Information and Communications Technologies Integrally Tied to Sustainable Development, Speakers Say at Second Committee Debate

GA/EF/3454
13 October 2016
Seventy-first Session, 12th Meeting (PM)

Information and Communications Technologies Integrally Tied to Sustainable Development, Speakers Say at Second Committee Debate

Although more than 95 per cent of the world’s population were now covered by mobile networks, it was necessary to bridge the digital divide between and within countries, said Thailand’s representative today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) debated “Information and communications technologies (ICTs) for development”.

Speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the representative highlighted the growing importance and contribution of ICTs to development in areas such as health, education, knowledge sharing, agriculture, promotion of peace and responses to the impacts of climate change, early warning systems and disaster risk reduction, as well as humanitarian response.

ICTs were integrally tied to sustainable development and offered unparalleled opportunity for growth, development, and individual empowerment, and the 2030 Agenda recognized that, said the representative of Bangladesh.  “The spread of ICT is now faster than ever before,” he said.

However, there was a widening gap between developed and developing countries that needed to be overcome by strengthening an enabling policy environment and enhancing international cooperation to improve accessibility and affordability of technologies, stressed the representative of Brunei Darussalam.

ICTs could be disruptive, but the transformative effects and benefits to the global population were undeniable, said Indonesia’s delegate.  Eliminating the digital divide was necessary in order to leave no one behind.

India’s delegate said that the use of ICT tools in e-governance was making open Government data widely available to all sections of society, including the vulnerable and geographically isolated.  That was vastly expanding transparency, efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.

Costa Rica’s representative said his country believed in an inclusive, personal-oriented development which ensured human rights recognized offline were also recognized online, including freedom of opinion and association, as well as the protection of the press and human rights defenders.

The representative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said that half the world’s population, or more than 3.5 billion people, were still offline, the majority being women.  ITU estimated that there were about 250 million fewer women than men online and that the global Internet user gender gap had grown from 11 per cent in 2013 to 12 per cent in 2016.  Empowering girls and women with ICT skills could solve the predicted shortfall of over 2 million jobs in the technology sector within the next five years.

The afternoon meeting began with a representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) introducing the report of the Secretary General on “Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels” (document A/71/67).  Following that, a representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) introduced the report “Communication for development programmes in the United Nations system” (document A/71/307).

Throughout the session, many delegations expressed condolences on the passing of Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand.

Also speaking today were representative of Trinidad and Tobago, Maldives, Philippines, Israel, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Singapore, Brazil, Malaysia, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Niger, Belarus, Kenya, China, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Nigeria and Bahrain.

The Second Committee will meet again on Monday, 17 October to discuss the eradication of poverty.

Statements

SHAMIKA SIRIMANNE, Director on Technology and Logistics of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) introduced the report “Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels” (document A/71/67).  The Secretary-General’s report drew on information provided by 32 United Nations entities and other organizations and stakeholders.  It presented highlights of major activities by stakeholders to implement the outcomes of 2015.  She highlighted three primary issues:  the main trends on information and communications technology (ICT); the linkages between the info society and the 2030 Agenda; and other relevant developments that had taken place since 2015.

There were still worrisome digital divides within and across countries that needed to be addressed, she continued.  Despite the growth in Internet coverage, half the world’s population was not using the information superhighway.  There were differences across regions, with 81 per cent of developed as opposed to 40 per cent in developing countries and 15 per cent in least developed countries.  The gender gap was substantial in least developed countries.  There was also a rural-urban gap within countries, with only 29 per cent of the world’s rural population covered by 3G networks.  It was necessary to provide affordable access to ensure no one was left behind.

She said that Member States recognized the interconnected nature of ICT and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, notably the cross-cutting nature of ICT in achieving development goals.  It was necessary to understand long-term changes that Governments, businesses and societies were changing as a result of those technologies.  There were risks of greater inequality caused by the digital divide, as well as threats to personal security and privacy.

MARIE PAULE ROUDIL, Director, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), introduced the report “Communication for development programmes in the United Nations system” (document A/71/307), providing an overview of actions taken by the United Nations system to facilitate the empowerment of individuals and communities through communications and participation in media.  Since the preparation of the last version of the report in 2014, there had been much progress in coordinating United Nations organizations and setting a coherent, cohesive action agenda.  It was necessary to protect public access to information.  The 2030 Agenda had developed a new indicator framework to assess national and global progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  UNESCO in particular highlighted target 16.10, which sought to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms.

