11th Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Main Session

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,Ladies and Gentlemen, It is a great pleasure for me to be with you at the first main session of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2016.

The 11th IGF on ‘Enabling Inclusive and Sustainable Growth’ is the first since its 10-year mandate renewal.

And, as a UN official representing the Secretary-General here in Mexico, I cannot think of a better topic to kick off the discussions than the topic of this session - Assessing the role of Internet Governance in the SDGs.

In September we celebrated the first anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Agenda is ambitious. It aims to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. Many targets aim for universal access. They bring together agendas that have been thus far addressed on different tracks, from sustainable development to climate change, peaceful societies and institutions. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda, with its 17 goals and 169 targets, began in January this year. Our challenge is to turn the goals and targets into real and lasting change in people’s lives.

Internet and ICTs are one of the reasons we can be optimistic that we can reach the bold transformations required by the SDGs. Target 9.c of the SDGs calls for significantly increasing access to ICT and providing universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.

The Internet can help ensure equitable and effective public services for all, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable. ICTs and Internet bring breakthrough advances for health or education. They can enhance public accountability. They can promote participation for more inclusive societies. They can promote policy integration.

While we have made remarkable progress in the past 10 years in spreading the benefits of ICTs, disparities remain both among countries and among people. Lack of access to technology, poverty and inequality prevent people from fully taking advantage of the potential of Internet. In the 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (12 per cent of world population) only around 1 in 7 people will be online by the end of 2016. In the majority of the world’s poorest countries broadband remains unaffordable. The global Internet user gender gap is increasing.

Many people cannot use the Internet, because they lack the necessary skills or there is insufficient content in their native language. There are many barriers to access, including unreliable power supplies or sparse network coverage.

Further barriers exist in digital literacy, local content and capacity building.

To overcome these challenges, as stated in the WSIS+10 outcome document, we should regularly identify and promote specific, detailed actions to support the enabling environment for Internet.

We need to ask ourselves, for example, what would be the critical next steps all stakeholders should take if we are to reach the target of universal access to the Internet and to close digital divides? We need to think of bold new steps to rally all actors to put the Internet in the service of the poor. There is much we can achieve if the best brains of the ICT industry and society work on making affordable internet access possible.

This year's overarching theme for the annual meeting 'Enabling Inclusive and Sustainable Growth' invites us to reflect on these efforts. Distinguished delegates and colleagues,

In closing, I would like to thank the MAG organizers of this session, and all the colleagues who contributed to its extensive preparation.

I am very much looking forward to hearing different voices on this important topic and wish you constructive deliberations.

Last but not least, I assure you that the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is committed to supporting your work in this area. Thank you for your attention.
File date: 
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Lenni Montiel