Shaping your digital future

The Internet has become an integral part of our lives over the past decade: from education, personal finance  and effective public services, to social networking and health care. The impact of the Internet on the world today is undeniably significant.

Meanwhile, more than half the world still lacks access to the Internet. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)’s 2016 Measuring the Information Society Report, an estimated 10% or less of people in least developed countries have Internet access, compared with more than 80% in developed countries.

The world is moving rapidly towards a digital future where the Internet determines how people live and communicate with others. The digital divide, if left unaddressed, widens gaps among regions and genders, and leaves many behind.

The 12th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF): Shape Your Digital Future! will take place from 18 to 21 December in Geneva, Switzerland. Drawing on its location in Geneva this year, it represents an invaluable opportunity for strengthening engagement between the IGF’s multistakeholder participants and the international community.

“Information and communications technology can advance human rights, sustainable development and peace,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted during the 2017 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum. “With mobile phones, farmers can monitor prices. Refugees can let their families know they are safe. Health workers can respond to emergencies”.

This IGF meeting aims to facilitate discussions on how Internet opportunities can be maximized and challenges addressed. It gives developing countries the same opportunity as wealthier nations to engage in the debate on Internet governance and promotes their participation in existing institutions and arrangements. Ultimately, the involvement of all stakeholders, from both developed and developing countries, is necessary for the future development of the Internet.

The 12th IGF will discuss some of the most pressing Internet Governance issues today: Connectivity and Access; Impact of the Internet on Sustainable Development and Economic Growth; Human Rights Online; Gender Issues; Cybersecurity; Multistakeholder Collaboration at National, Regional and Global Levels; and Emerging Technologies, and Trends such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Fakenews and Virtual Reality; and many others. These discussions will act as inputs toward the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which relies on robust and strategic use of ICTs and sound Internet policies.

Moreover, the 2017 IGF will include a series of ‘firsts’ in the meeting’s history: the highest number of sessions organized by Governments and intergovernmental organizations (including UN Women, OHCHR, UNESCO, UNCTAD, the World Meteorological Organization – WMO, and the World Intellectual Property Organization – WIPO), the development of ‘Geneva messages’ to provide succinct overviews of the messages emerging from the IGF’s main sessions, and the overwhelming popularity of the ‘Emerging Issues’ subtheme, on which the highest number of sessions focus this year.

With its mandate renewed by the UN General Assembly in December 2015, the IGF has consolidated its position as a platform for bringing together members of various stakeholder groups as equals. While there is no negotiated outcome, the IGF informs and inspires those with policy-making powers in both the public and private sectors. Delegates will hold discussions, exchange information and share good practices with each other at the annual meeting for collectively shaping the digital future.

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