More from UNDESA Vol 21, No. 12 - December 2017

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.

For more information: Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

UN awards US $1 million for Bangladesh solar entrepreneurship initiative to aid rural electrification

Two companies in Bangladesh received the UN DESA US $1 million 2017 UN Energy grant at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 21 November in recognition of a novel project to spur solar entrepreneurship. The two companies, Grameen Shakti and ME SOLshare, received the grant for their joint project that will allow villagers to secure more solar power, save money through flexible energy access, and generate income from trading electricity.

The project will enable rural Bangladeshi villagers to become solar entrepreneurs by creating an interconnected platform where solar home system users and non-users can exchange electricity.

In today’s world, more than 1 billion people globally, mainly in rural areas, live without electricity. Providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is crucial to enable essential health services, gender equality, economic growth, quality education, and to avoid the suffering and death of millions from indoor air pollution resulting from lack of clean cooking technologies. Clean energy is vital to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and leaving no one behind requires providing energy access for all.

The project’s bottom-up mini grids seek to transform solar home systems into an income-generating asset. Its approach leverages existing resources to create a platform fueled by solar with numerous business opportunities for the villagers and with potential for replication throughout Bangladesh and under-electrified regions across the rest of the world.

The partnership estimates that the grant money will enable them to establish a minimum of 100 smart grids resulting in at least 15,000 beneficiaries. But the impact of the grant is going to be greater, as it is likely to inspire more such initiatives.

“Grameen Shakti and SOLshare are deeply honored that our innovative idea of creating a countrywide platform where villagers can share their solar electricity among each other and become smart entrepreneurs has been selected as the winner of the 2017 Powering the Future We Want Grant Challenge by UN DESA,” the winning partnership said in a statement.

“This not only recognizes our innovation and contribution to the path of sustainable Access to Energy for all Bangladeshis, but also entrusts us to excel it to the next level to create the platform for greater leaps of success. We believe this award also underlines the transformation the global energy sector is undergoing to a decentralized, decarbonized, democratized and digitalized one, where Bangladesh, through the great efforts taken by the Bangladesh Government through the Infrastructure Development Company Limited, has already set a great example.”

The grant money will be used to scale up and replicate peer-to-peer solar mini grids, and to leverage the electricity sharing grid infrastructure to power electric rickshaws, run solar water pumps, energy efficient fridges and other appliances, with the potential to strengthen village prosperity and encourage mutual benefits.

“Energy is the golden thread that connects all the Sustainable Development Goals,” UN Deputy-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said in a written statement read out on her behalf during the ceremony. “Achieving SDG7 on energy and transition to sustainable energy can unlock vast economic growth in all regions and for all people, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she emphasized.

UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin said the “Powering the Future We Want” programme is a “creative partnership that connects the intergovernmental work at UN Headquarters to action on the ground.” He added, “Over the past years, this Energy Grant has proved to be valuable in raising awareness, building capacity, and recognizing ingenuity in promoting sustainable energy.”

For more information: UN DESA Energy Grant

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