication and information.  Israel had transformed “a land of swamps and sand” into the “start-up nation”.  ICTs had helped the country manage its farms, increase crop yields and use water more efficiently.  Israel was a global ICT hub with more start-ups per capita than any other country and it had the highest rates of Internet users in the region.  Its commitment to utilizing the potential of ICTs went beyond its borders.  In 2014, Israel had reached an agreement with the World Bank’s Transport and ICT Global Practice, which focused on sharing best practices in the ICT sector with developing countries.

MATEO ESTREME (Argentina), associating with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that countries had to drive forward the establishment of legal and regulatory practices, which made information and communications technology accessible to persons with disabilities, people with special needs and other vulnerable groups.  ICTs were a catalyst for the efficient use of energy and construction of intelligent cities such as the “Internet of things”.  His country assigned great importance to all issues related to cybersecurity, and reaffirmed the relevance of the right to privacy.  In areas of cybersecurity, it was not possible to continue thinking that bilateral technological cooperation agreements would lead to the eradication of online crime.  A mechanism for cooperation between all countries was the only way to address security problems in cyberspace, and Governments had a relevant role to play.

TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that, in order to address national information and communications technology needs, his Government, together with local and foreign partners, had built the National Broadband Backbone, which, to date, had established fibre optic coverage for every administrative district in the country.  With 34 million mobile users and 11 million Internet users, such improvements had empowered men and women through mobile financial services and had exposed hundreds of students to unlimited online and offline educational materials, transforming the “dreams of many young entrepreneurs and innovators into a reality”.  However, as ICTs impacted lives, some users were becoming prone to non-communicable diseases due to lack of physical activity.  Still others were becoming less productive because of net- and- social media addictions, or because they were too detached from reality, thus being less effective in resolving social and communal challenges.  That signified the imperative of collective action, he stated, calling for unified efforts to prevent abuses through effective regulations.  At the same time, research should be done to ascertain the magnitude of the problem and offer credible solutions. 

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) said that States must develop appropriate knowledge and infrastructure required for tackling emerging Internet challenges with due regard for human rights.  Slovenia had set up an Internet exchange point on a non-profit basis, as all Slovenian Internet service providers could exchange “traffic” free of charge.  That had enabled affordable exchanges on a national level and allowed other Internet service providers to enter the market, making the Internet more accessible.  To avoid a new digital divide and prevent related negative consequences, developed countries must promote the transfer and exchange of knowledge with developing countries via their know-how and infrastructure.  Societies must create conditions for the introduction and development of new technologies that best suited their needs, he added.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said that ICTs were crucial to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adding that the digital divide had to be bridged between developed and developing countries.  In May 2012, Bahrain had adopted a four-year electronic government strategy, which included 90 initiatives on legislation for a secure electronic environment, one-stop shops, and open data platforms for new services development.  The new strategy would foster competiveness in the next generation, including through the establishment of a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.  Bahrain aimed to become a knowledge-based society, which could be achieved through a secure data environment.  The country was first in the Arab region and the thirteenth globally in area of information technology.  The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) had recently awarded Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa in that field.

KNUT AKSEL WADET (Norway) said that the unfinished task of connecting everyone to the Internet remained an urgent policy priority, not just for economic reasons, but to promote universal values and a sense of belonging.  Access to the Internet was critical for development, but it was not sufficient on its own.  Whether digital technologies would make development more inclusive, efficient and innovative would be largely determined by policy choices.  Three principles in the Summit agenda were of particular interest to Norway, namely that universal human rights applied online as well as offline, development of a global culture of cybersecurity, and continuation of the multi-stakeholder process in Internet governance.  States were important stakeholders, but they were just one of many.

OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that despite hardships, his country was making strides in information and communications technology.  Sudan had 28 million mobile phone subscribers drawn from a population of 35 million inhabitants.  The Sudanese company Sudatel had three international branches, working in Senegal, Mauritania, and Djibouti.  He stressed the leading role assumed by the private sector in that area.  Information and communications technology was an indispensable tool to achieving sustainable development, and the 2030 Agenda stressed the importance of technology transfer.  When considering the place of human rights in the outcome document, he noted that the international community should approach that in a selective manner.  Internationally agreed human rights principles should be the focus, including the right to development within the context of the United Nations Charter.  Human rights related to the economic and social aspects should also be taken into consideration.  Partnerships should be promoted among Governments, civil society organizations and the private sector through complementarity of roles.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that the digital divide remained a development disparity rather than a technological gap.  With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the pledge to leave no one behind, the World Summit’s review reaffirmed the basic human right of every person in the world to access information and communications technologies.  The gap in the gender digital divide also remained a priority.  A paradoxical challenge was that of promoting and protecting freedom of opinion and expression, as that freedom was “unrightfully” denied in some places, while in others it was being misused or abused to promote violent extremism and intolerance.  The Internet should remain a hub for intercultural exchange and dialogue and it was important to preserve the world’s cultural diversity by building digital capacities to all.  Recalling the Tunis Agenda of 10 years ago, he stressed that “the same rights that people have offline must be protected online”.  Cybersecurity meant protection against cybercrime, digital attacks, espionage and sabotage.  However, privacy and personal data and communications must also be protected.  Governments’ regulations, therefore, should not impede essential human rights in the name of security.  In Lebanon, the national fibre network, which covered the whole country, was being deployed.  Universities, hospitals and businesses would soon be connected, with homes soon to follow. 

ÁLVARO MENDONÇA E MOURA (Portugal) said that his country faced new ICT challenges such as cloud computing, big data, machine to machine systems, mobile technologies and social networks.  Those emerging trends had a deep impact on society, industry, organizations and businesses, as well as on people’s behaviour. Furthermore, the world continued to face digital divides at different levels among countries, regardless of their stage of development, and among rural and urban populations and generations.  Joint efforts should be further pursued to ensure that the benefits of the information society were enjoyed by everyone, improving the quality of life of vulnerable people and strengthening capacity-building.  He welcomed the extension of the Internet Governance Forum mandate for another 10 years and said that dialogue should be expanded, promoting stakeholders’ engagement and broadening participation overall.

RABEE JAWHARA (Syria), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that in order for developing countries to benefit from ICTs, developed countries needed to shoulder their responsibilities in providing them with technology transfer and capacity building.  Due attention should also be given to populations living under foreign occupation, such as in the Syrian Golan and Palestine.  Nations should strive to prevent the use ICTs by terrorists.  Syria was suffering from the effects of terrorism and required international cooperation to combat it.  Terrorists in the country used ICTs to promote their operations, recruit new terrorists, purchase weapons, and perpetrate other crimes.  Developed countries and their corporations controlled ICTs around the world, and it was thus their responsibility to confront ICT use by terrorists.  According to a report in Der Spiegel, European countries had provided information and communications technologies via Turkish middlemen to terrorists in Syria and Iraq.  It was unfortunate that cyberspace was being used to air poison, promote hatred, and brainwash children and youth.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating with the Group of 77 and China as well as CELAC, said 2015 was a historic year with vital agreements reached, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris climate change accord, and adoption today of an outcome text on information.  The challenge was to implement those agreements.  A multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance was needed based on privacy, security, and human rights.  Costa Rica attached importance to human rights, including protection for journalists and bloggers.  ICTs and the digitization process were crucial for global economic growth as well as for Costa Rica’s growth.  The country had moved up 23 positions in the ICT field, and was rated the most dynamic in the field by the ITU.  Mobile phone penetration had doubled and broadband use had risen tenfold.

ERVIN NINA (Albania) said that his Government had invested in digital education as well as in different projects encouraging youth initiatives towards innovation through incentive programmes.  In the next five years, Albania aimed to improve communication technologies infrastructure.  It also aimed to increase by 2020 the number of people and the number of businesses using the Internet.  Development of electronic governance and the provision of interactive public services through the Internet for citizens and business was a major focus of the Government, he said.  Digitalization processes at the country level in Albania would focus on the development of innovation and intelligent activities in cities and communities, production growth in agriculture and, among others, social enterprises.  It also aimed to improve services provided to the community, including through e-government.

