Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

Sixty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly
ECOSOC Special Event

“Implementing the post-2015 development agenda: Enhancing access to and security of ICTs”

Chairpersons: Mr. Oh Joon, Vice-President of ECOSOC
Fellow Panellists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for joining us for this important special event.  And give special thanks to our chair H.E. Mr. Oh Joon, Vice-President of ECOSOC; our Moderator Ambassador Karklins and my fellow panelists for participating today.  I also recognize the achievements of Dr. Toure, as he finishes his term as the Secretary-General of ITU.  He has been a champion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a driver of social and economic development since his election in 2007.

One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference was the agreement by Member States to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were to build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda.

With its three pillars, sustainable development seeks to achieve, in a balanced manner, economic development, social development and environmental protection. Access to and security of ICTs are definitely playing a critical role.  In the past decade, we have made great strides in increasing access to ICTs. Together, we need to continue on this path to implement the post-2015 development agenda and SDGs. 

ICTs, and particularly Internet, are crucial for achieving the SDGs. At the end of July, the Open Working Group on SDGs included several references to ICTs in its 17 proposed goals. Some of these references include the crucial role of ICTs and Internet access in education, achieving gender equality and strengthening global development partnerships. For instance, the draft sub-goal 9.c states the need to ‘significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to Internet in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) by 2020’.

The proposed SDGs will be grounded in a new, unified and universal post-2015 development agenda, which requires supporting developing countries at all stages with the transition towards sustainability. In order to achieve such an agenda, we need to optimize the use of technology for developing innovations, spreading knowledge and sharing the benefits through bridging the digital divide.

All three pillars of sustainable development need ICTs as key catalysts. ICTs can be used to accelerate economic development by facilitating e-commerce. They can move social development forward by overcoming critical obstacles such as social exclusion and growing inequalities.

In today’s world of global communication, the questions of sustainability cannot be analysed in isolation from policies that affect information flows, exchange of knowledge and global trade. The importance and speed of ICTs and Internet development and their influence on economic activities, especially online, clearly require increased levels of cooperation. 

There are, however, both opportunities and challenges that we all face to realize the full potential benefits of ICTs.

Earlier this month, the digital world reached another huge milestone;  there are now more than 3 billion Internet users worldwide. This number is expected to increase rapidly in the next few years.

The proliferation of mobile devices, social media, cloud technologies and the staggering amounts of data they generate, have transformed the way we live and work. In the coming years, billions of devices will be connected to the “Internet of Things”, creating a digital network of virtually everything. For example, some private sector companies are helping to develop systems to enable communities directly affected by Ebola to fight it in Sierra Leone. Citizens can use SMS or voice calls that are location-specific to report Ebola-related issues to government, health agencies and others for tracking the disease.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has also asked an Independent Expert Advisory Group to propose ways to improve data for achieving and monitoring sustainable development. Their report states, “Data are the lifeblood of decision-making, and the raw material for accountability.”

While all these advancements have improved our lives, they have also accelerated the rise of an entirely new problem, the security of ICTs. We need to balance our work between providing more access while at the same time ensuring security of ICTs. We need to ensure data security and user trust in the online world as digitally driven economic growth continues. Reducing or eliminating numerous factors that inhibit online interactions and exchange could cause this growth to be even faster and have a bigger impact for the post-2015 development agenda.

We need to ensure that global citizens find a trustworthy cyberspace that promotes peace and security, enables development and respects human rights. The world has never been more interconnected and dependent on information technology.

Almost 600 million individuals were victims of a single cybercrime in 2013. Today, the estimated cost of cybercrime to the global economy is $400 billion annually, and this figure is expected to rise. Over 552 million identities were exposed via ICT security breaches in 2013. 1 in 8 legitimate websites have a critical vulnerability, and Web-based attacks were up 23% in 2013. In addition, 38% of mobile users have experienced mobile cybercrime in the past 12 months.

After these worrisome statistics, some may suggest that if you want to be 100% secure, do not use ICTs. This is a suggestion that is not realistic in today’s era. ICTs are now an integral part of all of our lives. ICTs enable everything in your car, from your GPS to your airbags. They make your phone smart. They support countries’ entire infrastructure. We need to apply ICTs in a smart and secured way.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Because of the rapid growth in global access to ICTs we will have more and more first time users from the developing world. The reality is that people with illicit intentions know that these first-time Internet users from developing countries are particularly vulnerable. Often times, proper network security and legal frameworks are not in place.

Public-private partnerships will be increasingly more important to support the security of first-time Internet users. The cooperative sharing of best practices and capacity building activities, amongst all stakeholders, is important in helping to prevent cybercrime. Considering also the many individuals now being connected for the first time through broadband innovation and mobile connectivity, the importance of urgently building trust in a secure online world is vital.

The inclusion of youth, in formulating policies on all issues related to access and security of ICTs, is absolutely essential. Young people represent the future and are already the most technology savvy generation in most countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

International cooperation is needed to maximize the opportunities and collectively address the challenges ahead.  Although the Internet is a common space, such as oceans and outer space, it is a man-made ecosystem, involving many stakeholders. The security of ICTs is a global problem that demands collaboration from all, involving cross-border, sectorial and multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Let us use today to share our views and experiences and identify the next challenges that we will be facing. I look forward to hearing about your views and concrete suggestions.

Thank you for your attention.