Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

11th Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
Opening Remarks
Main Session: ‘Sustainable Development, Internet and Inclusive Growth’

Excellencies,
Fellow Panellists,
Distinguished Participants,

It is my pleasure to join you here this morning for the main session on Day 2 of the 11th IGF. Our exchange today can inform the critical ongoing debate about how Internet can contribute to inclusive growth and sustainable development.

I recall participating in last year’s main session in Jao Pessoa on the same theme. I applaud the organizers for creating linkages and continuing the multistakeholder debate between annual IGF sessions. The sub-sessions ‘capacity building’, ‘inclusion of women and youth’, and ‘local relevant content’ are extremely important.

Since last year we have made positive strides towards fostering an environment in which the Internet is contributing positively to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, many obstacles still remain and unfortunately digital divides continue to persist.

One of the ambitious SDG targets is to achieve universal and affordable Internet access in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) by 2020. Another concern is that the rate of Internet access growth is slowing down. If gaps persist between those who access the Internet’s opportunities and those who do not, we won’t be able to achieve the inclusive growth that we all are striving for.

The widening gap between developed and developing countries needs to be urgently addressed. We need to think together here at the IGF about how to create an enabling policy environment. We need to enhance international and multistakeholder cooperation to improve accessibility and affordability.

Only by empowering young people and marginalized populations will we create an information society which truly enables inclusive growth.

The development of skilled and engaged young people who can create local online content and e-services, for example, is essential. Let’s call on policymakers to support professional skill development, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Digital literacy is needed for all citizens.

We are already more than one year into the implementation period of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development some months ago took stock of our efforts.

The IGF community can play an important role. You all represent important perspectives. Representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector, the UN system and other stakeholders all have crucial roles to play.

All three pillars of sustainable development need Internet as key catalysts. Internet connectivity and growth can be used to accelerate economic development by facilitating e-commerce.

It can move social development forward by overcoming critical obstacles such as social exclusion and growing inequalities.

An inclusive digital economy will ensure that all populations have access to technology. No groups can be excluded due to barriers such as high costs, lack of infrastructure or cultural hurdles.

All of these challenges make our deliberations, capacity building efforts and cooperation within the IGF so crucial. To bring about inclusive growth and a thriving digital economy will require a focused effort from all of us.

I wish you all fruitful and forward-looking discussions.

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