Your Excellency, ITU Secretary-General Mr. Houlin Zhao
Your Excellency, Mr. Maxim Parshin, Chairman of the WSIS Forum,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to join you at the opening ceremony of the 2021 WSIS Forum.
I would like to congratulate ITU for the excellent organisation of the Forum, and for focusing on “ICTs for Inclusive, Resilient and Sustainable Societies and Economies - WSIS Action Lines for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed how governments and stakeholders around the world have come together to fight the pandemic and advance the vision of the 2030 Agenda.
Remote working and learning platforms have ensured that the foundational activities of our societies continue, despite the challenging circumstances. Connectivity has fuelled research and scientific cooperation to develop, test, and distribute new vaccines at a pace faster than ever before, to meet urgent needs.
Thanks to ICTs and the collaborative efforts of the international community, we can start planning for a steady transition towards resilient, inclusive, and sustainable recovery.
At UN DESA, through our research on digital government, we have witnessed numerous innovations to lay the groundwork for economic and social recovery. Governments and other stakeholders have come up with innovative applications in short time.
These included apps for:
• contact tracing,
• virus tracking,
• online permits,
• remote health monitoring and AI powered chatbots, among many others.
These innovations are highlighted in the United Nations E-Government Survey, prepared by UN DESA, and in its Compendium of Digital Government Applications in response to the pandemic.
Let me also use this opportunity to thank ITU for their ongoing collaboration with my Department, in the preparation of the United Nations E-Government Survey.
The sixth annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for the SDGs was held earlier this month. At the Forum, we explored various ways in which digital, scientific, and technological innovations can be brought to benefit sustainable recovery.
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, has called for an inclusive, fair and sustainable recovery. Progress on reducing poverty, providing equal access to health care, and tackling the climate crisis, will help strength our resilience to shocks.
It is our collective duty to ensure that the digital capacities and innovations we have built during the pandemic, are harnessed to address digital gaps and support those left behind, and offline.
I am happy to inform you that our discussions and collaboration on these issues will continue at the 2021 Internet Governance Forum (IGF).
In December this year, the IGF will meet in Katowice, Poland under the headline “Internet United” – to reaffirm the United Nations commitment to an internet that is inclusive, safe, affordable, and open to all.
Rapid action is needed. It is critical to close the digital divide, promote inclusion, and make the Internet accessible to the more than 3 billion people who are not yet online.
We must invest – in both human as well as digital assets – to remove the infrastructure barriers and the digital skill gaps. No government, industry or institution has the capacity to meet these challenges alone. We must build these capacities at all levels of society, through multilateral and multi-stakeholder partnerships, involving all sectors.
In this regard, UN DESA has worked with ITU and other UN entities to:
• advance WSIS action lines in promotion of digital technologies for development (WSIS Action Line C1),
• assist Member States in their digital government development (Action Line C7), and
• encourage new partnerships (Action Line C11).
We will continue to undertake these facilitation roles with all stakeholders as part of a whole-of-society approach, to improve the quality of life for all.
I wish you a productive dialogue.