“The overall priority of UNESCO could be described as facilitating media development and the role of media in sustainable development,” she said.  UNESCO highlighted World Radio Day on 13 February, World Pres Freedom Day on 3 May, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November and the International Day for the Universal Access of Information on 28 September.  The report had first been produced in 1996, and much had changed since then in the world of communications technologies and the opportunities they offered to societies.

Prospects for any further Inter-Agency Round Tables were unclear due to financial concerns, she continued.  It was clear that respective agencies and organizations of the United Nations system were doing communication relevant to development.  By contrast, reporting on each Sustainable Development Goal provided a targeted and pertinent channel for how communication was contributing in a focused way to specific issues.  For that reason, she asked whether the Second Committee wished to adopt the draft decision that followed the recommendations contained in the report, which called for the discontinuation of the report and Inter-Agency Round Table in favour of more direct contribution by the United Nations system to a new sustainable development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

PITCHAPORN LIWJAROEN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reiterated the importance of ICT for achieving the international agreed development goals.  The Group welcomed the outcome document of the 2015 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, and reaffirmed the Summit’s vision of a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society.

She said that ICT could promote inclusive growth, and emphasized the strong need to bridge the digital divide between and within countries through technology transfer, effective and sustainable technical assistance and capacity-building.  The Group highlighted the growing importance and contribution of ICT to development in areas such as health, education, knowledge sharing, agriculture, promotion of peace and responses to the impacts of climate change, early warning systems and disaster risk reduction, as well as humanitarian response.  The Group also attached great importance to strengthening the representation of developing countries in the Internet Governance Forum.

DATO ABDUL GHAFAR ISMAIL (Brunei Darussalam), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Group of 77, said his group remained committed to a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society.  However, he was concerned that results on attaining that vision had been uneven and challenges persisted — namely, the digital divide and socioeconomic gap between developed and developing countries.  According to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) statistics, 41.1 per cent of the population in developing countries would have access to the Internet by the end of 2016, compared to 83.8 per cent in developed countries.  As the majority of individuals using the Internet in the future would be from developing countries, ASEAN saw an urgent need to bridge the widening digital divide gap between developed and developing countries. In addressing that, he suggested strengthened enabling policy environments and international cooperation to improve affordability, connectivity, access, education, content and capabilities.

For the Association, he continued, ICT had played a critical role in supporting regional integration and connectivity efforts.  As Member States forged ahead in deepening economic integration and community building, ICT could play an ever-increasing pivotal role.  Over the past five years, ICT in ASEAN had improved through successful completion of the first ASEAN-ICT Masterplan 2015 in close cooperation with Dialogue Partners and other stakeholders.  The region had seen exports of ICT services become a larger component of total services export; costs of Internet access and mobile subscription fell sharply; a rise in employment in the ICT sector; the transformation of Government services into digital ones; and increased awareness of cybersecurity.

PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77 as well as the Alliance of Small Island States, stressed the unique challenges small islands faced in achieving sustainable development.  They were acutely vulnerable to unmitigated climate change and natural hazards, which wreaked havoc annually to their societies and negatively affected development.  Those isle States were also challenged by their dependence on volatile export markets, narrow resource bases and limited economies of scale.  As the majority of them were considered middle-income countries, their access to development financing was limited, which severely impeded them in tackling localized pockets of poverty and inequality.  The Community was, however, mindful of the possibility of circumventing those challenges should it enhance its capacity to participate in the evolving knowledge spaces and increase its access to and application of ICTs, especially the new generation technologies and platforms.

The bases of international competitive advantage had evolved to favour those who were able to innovate and create knowledge as well as technological applications, she continued.  The exponential increase in real-time flows of information, as well as platforms and fora used for cross-border exchange, had also evolved to favour digital interfaces.  ICTs formed the bedrock of modern society and any nation ill-equipped with the infrastructure, capacity and inclusive access to the most up-to-date innovations and knowledge would be left behind.  Commitment to the universal implementation of the 2030 Agenda required sustained dialogue on best practices in ICT development, multi-stakeholder collaboration and private-public partnerships.  It also required the transfer of resources and investment from developed countries which stood at the vanguard of the digital revolution, to lesser developed nations.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77, said the spread of ICT was faster than ever before.  More and more people had access to the Internet, mobile phones and other IT-related devices.  The number of Internet users had increased by threefold in a decade.  People, institutions, business, researchers and Governments were more connected than before.  However, the global average masked strong disparities in access between countries.  Only 6.7 per cent of households in least developed countries had Internet access, compared to 34.1 per cent in developing countries.  Some 19 of 20 countries with the lowest percentage of Internet users were least developed countries.  Disparities even prevailed within countries, especially between rural and urban areas.