AUGUSTO THORNBERRY (Peru) said that Internet access should allow all peoples to improve their lives, but that had not been the case so far.  The digital divide was real and growing exponentially.  Good Internet governance could be applied to international law and covenants.  Peru also supported international Internet administration as part of a solution that included the multilateral level, and proposed a debate from a multi-stakeholder approach.  The international community had been able to achieve international legal frameworks through important agreements, which served as benchmarks on many themes; it should do the same when it came to internet governance.

ABDELLAH LARHMAID (Morocco), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that challenges of Internet governance at the international level should be discussed and managed in a multilateral manner with the participation of all stakeholders and civil society, while respecting the sovereignty and the integrity of States.  Morocco supported extending the mandate of the Internet Governance Forum to strengthen the multiparty dialogue on public policy.  The Government had adopted a digital plan to integrate the country through broadly disseminated technologies involving all actors of society and business. Information and communications technology was a means of fighting disparities.  That approach was framed by a Moroccan societal model of citizenship that put human development at the centre of the digital revolution.

JEANNE D’ARC BYAJE (Rwanda) said her country had invested heavily in broadband penetration as it would impact sustainable economic and social growth.  ICTs were more than an enabler for such growth; they were essential for the well-being of people who had become increasingly dependent on access to timely and correct information in the health, education, agriculture and trade sectors.  Rwanda’s 2020 vision was to transform into a middle-income country with ICT at its core.  To achieve that goal, it was focussing on skills development, private sector development, e-government and cybersecurity.  To foster ICT development, the country had initiated the “Smart Kigali” project, which provided free public Internet access in city buses, commercial buildings and other public spaces.  Rwanda’s One Laptop per Child programme had made computers available to hundreds of schoolchildren.  Technology had also benefitted rural women in their daily use of mobile money and digital payment. 

MALCOLM JOHNSON, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said that while much had been done, much remained to be done.  In the least developed countries, only 1 person in 10 was online.  With over half the world’s people still unconnected to the Internet, it was too early to talk about the information society in a global sense.  The mission of the ITU was to connect the world, and the organization would continue its efforts to bring all peoples into the fold.  It was an important year, with an agreement on financing for development having been reached in July, the Sustainable Development Goals in September, the Paris accord on climate last week, and now the conclusion today of the World Summit review.  ICTs would be key to implementing all those challenging agreements.

GETACHEW ENGIDA, Deputy-Director-General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), underscored that his organization was the main “soft-power actor” in the World Summit follow-up, facilitating implementation of 6 out of the 18 action lines.  While infrastructure, devices and connectivity were important, they were “worth little” if girls, women, boys and men did not know how to use them, did not have the knowledge to develop content or have the right to freed expression, privacy or access.  Only with such “soft” dimensions could ICT deliver its promise.  He called for the international community to move away from information societies and instead aim towards inclusive “knowledge societies” in order to make information actionable and relevant, particularly in terms of sustainable development.  “In this age where the limits of our exploitation of the planet are so evident, we must invest in our ultimate renewable resource, which is human freedom, ingenuity, creativity and knowledge,” he stated.

PATRICK KEULEERS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the World Summit community was closely engaged in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Effective implementation of the 17 Goals and 169 targets required a spectrum of capacities and the engagement of all stakeholders.  Partnerships were critical in that regard, and the UNDP had started working with partners at the national and local levels towards that aim.  The World Summit was best positioned to lead the way on showing how ICTs could help achieve the 2030 Agenda.

