Pakistan calls for closing digital divide to accelerate progress in poor countries

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 06 (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, Pakistan has said during an online discussion organized by a UN body that conducts independent research on international security issues.

“The inability of the developing countries to reap benefits of digital transformation offered by extraordinary opportunities for innovation, communication, sustainable development and economic growth is amplifying the risk of further deepening of the already existing digital divide,” Ambassador Aamir Khan, deputy permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, told the webinar sponsored by the Geneva-based United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

If unchecked, he warned that the exponential proliferation of disinformation through online platforms and social media was exacerbating social discord, competing nationalisms, discrimination, hate speech, stigmatization, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and related intolerances.

According to statistics, out of 2.9 billion people offline, 96% live in developing countries.

Bridging the digital divide will require addressing the major impediments that developing countries face in engaging with and accessing new technologies, such as an appropriate enabling environment, sufficient resources, infrastructure, education, capacity, investment and connectivity, the Pakistani envoy said.

At the same time, he said, the new era of strategic competition transformed by significance of the unconventional battle space and the coercive power of hybrid warfare has seriously undermined the space for international cooperation.

“There is no doubt that in order to have an open, stable, accessible, secure and peaceful cyberspace, the need for formulating a comprehensive framework for cyber capacity-building is more than ever before,” Aamir Khan said.

Achieving real and sustained progress in the various dimensions of digitalization requires skills development and effective training, in particular in developing countries,” he said, adding, “This is necessary to unlock the benefits of technology, including the more effective use of emerging technologies and ensuring that individuals stay safe, protected and productive online.”

In this regard, Aamir Khan called for prioritization of transfer of technology and technical assistance based on an open, fair and non-discriminatory access to ICT-related science, technologies, products and services.