In addressing the international community’s development goal of affordable universal Internet access by 2020, he made several recommendations.  It was important for countries to adopt appropriate policies and strategies to ensure availability, affordability and accessibility to ICT services.  ICT services and facilities must be combined with relevant skills, capabilities and opportunities.  Appropriate training and education was vital in providing necessary ICT literacy and numeracy of citizens to seize the opportunity that modern know-how allows them to adapt and commercialize them, considering local needs and circumstances.  Least developed countries also needed adequate financial support to build their ICT networks, especially broadband networks.  They also required adequate support to procure necessary instruments, hardware and software to acquire access to modern equipment and facilities.

AHMED SAREER (Maldives), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the 2030 Agenda and its implementation relied heavily on the development and transfer of ICTs.  Yet, access to ICTs in the scattered populations of island States remained a major challenge.  There was an issue of lack of adequate and appropriate infrastructure to support the development and deployment of ICTs, as well as the capacity for more effective use.  It was critical to develop policies to increase self-reliance of local economies, trade and tourism, food production and the health of the population in the face of climate change and increasing frequency of natural hazards.

Continuing, he said that extreme weather events also posed a significant threat to the stable operation of a host of critical infrastructure systems, including telecommunications.  Such events had the potential to compromise major communication backbones, such as the Internet, which relied largely on fixed data connections and power supplies.  The potential of ICTs in isle States was vast as it helped reduce barriers of distance, improved service delivery within and between island nations and helped reduce costs for service deliveries.  ICTs also improved tourism, enhanced economic growth and most importantly helped island nations work together.  He emphasized the significance of the Samoa Pathway and urged the international community to work together to implement its many goals.

MARIA ANGELA PONCE (Philippines), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said ICT was a transformative and needed enabler for nation-building, poverty eradication, inclusive growth and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  It was a priority in the Philippines to promote the use of ICT for the enhancement of key public services, such as education, public health and safety, revenue generation and socio-civic purposes.  However, the global community still needed to address the critical issue of a broadening digital divide, within and among States.  Having in place the appropriate ICT infrastructure, increasing speed and reducing costs of broadband access was a priority for the Philippines.  The Government was focused on building a national broadband network and widening coverage of free Wi-Fi services to poorer and isolated municipalities and rural areas.  Domestic resource mobilization and encouraging more investments in ICT from the private sector were an important start, but international cooperation for capacity-building and technology transfer was essential.

INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said ICTs must add value and create new livelihoods that were better than existing ones.  Welcoming progress in reaching people around the world with mobile phone coverage, broadband and LTE networks, she nevertheless warned against losing track of the half of the global population that remained unconnected.  While there would sometimes be situations in which ICTs were not the best tools for development, or where they could prove disruptive or abet social tensions, their transformative effect on people was undeniable and must continue to be an enabler of the global transformation.  “Eliminating the digital divide is not only inevitable, but necessary in the context of leaving no one behind,” she said in that regard.  Calling for close alignment between the implementation of the World Summit on the Information Society process and the 2030 Agenda, she emphasized the need for investment in infrastructure, enhanced capacity-building and transfer of technology to developing countries; enhanced confidence and security in the use of ICTs; and the development of an effective platform for the exchange of good ICT practices.

ASHISH SINHA (India), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the power of digitization of information and data, much expanded connectivity through instant communication and affordable accessibility through smartphones were leading to profound changes everywhere.  Mobile technologies and broadband connectivity were being rapidly deployed in developing countries and emerging markets.  The use of ICT tools in e-governance was making open Government data widely available to all sections of society, including the vulnerable and geographically isolated, vastly expanding transparency, efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.  His country’s Government recognized the power of ICTs to improve governance, and had implemented its Digital India programme to enhance broadband highways, universal access, public Internet access and e-governance to bridge the digital divide.  India had used ICT to push financial inclusion through a biometric-based unique individual identification system, with more than one billion Indians having already been issued unique identity cards.