TORBJÖRN FREDRIKSSON, speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said there had been remarkable progress in the scope and reach of ICTs.  The notion of the information society had evolved and the world stood on the verge of further rapid change as it moved into the era of big data and the “Internet of things”.  However, some 4 billion people were not yet online, and fewer still were benefitting from broadband access.  To make the information society people-centred and inclusive, the international community must prioritize efforts to bridge the digital divides between countries, between rich and poor, men and women, younger and older people, large and small enterprise and urban and rural areas.  Special attention should be paid to supporting the ability of least developed countries to catch up.  In addition, in order to make the Information Society more development-oriented, the international community must address the challenges of content and capabilities as well as connectivity, and ensure that ICTs were fully harnessed in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Commission on Science and Technology for Development, for which UNCTAD served as the secretariat, had played a central role in analysing the impact of the information society and in following up on the implementation of the World Summit outcome. 

PARMINDER JEET SINGH, IT for Change/Just Net Coalition, said the millennium period, during which the Internet had begun to underpin most social systems, was also the time of rapidly growing inequality.  The vital elements of the Internet could not remain ungoverned, left to unregulated market forces and to the powerful.  The decade following the World Summit on the Information Society had regrettably failed to provide an adequate governance response to many critical social, economic, political and cultural issues associated with the Internet.  He stressed the need to give up the idea of “Internet exceptionalism”, or seeing the Internet as bottom-up and private sector-led; the need to address the fully justified fear of possible Internet abuse by putting into place robust checks and balances, and resolve the so-called tension between multilateralism and “multistakeholderism” through the test of democracy.  Left to itself, the digital network phenomenon would be appropriated by the powerful and result in an even more unequal and unfair world, he said.

MATTHEW SHEARS, Center for Democracy and Technology, said that to build a knowledge society and contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda, the international community must do more than talk about the value of multi-stakeholder processes. “We cannot expect to build a knowledge society stuck in our respective stakeholder silos,” he said, adding that there was no choice other than to cooperate, collaborate, and bring expertise, skills, and know-how together.  He urged States to look at policies and solutions and ask whether they were sufficient enough to empower people and communities.  It would not be possible to harness the potential of ICT for development if policy environments did not encourage communities and businesses to build networks, enhance skills and create opportunity. 

DENIZ DURU AYDIN, Access Now, said that as a 23-year-old avid user of the Internet, she supported human rights at the centre of Internet development.  The Internet must empower the most vulnerable in order for them to harness their own potential and Member States must realize that vision by protecting digital rights and privacy.  Users around the world should not be subjected to arbitrary surveillance, she said, adding that violations of Internet rights were a direct obstacle to the free flow of information and knowledge.  She hoped that the outcome document would call for the protection of journalists and activists.  Any future steps of the World Society process must include more youth and civil society in the conversation about shaping the Internet, she added.

AVRI DORIA, M17M.org, said that she had hoped that when it came time in 10 years to review the World Summit process once again, the event should be even more inclusive. The Internet must be open to all and serve the goals of the 2030 Agenda.  She welcomed the inclusion of human rights in the outcome document, especially at a time when so many organizations were steering away from including a human rights element into their agendas.  In dealing with human rights on the Internet, she signalled out violence against women and against the gay community.  When people talked about Internet security, they talked about the violence it incited against minorities.  Inclusive and democratic stakeholder participation was essential for developing the public policy necessary for an open, people-centric Internet. 

DEBORAH BROWN, of the Association for Progressive Communications, expressed strong support for the Action Plan to Close the Gender Digital Gap, launched yesterday by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the ITU and other partners.  The process that produced that text could also reinvigorate efforts to create policy environments that mobilized ICT for development at all levels, while encouraging collaboration and the allocation of resources needed to bring about positive change.  For the next World Summit review to be meaningful in the review process for the 2030 Agenda, integration with the Sustainable Development Goals needed to be part of the follow up and implementation in both endeavours.  As well, concrete steps must be taken to ensure integration at all levels, particularly the country level.  Stressing that Governments should put into place systems that reflected the World Summit principles, she urged Member States to uphold their human rights commitments both online and offline.  That meant ending mass surveillance, both between and within countries, as well as releasing journalists, activists and bloggers who had been imprisoned as a result of their use of the Internet for human rights and social justice.

