Opening Remarks at Innovation for Emergency Connectivity (Side Event at the STI Forum 2022)

Ambassador Aidid,

Excellencies, Distinguished participants,

Colleagues and Friends,

I am pleased to welcome you today to this Special Session on “Innovation for
Emergency Connectivity” – jointly organized by my office, the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, ITU and the United Nations Innovation Network (UNIN).

The world is facing crisis upon crisis. We are still struggling to recover from the COVID19 pandemic, while the war in Ukraine has had devastating consequences. And all this is compounding urgent challenges such as the climate and environmental crisis, and growing global inequalities.

It is against this backdrop of increasing urgency in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals that we are discussing this issue of emergency connectivity. We have seen how digital technologies are a critical enabler for growth and development. Indeed, ensuring universal and affordable internet for all is critical to accelerating progress towards the SDGs. It is the foundation of ensuring an open free and secure digital future, that the Secretary-General has called for in his Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and his Common Agenda Report. This is why recently, my Office and the ITU have launched a groundbreaking set of targets to achieve universal and meaningful connectivity for 2030.

But even as we stress the importance of universal connectivity, we must recognize that the challenges to connectivity during situations of crisis, disaster and emergencies are particularly profound. In these times when people face life-threatening harms and dangers; this is when they need connectivity more urgently than ever before: to have access to critical information and services, to stay connected with loved ones, to provide truthful information and perspectives. Recent events, from the massive volcano eruption and tsunami that then cut Tonga off from the rest of the world for 5 painful weeks; to the situation in Ukraine where satellite internet has been, literally, a lifeline for many; have shown us how connectivity, in emergency situations, is imperative.

This is why the Secretary-General, as part of his Digital Cooperation Roadmap, has called for accelerating discussions on connectivity as part of emergency preparedness, responses and aid. Indeed, to secure connectivity services and infrastructure, we need innovative ways of thinking, acting, organizing and collaboration, across a broad spectrum of multistakeholder partners. I am thus glad to welcome our panellists from SpaceX, GSOA, Conatel, Jangala, as well as leading UN experts from WFP and the ITU/WMO/UNEP Focus Group on AI for Natural Disaster Management. Especially as the UN works towards the Global Digital Compact, proposed by the Secretary-General as a key outcome of next year’s Summit of the Futures; your reflections and inputs are extremely important.

I look forward to productive discussions today, as a catalyst for even more important collaboration and partnerships ahead.

I thank you.

File date: 
Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Ms. Spatolisano