We need to make our digital future more secure and inclusive. This is the verdict of a United Nations (UN) expert group that spent a year exploring how closer international cooperation in the digital age may help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The group, represented by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, presented their findings to UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a report titled "The Age of Digital Interdependence".
The group presented their findings to UN Secretary-General António Guterres (center) in a report titled "The Age of Digital Interdependence".
The tools and possibilities currently available worldwide are not yet sufficient to shape the continuing technological change to the benefit of all people. This is the conclusion drawn by a United Nations (UN) expert group that spent a year looking into how new forms of international cooperation can ensure that the benefits of technological progress outweigh its dangers and can be enjoyed by all.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres had convened the expert group in July 2018. Its aim was to identify new ways of responding to the social, ethical, legal, and economic implications of technological change. An additional focus was on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The work of the expert group was supported by various governments and foundations, including the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
Lay the groundwork for full inclusiveness
The chairs of the expert group, philanthropist Melinda Gates and Chinese Alibaba founder Jack Ma, presented Guterres with their report on "The Age of Digital Interdependence". Both call for laying the groundwork now for a fully inclusive digital economy and society. This would bring about opportunities for human progress in the digital age.
"The rapid pace of technological development calls for clearly defined, intelligent, and evolutionary, multilateral structures for cooperation and regulation," says Sandra Breka, Board Member of the Robert Bosch Stiftung. "Only an inclusive approach involving stakeholders from all sectors can ensure that the benefits of technological change outweigh the dangers and that we do not leave anyone behind."
Apply human rights to digital technologies
In the report, the group recommends launching specific action plans in support of women and socially disadvantaged groups so as to achieve their digital and also social participation. According to the experts, the question of access to new technologies does not go far enough. Instead, the matter of inclusion must take center stage. To protect human rights, the experts recommend, among other things, that the UN Secretary-General review the way in which human rights standards apply to digital technologies. At the same time, social media companies should be called upon to cooperate fully on human rights issues.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres regards the report as the starting point of a global consultation process aimed at establishing common ground. Besides Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, the group of 20 experts who worked on the report included Yuichiro Anzai, former president of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; Marina Kolesnik, co-founder of the Russian companies Mail.ru and Travel.ru; Nikolai Astrup, Norway’s Minister of Digitization; and internet pioneer Vint Cerf of Google. Learn more about the members of the expert group.