MICHAEL RONEN (Israel) said that ICT had penetrated nearly all corners of the globe and every facet of daily life.  It had revolutionized how people interacted, connected, travelled and conducted business.  Knowledge was no longer geographically limited, but could be shared instantly with people on the other side of the globe.  In order to maintain that and grow potential, collective efforts of all sectors would be critical.  It was important to reaffirm commitment to connecting the unconnected and addressing the digital divide to ensure that all Member States could achieve sustainable development and guarantee that no one was left behind.  Reaching those goals would require the successful development, utilization and application of ICTs.  Israel knew first-hand how important a role ICT could play on the path towards development.  In the 68 years since its establishment, Israel had been transformed from a land of swamps and sands into a start-up nation.  His country would remain committed to cooperating and working towards connecting the unconnected and reaching out to its neighbours and partners around the world.

ROMAN V LOPYREV (Russian Federation) said the United Nations should promote deeper understanding of the information society and impacts it had on Governments and society.  Many countries rightly saw the digital divide and inequitable Internet access as key factors holding back development.  Indeed, development and the broad application of ICTS had become a focus to spur on development.  ICTS were one of the fundamental means of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other key international agreements.  As ICTS expanded and their use increased, it was important to develop an Internet legal framework for cyberspace governance.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that ICTs were an important promoter of economic and social development.  Universal access to the Internet could bring in substantial societal and economic gains, however, despite positive developments, there was a continuing digital divide and a gap in broadband access between developed and developing countries, as well as within countries, particularly gender-wise.  Mobilizing resources had remained a significant challenge.  Despite that, Sri Lanka’s ICT sector had grown remarkably with an industry of more than 75,000 employees and more than 220 companies.  The national broadband policy of Sri Lanka too was helping narrow the digital divide and harness the power of ICTs.  Sri Lanka’s free Wi-Fi had strengthened those efforts as well.  As a multi-ethnic, multicultural society, Sri Lanka had also taken the lead initiative in putting in place technical conditions to facilitate local languages on the Internet.

ABDULLAH MOHAMMED A ALGHUNAIM (Saudi Arabia) said it was important to use information to the service of development and deal with the connectivity of ICTs.  Saudi Arabia had adopted an international vision on that matter in keeping with its own values.  His country had a communications plan to reinvigorate and enhance electronic services for development by creating an arena which was favourable to investment using every possibility offered by this technology.  The concept of the responsibility of the parties was a basic principle in accordance with the Tunis Programme of Work.  The State could decide how to create and implement that technology.  But there had been a slight slow process in implementing the recommendations of Tunis, regarding paragraphs 29 and 31 of its Programme of Work, and there seemed to be a failure to follow up on the recommendations in paragraphs 8 and 69.  His country supported the creation of a working group specializing in drafting the recommendations on progress which would strengthen the synergy, and it encouraged the Chair to ask the General Assembly President to ensure there was a balance in representation of the various groups.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said there had been a revolution in innovation and access to the Internet since the last international information summit.  Despite achievements, however, there were concerns about the continuing digital gap.  There was an urgent need to continue to remove obstacles and open up developing country access to ICTs.  The international community must follow up on implementation of the 2030 Agenda relating to ICTs.  Moreover, it needed to develop a judicial system for the appropriate use of ICTs before they became dangerous tools, including social networks that could work against States and international law.  CARICOM was working to extend the Internet to all, particularly as a means of improving productivity and economic growth.

WILLIAM JOSÉ CALVO CALVO (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77, said ICT was fundamental in democratizing processes and ensuring the implementation of the 2015 agreements were effective.  Costa Rica believed in the multi-stakeholder model including the private sector and civil society, noting that capacities of developing countries needed to be strengthened.  His country believed in an inclusive, personal-oriented development which ensured human rights recognized offline were also recognized online, including freedom of opinion, association, protection of the press and human rights defenders.

YE YONGFENG (Singapore), associating himself with the Group of 77, ASEAN and the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, said that increasing digitalization brought with it serious challenges such as disruptions in traditional business models, job displacement, cyberattacks and digital exclusion.  The digital economy also created many new jobs and opportunities for businesses and individuals.  To bridge the digital divide, it was critical to support businesses as they adopt new technologies and transform business models to enhance competitiveness at home and abroad.  Leveraging the divide would thus be essential to achieving sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.  The Government must do more to support people with job opportunities and develop digital talent.  Data must be used more effectively to improve the implementation of sustainable development while the private sector focused on creating other value-added services.

CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that ICTs were undoubtedly a powerful and transformative tool in fostering economic growth, social inclusion and environmentally friendly solutions, enabling advances in sustainable development.  That potential, however, would only be fully materialized if it served humanity as a whole.  Efforts to bridge the digital divide between and within countries were crucial.  Unfortunately, that gap was widening, and the majority of the poor remained excluded from the benefits of ICTs.  Deficiencies in the full availability of broadband posed a critical challenge worldwide.  That situation went against the spirit and letter of the 2030 Agenda and must be reversed.  It was time to identify concrete ways ICTs could contribute to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  All countries and peoples must have access and the capacity to participate in the information society, both as consumers and producers of technologies and content that addressed their needs and priorities.

RAJA REZA RAJA ZAIB SHAH (Malaysia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, recognized the potential of ICT in accelerating growth, eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development.  The development plan of Malaysia sought to turn his nation into a competitive regional technology hub.  His country sought four strategies:  reenergizing the ICT industry, ensuring adequate supply of high-quality human capital, improving infrastructure and pursuing inclusion.  Malaysia focused on inclusive digital solutions, mobilizing a future generation equipped with the relevant skills to thrive in a digital economy.  As technology became more pervasive in everyday life, people could connect globally, improving their employability in a global context.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal) said that as his State was a landlocked, mountainous and least developed country, it had pinned great hope on ICTs.  The 2030 Agenda aptly recognized that ICT and global interconnectedness had a great potential to reduce poverty and inequality.  ICTs opened up avenues for accessing the world market and participating in and benefiting from opportunities such as investment, trade and business.  “ICTs can truly prove a game-changer,” he said.  ICT-enabled early warning systems were also critical to overcoming disasters such as the earthquake Nepal had experienced the previous year.  It was necessary to overcome the digital divide and ensure that there was access to digital opportunity for all.

ALI ALNUAIMI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his Government had invested heavily in the ICT sector through building an enabling environment for that sector to develop and flourish.  National ICT development had supported the country’s emergence as a logistics and shipping hub, a global finance centre and a leader in Government service delivery.  Independent telecom regulators, public-private partnerships and openness to foreign investment were some of the key determinants of the expansion of the sector and his nation’s economy.  It was important to achieve gender balance in Internet users; work collectively to find means to utilize the Internet as a tool to tackle the root causes of extremism by enhancing societal participation; enhance infrastructure development; and ensure a people-centred, development-oriented society.

SALVADOR DE LARA RANGEL (Mexico) said the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals contained a key strategy to tackle economic development and improve the planet for current and future generations.  ICTs were extraordinary tools for achieving international development goals, bringing fresh solutions to globalization as well as sustainable and equitable economic growth.  It was critical that all parties cooperated in the area of ICTs by promoting national, regional and international thematic platforms.  Bridging the digital gap was linked with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The close interrelationship between the Goals and ICTs was acknowledged in the outcome document of the December World Summit on the Information Society.

MOUNKAILA YACOUBA (Niger) said that today we were more than ever interdependent, north to south, east to west.  Communication was necessary to integrate on the global level.  ICTs were essential factors for promoting the economic and social development of a nation.  Niger understood that their impact on other sectors of the economy had multiplier effects, and promoting the ICT sector would allow it to not only bridge the digital divide but to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Niger had created a Ministry for policy and regulation of the sector and amended the regulatory framework of the sector to advance the economy.  Niger had developed a national fibre-optic backbone, allowing the country to dramatically expand its fibre-optic network, and was working to enhance cross-border broadband with its neighbours.

TAMARA KHARASHUN (Belarus) said it was important for the United Nations and General Assembly to continue focusing attention on the development of ICTS.  The main concern should be to bridge the digital divide between and within countries.  It was also important to focus on standardization between countries and ensure equitable access to new ICT technology.  Considering the increasing penetration of the Internet in all sectors of the economy, Internet governance should be carried out by the international community in a non-discriminatory, clear, transparent and predictable manner with the participation of all States.  She also stressed the importance of continuing with consultative assistance to States to implement technology that would increase competiveness of their economies.

ANTHONY ANDANJE (Kenya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that ICT would ultimately lead to poverty eradication.  His Government had established a Ministry responsible for ICT and most Government services were delivered through ICT.  The M-Pesa mobile payment system, familiar to many, represented the most extraordinary Government success in ICT.  It had irrevocably changed the banking system in Kenya and beyond and had made banking more inclusive, as the population that was previously without banking services now had access to them.  Infrastructure, human resource development and an appropriate regulatory framework were also important.  His Government had formulated a plan that would address the legal and regulatory environment and would also stimulate the growth of ICT-related business.

