Internet Governance Forum Supports Actions to Bridge Digital Divide, Achieve SDGs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The 11th annual Internet Governance Forum recognized the Internet’s core values of decentralization, freedom, openness and resilience as fundamental for enabling inclusive and sustainable growth, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Forum stressed the role of the Internet in leaving no one behind in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and urged action to close socioeconomic inequalities that impact access to or use of information and communications technologies (ICTs).

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that "the Internet and information and communication technologies (ICTs) can play an important, enabling role in our efforts to fulfill the great promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

12 December 2016: Participants at the 11th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) recognized the role of the Internet in bridging digital and gender divides, and providing access to opportunities for all people.

The Forum recognized the Internet’s core values of decentralization, freedom, openness and resilience as fundamental for enabling inclusive and sustainable growth, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Over 2,000 participants from 83 countries attended the IGF, which took place in Jalisco, Mexico, from 6-9 December 2016, on the theme, ‘Enabling Inclusive and Sustainable Growth.’ The meeting was the first IGF since the UN General Assembly (UNGA) renewed the IGF’s mandate for ten years at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in December 2015.

The UN Secretary-General, through the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), convenes the IGF as a forum that brings together all stakeholders as equals. Approximately 200 sessions took place, including on issues related to human rights and freedom of expression, cybersecurity and multi-stakeholder cooperation.

In a message delivered by UN Assistant Secretary-General Lenni Montiel, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “the Internet and information and communication technologies (ICTs) can play an important, enabling role in our efforts to fulfill the great promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Ban emphasized the role of ICTs in delivering smart solutions to address poverty, hunger, women’s empowerment, climate change and other challenges. He concluded by urging continued efforts to ensure universal access to a more open information society.

Mexico’s Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, also underscored the IGF’s role in supporting achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), noting that the “event will foster the enabling of sustainable and inclusive growth and fight climate change with cross-cutting policies that contribute to access and use of the Internet.”

The Forum stressed the role of the Internet in leaving no one behind in efforts to achieve the SDGs. In particular, SDG 9 (Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation), includes target 9c to “significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.” Within this context, participants: highlighted opportunities to empower people and bring them into Internet governance processes; underscored the importance of developing locally-relevant content in local languages to bridge the digital divide and promote inclusive and sustainable growth; and urged action to close socioeconomic inequalities that impact access to or use of ICTs.

The Forum further recognized connectivity gaps between developed and developing countries, with more than 80% of people accessing the Internet in developed countries, and less than 10% of people doing so in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). According to the UN, Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest levels of Internet usage, with less than three percent of the population using the Internet in four countries: Chad, with 2.7%; Sierra Leone, with 2.5%, Somalia with 1.8%; and Eritrea, with 1.1%.

Participants also highlighted digital literacy and gender gaps, suggesting international cooperation and strategic partnerships as ways to bridge such divides and provide new opportunities for people living in poverty, women and children, people with disabilities, indigenous and rural communities and other marginalized groups. All IGF sessions are webcast. [UN Press Release on Outcome] [UN Press Release on Opening] [UN DESA Press Release on Day Two] [UN Press Release] [IGF Website] [IGF Chair’s Summary]

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