Seoul, Republic of Korea

20 May 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at the Seoul Digital Forum

Before I start, I want to make the following statement.

Early this morning, the authorities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea informed us, through their diplomatic channels, that they were reversing their decision for me to visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

No explanation was given for this last-minute change.

This decision by Pyongyang is deeply regrettable. However, I as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, will not spare any efforts to encourage the DPRK to work with the international community for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and beyond.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to such a dynamic group.

I congratulate SBS for organizing this conference on “Motivated curiosity- seeking new breakthroughs.”

Information and communications technology has transformed the global landscape.

The communications revolution touches every aspect of the UN’s work.

Our food agency uses mobile phones to help farmers set prices.

Our relief operations communicate emergency information over online networks.

And our messages go directly to the global public over Twitter and Facebook.

Nearly 15 years ago, when governments set the Millennium Development Goals, the world did not have the smartphones or online social networks that we see today.

Now we are developing sustainable development goals to guide our global fight against poverty for the next 15 years.

In the year 2000, ambassadors negotiated in back rooms at the United Nations to create the MDGs. We remain grateful for their vision.

Today, we are reaching out to the world to hear what people want for their future.

We conducted an online survey called MyWorld. Already nearly seven and a half million people responded.

Globally, six out of every seven people on earth have a mobile phone.

There are three billion Internet users – and that number is increasing fast.

In Africa, mobile broad-band penetration jumped from 2 percent in 2010 to 20 percent last year.

These numbers are impressive – but there is even more to the human story.

Let me give you an example of how this technology is making a difference.

At the United Nations, we stand for inclusion.

I have always pledged to lead by example. I never want to see members of our community excluded for any reason.

That is why I was so grateful when the Government of Korea helped us to launch a new state-of-the-art Accessibility Centre right in the heart of the United Nations.

This is a wonderful initiative that provides cutting-edge equipment, including ICTs, so that persons with disabilities can fully participate in all intergovernmental meetings at our Headquarters.

When we launched the Centre, I said it was a model of our new digital United Nations.

I also pledged to do everything possible to bring this technology to other offices around the world. I thank the Government of Korea for continuing to support these efforts.

The Republic of Korea has the fastest, cheapest and most widespread broadband access in the world. For several years in a row, Korea is at the top of the UN list of leaders in this field. Korea ranks first in level of ICT access, use and skills.

Now I urge Korea to do even more to help other countries use this technology to boost development and reduce inequality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world is transitioning to a knowledge-based economy.

But there is still a wide digital divide.

Connectivity tends to be better in cities than the countryside. And more men have access to the Internet than women.

Closing these gaps will advance development.

Experts have proven this.

For every 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration in the developing world, GDP goes up by almost two percent on average.

ICTs have a profound influence on development.

Data is the new oil. Data centres are the factories of the 21st century.

Data is the lifeblood of decision-making. It provides the raw material for accountability.

Advanced technologies are accelerating progress – but there are also emerging threats.

Bullies hide behind screen names and troll innocent victims.

Extremist groups are using social networks to spread their hateful ideologies.

Entire governments and industries are vulnerable to attacks by hackers.

Two years ago, some 600 million people were victims of cybercrimes. Experts estimate these crimes will cost the global economy about $400 billion every year.

When we work for more access to ICTs, we have to push just as hard for cybersecurity.

Trust is vital to digital transactions.

People deserve to feel safe when they log on to their computers.

We have to protect fundamental freedoms.

Governments commit to protecting human rights – but in too many places, they restrict people’s access to information.

In the last century, repressive States would check on who was buying typewriters.

In today’s world, they shut down the Internet.

There are also controversies about surveillance.

I have clearly stated that concerns about national security and criminal activity may justify exceptional and narrowly-tailored use of surveillance.

But surveillance must have safeguards to protect the right to privacy.

No private communications should be being unduly or unjustly scrutinized.

To make the most of the ICT revolution, we need attention to these very serious matters.

Technological advances are unstoppable – and they are bringing dramatic improvements to our world.

I am calling for more than connectivity.

We need broadband inspired by a broad vision.

We need social networks that work for social inclusion.

We need unity – around a common, global vision for a future of dignity and peace for all people.

Inspired by this vision, let us harness the power of ICTs to create a new era of sustainable development.

Thank you.