Your Excellency Mr. Wang Yi, State Councillor and Foreign Minister,
Excellencies and distinguished participants,
On behalf of the United Nations, I congratulate the China Internet Governance Forum for organizing this timely event, highlighting digital cooperation and sustainable development.
Initiatives like this one help promote dialogue and cooperation on how to harness digital transformation to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
At present, the severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt across the world. And the United Nations continues to provide critical support to developing countries in responding to the pandemic, while working toward a green and sustainable recovery.
The post-Covid-19 era will bring forward a new normal – one that will accelerate digital transformation in many areas. These include digital economy, digital finance, digital government, digital health, and digital education. Indeed, many governments and businesses have already turned to digital platforms and digital solutions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed harsh fragilities and digital divides that have been allowed to develop for far too long.
Because of the digital divide, the adverse impacts of the pandemic have unevenly affected developing countries and vulnerable communities.
This issue is important. Even before the pandemic, close to half of the global population – an estimated 3.6 billion people – remained offline. And most who are unconnected today live in low-income countries and communities, where an average of only two out of every ten people have online connections.
The consequences are immense and far-reaching. A lack of digital connectivity means fewer education opportunities, fewer job opportunities, less access to healthcare, and less government transparency and accountability. We must take concrete action to close all forms of digital divides in ensuring that no one is left behind. Indeed, inclusion is central to the mission of the United Nations and a core principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Today, I will address three key areas that are important when speaking about the digital divide:
- The first on data security and supply chain;
- Second on the digital economy; and,
- Third on global digital governance.
Starting with the first important area of data security and supply chain. Globally, the number of data breaches resulting in economic and social losses is increasing. Not only do data breaches result in financial loss, but they also undermine the effective functioning of institutions and businesses. This impacts key sectors such as healthcare and social security, affecting the safety and security of people.
Many such breaches are estimated to occur across national boundaries. International digital cooperation is therefore imperative, including in the sharing of information on global value chains and the interdependency of the international trade and the financial sectors.
The United Nations and other international organizations are working in various areas of international trade and economic globalization.
For instance, the UN Expert Group on International Trade and Economic Globalization, prepared a report on “Accounting for Global Value Chains: Satellite Accounts and Integrated Business Statistics”. It provides a framework for the measurement of global value chains, and integrated business, trade and investment statistics.
I will now move to the second area, on digital economy. The proliferation and growing investment of digital technologies and knowledge-based capital is transforming our economies and societies, profoundly.
The 2030 Agenda acknowledges that the spread of information and communication technologies, and global interconnectedness, have great potential to accelerate human progress. This is essential to bridge the digital divides and to develop knowledge societies.
But there are governance risks imposed by the digital economy that are inherently linked to the spread of digitalisation. These include uneven distribution and growth among and within countries; the negative impact of the digital revolution on employment; and cybersecurity risks, among others.
We witness the same opportunities, as well risks and challenges, in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. International dialogue and cooperation can help address these risks.
I will now move to the third and interconnected area, on global digital governance process.
In the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for digital cooperation – recently launched in June – he outlined the central challenges to build an inclusive digital economy and society.
And just this past week, the Secretary-General launched the Report by the Task Force on the Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals. It emphasizes that the digitalization of finance must be inclusive and empowering so that it becomes a force for good.
Effective cooperation among Governments, the business sector and other stakeholders will drive digital technologies to play an empowering role in advancing the 2030 Agenda, while mitigating the risks and challenges.
The international community, under the leadership of the United Nations, is working together to address these interconnected challenges, including through the United Nations Technology Facilitation Mechanism, and the global Internet Governance Forum.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fifteenth annual meeting of the IGF will be held virtually in November, under the theme of “Internet for Human Resilience and Solidarity”. This theme reflects the extraordinary role of the Internet and digitalisation during the pandemic.
My Department – UN DESA– is honoured to service the IGF. I invite all of you to join in the global dialogue on the most pertinent governance issues around the sub-themes of: Data, Environment, Inclusion and Trust.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The United Nations will commemorate its 75th anniversary later this month. This will provide all nations and peoples a critical opportunity to renew our commitment to the United Nations and to a reinvigorated multilateralism.
Indeed, the United Nations remains committed in continuing to work with all Member States, the scientific and technological communities, the business sector and stakeholder groups, to strengthen digital cooperation for the future of sustainable development.
Together, let us work towards a peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future that we all want, supported by digital technologies that we all need.
I wish you all a dynamic and fruitful discussion.