Access, cybersecurity, transparency and privacy among key issues
Jalisco, 9 December – New approaches are needed to provide Internet access to all people and close a stubborn digital divide that is exacerbating inequalities among and within countries, according to participants attending the 11th annual Internet Governance Forum which concluded in Mexico today.
In four days of intense debates and discussions on the future of the Internet, the Forum heard calls for concerted actions to ensure that the benefits of the Internet reach all members of society as well as all countries, both developed and developing, to further enable the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
This year’s Forum is the first since its mandate was renewed for 10 years at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in December 2015, underscoring the importance of this platform and ensuring that the discussions of this transparent multistakeholder policy forum continue.
“Leading up to the twelfth IGF next year, innovations in programming and intersessional activities will continue to be implemented in a bottom-up manner, based on feedback from the multistakeholder community and in line with our new mandate which calls for greater participation from stakeholders from developing countries and improved working modalities,” emphasized by Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, in a message delivered by Juwang Zhu, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Recognising the critical role of the Internet in providing access to opportunities for all, participants at the Internet Forum — governments, the technical community, private sector and civil society — advocated for more capacity-building and training, as well as closer collaboration and partnerships. More than 2,000 participants from over 70 countries participated in the Forum on-site, with more than 10,000 more following live YouTube sessions and joining as remote participants.
The nearly 200 sessions at the Forum addressed a number of critical issues including human rights and freedom of expression online, multistakeholder cooperation and cybersecurity. Particular attention was focused on youth and gender issues and the digital divide — the technological gap that exists between developed and developing countries. In addition to the physical challenges of providing connectivity at affordable rates, experts say there are also difficulties with having more of the Internet economy available in local languages and reaching people who have yet to recognize the benefits that the Internet can provide.
The lowest levels of Internet usage are in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, with less than three per cent of the population using the Internet in a number of countries including Chad (2.7 per cent), Sierra Leone (2.5 per cent), Niger (2.2 per cent), Somalia (1.8 per cent) and Eritrea (1.1 per cent).
Additionally, while connectivity continues to be an economic and infrastructural challenge, further barriers exist in digital literacy. With regard to the gender gap, there are now 257 million more men online than women, and women face a wider variety of online harassment and abuse.
“It’s very important to bring women online because the part of the population that is not online is missing out a lot. They need to enhance their businesses, they need to enhance their lives, and part of that comes with them being online,” said Evelyn Namara, Founder and CEO of !nnovate Uganda, an organization that works toward sustainable technological development. She added that accessibility is particularly problematic for women in rural areas.
Participants reported on a host of new programmes underway that are overcoming the barriers to universal access, including job trainings and public-private partnerships. Still, there is no one solution to the problem and that all situations are unique. The advent of disruptive technologies like the Internet of things and artificial intelligence, while having the potential to bring groundbreaking benefits to mankind and our quality of life, may also lead to more social exclusion.
Delegates reiterated that digital literacy and the development of local and culturally diverse content is fundamental for inclusive growth. An emerging consensus has developed among the IGF community that the Internet’s core values of openness, freedom, resilience, safety and decentralisation are fundamental for enabling sustainable growth.
About the Internet Governance Forum
Each year, the United Nations Secretary General convenes the IGF meeting, bringing together various stakeholders to discuss current and emerging Internet governance issues, as well as related opportunities and challenges in an open, inclusive and transparent forum.
The IGF is recognized as the widest-reaching international multistakeholder policy forum on Internet governance. Its mandate was renewed for 10 years at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in December 2015. The IGF is at the forefront of identifying and debating critical issues that shape the international agenda, as well as options and solutions for policy makers. It also focuses on giving stakeholders from developing countries the opportunity to consider practical ways to deal with their additional challenges.
For additional information, please visit: http://www.intgovforum.org
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