Internet Forum: Prioritize technologies most needed for sustainable development

UN photo/Tobias Hofsass DESA USG Liu Zhenmin speaks at the Berlin Internet Governance Forum

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


It is “critical” to prioritize technologies that are most needed for sustainable development, a high-level UN official told the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on Wednesday in Berlin.

Addressing how the world can reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Digital Age, Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said that the power of information and communication technology (ICT) for good, can only be harnessed if people have “a real sense of public trust, security and stability in the digital space.”

He drew attention to technologies and the Internet, which he maintained “have transformed information sharing, revolutionized industries, saved lives and advanced development”.

While new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things can help achieve the SDGs and improve the lives of all, Mr. Liu flagged the need to “continue to showcase how they can make meaningful contributions” to the global goals.

“The IGF is one such important platform”, he said, while noting others, such as the DESA-organized Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Forum and the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

“Each forum has a unique role to play and that they complement each other”, he said, and called the Internet and ICTs “cross-cutting enablers for SDGs”.

But these enablers not only come with challenges but often create new ones, including digital divides, cybersecurity, internet privacy and online human rights protection.

And there are also unforeseeable risks that impact the future of work, global security, and people’s trust and well-being in a digital society.

Breaking down silos

To overcome risks and challenges and ensure that no one is left behind, Mr. Liu advised following the recommendations by the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation.

“The IGF must respond, through the UN’s convening role, to bring everyone together – regardless of the stakeholder groups or backgrounds”, he said.

And it must continue engaging with high-level decision-makers from Governments and the private sector, as well as technical experts and civil society.

Turning to the expanding network of over 120 national, regional and youth IGFs, Mr. Liu spelled out that engagement on a local level is “critical” to understanding the issues and resources available in all communities.

He stated that “the complexity of the internet does not allow for siloed approach or the unification of problems and solutions”.

“We are even more fortunate to have them as partners to guide our vision towards a safe and accessible Internet for all”, said Mr. Liu.

“We need to optimize these partnerships and capacity development opportunities”.

Today’s challenges – including rising inequality, uneven growth, climate change and fast-paced technological change – demand a collective effort and a stronger multilateral response.

And while the Internet and technology are critical for achieving SDGs, we must “continue to come together to discuss everyone’s concerns”, he stressed.

In doing so, he said the technology could truly benefit all humankind and, together, we can “make sustainable development a reality”, concluded the UN official.

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