Currently, only about half of the global population has access to the Internet. To reduce the digital divide, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has now presented a roadmap detailing specific actions and proposals. It is the result of a multi-year, multi-stakeholder, global effort to address a range of issues related to the Internet, artificial intelligence, and other digital technologies that can improve certain areas of international cooperation.
In theory, around 93 percent of people worldwide have access to mobile broadband networks. In practice, however, there are numerous barriers to Internet access, including that many people cannot afford the service or the end devices needed. In fact, only around half of the global population can currently use the Internet. The world’s least developed countries are also among the least connected. The Covid-19 outbreak has shown just how much people depend on digitalization to meet global challenges. Last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres presented actions and proposals to reduce this digital divide in a Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. It is the result of a multi-year, multi-stakeholder, global effort to address a range of issues related to the Internet, artificial intelligence, and other digital technologies that can improve certain areas of international cooperation.
“Universal, accessible, meaningful, and secure connectivity requires multi-stakeholder cooperation.”
Based on the recommendations made by the independent High-level Panel for Digital Cooperation, submitted to the United Nations in June 2019 and supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, UN Secretary-General Guterres has now presented an implementation plan. Key representatives of Member States, civil society, international organizations, as well as the business and technical communities were involved in the partly virtual development of the roadmap.
“The Covid-19 pandemic illustrates the opportunities, limits, and risks of the digital revolution. Universal, accessible, meaningful, and secure connectivity requires multi-stakeholder cooperation,” commented Sandra Breka, Member of the Board of Management of the Robert Bosch Stiftung. “It is an important signal that the United Nations, in the year we celebrate its 75th anniversary, is making future-oriented digital cooperation a top priority and is acting as a mediator to champion partnerships and coalitions between governments, citizens, civil society, science, and business.”
Set of actions for digital progress
In an effort to shape the digital age, the roadmap focuses on eight specific areas. These include achieving universal connectivity by 2030, ensuring digital inclusion for all, and supporting global cooperation on artificial intelligence. The roadmap also lists ensuring the protection of human rights in the digital era and promoting digital trust and security.
Specific measures have been devised for each area. UN Secretary-General Guterres is planning a multi-stakeholder coalition on digital inclusion, in which representatives of Member States, the private sector, and civil society will join forces to build an inclusive digital ecosystem. An annual scorecard on digital inclusion and the definition of success factors will make digital inclusion measurable and promote it further. In the roadmap, Guterres also appeals to tech companies to publicly acknowledge that the protection of human rights is also a priority in the digital world and to take relevant action steps at their companies. Last but not least, Guterres aims to strengthen the UN as a platform for dialogue between all relevant stakeholders and appoint a UN Envoy on Technology in 2021.