Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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A number of events on information and communications technology focused on increasing access to digital technology and enhancing the contribution of ICT in achieving the SDGs.

Recent events included: the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development's spring meeting; Mobile Learning Week 2017, hosted by UNESCO in partnership with the ITU and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and consultations on the 2017 Internet Governance Forum.

17 March 2017: Members of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development renewed their commitment to increase access to broadband, particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs), as part of efforts to ensure information and communications technology (ICT) contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at the Commission’s spring meeting.

Observing that five billion people lack mobile broadband access, Commission members underscored the role of public-private partnerships in expanding broadband access and connecting the unconnected, particularly in rural and remote areas. International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-General and Commission Co-Vice Chair Houlin Zhao explained that collaboration between governments and industry is necessary “to create the conditions so badly needed to facilitate the growth of broadband for sustainable development.”

The Commission’s spring meeting, which took place in Hong Kong, China, on 16 March 2017, focused on: the digital gender divide; education; space technologies; and a pilot initiative to monitor the pace of digitalization in regulatory frameworks at the national level. The Commission is composed of leaders from government, industry, international organizations and academia, and aims to boost the importance of broadband on the international policy agenda and expand broadband access, as part of efforts to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

Also on ICT for development, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) hosted Mobile Learning Week 2017 in partnership with ITU and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the 2017 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held its first open consultation for 2017.

Mobile Learning Week 2017, which focused on the theme ‘Education in Emergencies and Crises,’ took place from 20-24 March 2017, in Paris, France. Participants discussed opportunities for expanding mobile technologies to improve education opportunities for refugees, displaced persons and others in emergency situations. Mobile learning incorporates the use of mobile technology, including in combination with ICT, to enable learning anywhere and anytime. Mark West, UNESCO, said mobile technologies offer “unique advantages for making education accessible to displaced people and others on-the-move.” The Week’s events included a symposium, a policy forum, 16 workshops, strategy labs to guide project development, and side events. Participants shared examples of mobile learning, such as the ‘Teachers for Teachers’ portal that connects instructors through WhatsApp to discuss challenges, share problem-solving techniques and receive support on instructing refugee learners. NORAD showcased the winners of its ‘EduApp4Syria’ competition, including games that promote Arabic literacy.

The IGF, a multi-stakeholder platform that facilitates discussion of public policy issues related to the internet, began preparations for the 2017 session of the Forum. The first Open Consultations and Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) meeting of the IGF 2017 preparatory cycle took place from 1-3 March, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Group took stock of IGF 2016, with many saying that the gathering had highlighted the importance of internet governance issues for the SDGs, while showcasing best practices, work on policy options for connecting and enabling the “next billion,” and work and growth of national and regional IGF initiatives. Participants at the MAG agreed that the main title of the IGF 2017 meeting will be ‘Shape Your Digital Future.’ The Group highlighted the importance of expanding outreach activities and better communicating the IGF’s work and value, and increasing synergies with related organizations working on internet governance, to create long-term partnerships for all stakeholders. The second Open Consultations will take place from 12-14 June 2017, also in Geneva.

On science, technology and innovation (STI), the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Green Technology Center-Korea (GTC-K) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support Asia-Pacific countries to enhance cooperation on green technology and sustainable development, with the broader aim of supporting SDG achievement. Under the MoU, ESCAP and GTC-K will build developing countries’ capacity to support green technology cooperation and diffusion and to implement national strategies on science, technology and innovation.

STI will also be in focus at the Second Multi-stakeholder Forum on STI for the SDGs, which will focus on the theme, ‘Science, Technology and Innovation for a Changing World: Focus on SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 14.’ The Forum, which will meet at UN Headquarters in New York, US, from 15-16 May 2017, was created as a component of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM). [UN Press Release on Commission Meeting] [Commission Press Release] [UN Press Release on Mobile Learning Week] [Mobile Learning Week Webpage] [UNESCO Mobile Learning Week Highlights] [IGF Website] [MAG Summary] [ESCAP Press Release] [STI Forum Webpage]

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