LIU JUN (China) said the world was seeing constant ICT accelerations.  Broadband, big data, cloud computing and the Internet were changing the world.  China highlighted the role of ICT in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The international community had made huge progress in building an information society, but the digital divide still existed.  Promoting the diffusion of ICT globally would allow opportunity for all.  China stressed the importance of improving global development partnerships, including strengthening North-South and South-South cooperation.  China was ready to share its experiences with all other countries.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77, expressed concern over the widening digital divide between and within countries.  Although Africa had made progress in the ICT sector, particularly in setting up policy and legal frameworks, its broadband deployment and Internet access remained insufficient.  It was vital to prevent the abuse of such technology and United Nations agencies should improve their understanding of the rapid changes in that sphere, providing support to developing countries.  Such technologies could also play a key role in achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and could have an enabling role in eradicating poverty.  To attract local and foreign investment, his Government had opened an information technology park known as “Ethio ICT Village”, which had started to facilitate technology transfer through public-private initiatives, among others.  It had also made significant progress in infrastructure development and service expansion, raising mobile subscribers from half a million in 2005 to more than 40 million in 2015, with plans to reach 103 million by 2020.

ILKIN HAJIYEV (Azerbaijan) said that his country was full of dynamic economic development, having recognized the critical role of ICTs in development.  One of the long-term goals was to invest revenues from the oil sector into the development of the non-petroleum sectors, namely, human resources development and creation of a technologically capable, competitive and innovative economy.  Azerbaijan had implemented several initiatives on the development of information society for 2014-2020.  For instance, its initiative in telecommunications satellites had launched in 2013 and the second was planned for 2017.  Azerbaijan had also initiated the establishment of the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway aimed to serve as a major element of the East-West transport corridor facilitating access to the Internet.  The growing importance and rapid evolution of the information society posed a number of challenges, such as the risks of greater inequality arising from digital divides and threats to personal security and privacy.  Addressing that would be critical for the post-2015 implementation.

BANKOLE ADEOYE (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that his continent had continued to make progress in access to ICTs and their application of veritable tools for development.  Africa had witnessed growth in investment in national and international broadband infrastructure, improved connectivity, increased bandwidth and services such as e-governance.  Nevertheless, its broadband deployment had not kept pace with that in other regions, and there was a widening digital gap between developed and developing nations.  For ICT to be people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented, a greater emphasis was needed on reducing the cost of such technologies, he said, noting that Nigeria had provided ICT infrastructure to expand job creation, enhance business productivity and growth as well as stimulate wealth creation.  Recalling that the country’s introduction of a Global System for Mobile Communication had ensured the growth of mobile telephone communication, he said Nigerian mobile phone subscription was nearing 190 million — more than the country’s total population.

Mr. BILJEEK (Bahrain) attached special importance to the role of technology, particularly in the electronics area.  Electronic governance had provided services to everyone.  All the ministries in Bahrain’s Government had a unified site and so they all enjoyed services.  Bahrain was pioneering in its region the infrastructure of telecommunications since 2004, the first Arab country in using telecommunications.  His State had a very high indicator of such services among Arab countries and was number three at the international level regarding ICT and electronic services according to the 2016-17 ranking of the International Forum.  Bahrain was confident that greater accomplishments would be made, and hoped that its successes would go beyond its borders to have an important ICT centre in the Middle East.

KADIATOU SALL-BEYE, International Telecommunication Union, said that half of the world’s population or more than 3.5 billion people were still offline, the majority being women.  ITU estimated that there were about 250 million fewer women than men online and that the global Internet user gender gap had grown from 11 per cent in 2013 to 12 per cent in 2016.  Figures by the Union also showed that Internet penetration rates were higher for men than women in every region of the world and that there were fewer women in the ICT workplace at every level and in every country.  Empowering girls and women with ICT skills could solve the predicted shortfall of over 2 million jobs in the technology sector within the next five years.  That was why ITU and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) had announced EQUALS: The Global Partnership to Ensure Gender equality in the Digital Age.  The overall aim of the Partnership was to bring Governments, international organizations, civil society, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and academia together to build on existing resources, networks and expertise and scale up programmes to close the digital gender gap and empower women and girls through ICTs.

For information media. Not an official record.