UNITED NATIONS, Nov 10 (APP): Despite global progress in expanding use of the Internet and information communications technology (ICT), the digital divide between developed and developing countries remains wide, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, has said.
“Digital technologies have made unprecedented progress possible, yet this progress has been unequal, digital governance is critical,” he said while speaking in the virtual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on Monday.
The Forum is a global multi-stakeholder platform that facilitates discussions on public policy issues pertaining to Internet governance.
The IGF was one of the most important outcomes of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that mandated the UN Secretary-General to formally convene the Forum.
“We need stronger efforts, so that national and international digital governance keeps up with accelerating technological changes; gaps in digital governance could quickly become bottlenecks for the application of frontier technologies for sustainable development,” Ambassador Akram said.
In this regard, the mega trends were visible in the explosive growth of data volumes and cross-border flows, the dominance of the ICT business environment by huge data management corporations, the unpredictable change in digital technologies and the ever-stronger force with which digitalization drives economic, social, and cultural changes.
“It is essential to address some of the policies and issues relating to the big technology companies, including tax policies, transfer pricing, free and fair trade, cyber security and cyber crimes, as well as the propagation of violence and hate over the internet,” the EOSOC president said.
Ensuring privacy, security, and responsible management of data was also fundamental, he said, adding that other benefits could also result from financial inclusion and online health service through truly inclusive international governance processes.
Ambassador Akram emphasized that critical focus should remain on the efforts against the digital divide, noting that while 87% of individuals in developed countries are connected, only 19% are connected in the least developed countries.
The coronavirus crisis, he said, highlighted the profound inequity of the digital divide, with half the world using the internet to stay connected and continue business, while the other half remains offline and excluded from the benefits of digitalization.
“This is why I believe that we, the developing countries, must aim, not only to catch up but to leapfrog into the digital era…,” the ECOSOC president said.
“We should strive to ensure that the IGF continuously improves the space for developing countries to be heard and to be at the table in evolving digital governance,” he said.
Credible and effective digital governance cannot exist without truly inclusive and participatory approaches,” Ambassador Akram said adding that the participation of actors from developing countries was essential and must be better supported.
“The development challenges of digitalization require a coordinated multilateral response that draws on the respective comparative advantages of each actor in the international arena,” he added.