KATHRYN BROWN, Internet Society, voiced support for the unequivocal recommitment to the multi-stakeholder model first adopted in Tunis, renewal of the Internet Governance Forum’s mandate and the central focus on creating a digital enabling environment aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  However, the outcome statement failed to fully recognize the transnational nature of the Internet as a borderless “network of networks”.  It sought to apply national solutions to global problems, particularly those related to safety and security.  That stance was compounded by an “unfortunate” misbelief by some that cooperation only among Governments was sufficient to solve issues that required the expertise and commitment of all.  “As more people — and things — come online, many challenges, known and unknown, lie ahead,” the speaker said.  Government-centric processes were only one of the many ways solutions could be crafted and implemented.  Solving twenty-first century problems required the collaboration of all stakeholders through twenty-first century mechanisms.

VENI MARKOVSKI, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), noting that his organization had been closely engaged with the World Summit, said it was encouraging that the outcome document had been developed based on the Tunis Agenda while addressing new issues.  Significant progress had been made since 2005.  ICANN was doing its part to bridge the digital divide in conjunction with UNESCO.  The current meeting of the Assembly was a historic one.  The international community was at turning point.  It could make a real difference with the World Summit agreement on use of ICTs.  ICANN would work with all stakeholders so that the Internet could develop for the good of all people, he said.

CHRISTIAN WULFF SØNDERGAARD, Telenor Group, said that his company was aiming to contribute to having 200 million active Internet users by 2017.  Spotlighting his organization’s work in Myanmar and Pakistan, he said that achieving ambitious goals required joint effort from Governments, civil society, international organizations and industry.  It also required “massive and continuous” investments, he said, stressing that Governments must not put up barriers to mobile connectivity.  Taxes and fees had the potential of making up a significant portion of the cost of owning and using a mobile device.  Furthermore, Governments must respect freedom of speech, access to information and democratic dialogue, as “far too often we see efforts to block services or clamp down on content”, he said. 

JOHN DANILOVICH, Secretary General, International Chamber of Commerce, noting that the Chamber was the world’s largest business organization with over 6.5 million members in 130 countries, emphasized that despite significant advances over the past ten years, more needed to be done to ensure that everyone had access to the Internet.  Business was vital in connecting people and leveraging the full potential of technology when aiming to achieve common goals in the development of digital economies.  The culture of cybersecurity needed to be further developed and Governments should take note of the growing number of multi-stakeholder initiatives dedicated to cybersecurity capacity building at the local, national, regional and global levels.  The outcome document should be commended for reaffirming the importance of cooperative action among all stakeholders in managing the global governance of the Internet.

ALFREDO TIMERMANS, Telefónica International USA, said it was important to connect everyone to the Internet through partnerships between Governments, civil society, and the private sector.  He highlighted how Telefónica International USA had invested billions of dollars to connect people to the Internet in Europe and Latin America.  He urged that the open nature of the Internet be maintained now that traditional computers were being replaced by smart phones and applications.  The Internet must also be made safe with adequate protection to the most vulnerable populations.

LAMBERT MENDE OMALANGA, Minister of Communications and Media, Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that in his country the Internet had played a major role in the boosting competitiveness among businesses, effectiveness of Government services and the production of goods and materials.  The Internet had a significant social dimension as well and therefore a major impact on societies, particularly in young countries.  While that development had accelerated humanity’s progress, it had also brought with it some major challenges, which “we, decision-makers, cannot close our eyes to,” he stated.   Some “traps” included cyberfraud, attacks on private life, and the spread of disinformation.  It was important to avoid “writing a blank check” to those groups who refuse to combat against such “excesses”, he said, calling for a prevention approach that stood against anti-social and terrorist acts that destabilize societies and whole countries.

Action

The General Assembly then adopted without a vote the draft resolution entitled “Outcome document of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the overall review of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society” (document A/70/L.33).

For information media. Not an official record.