Discussions focused on: bridging digital divides; enabling environment for digital technologies, inclusiveness, and access to knowledge for all; digital economy and trade; ethical dimensions of ICT; climate change; knowledge societies; and capacity building.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said governments are expected to agree a Global Digital Compact at the Summit of the Future in 2024.
The 2023 edition of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum discussed the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in accelerating the achievement of the SDGs and building back better. The WSIS stakeholder community, representing governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, and international organizations, also assessed implementation of the WSIS Action Lines for sustainable development.
The WSIS Forum 2023 convened in Geneva, Switzerland, from 13-17 March 2023, and featured high-level policy sessions, a ministerial round table, and high-level dialogues. Discussions focused on: bridging digital divides; enabling environment for digital technologies, inclusiveness, and access to knowledge for all; digital economy and trade; ethical dimensions of ICT; climate change; knowledge societies; and capacity building. Emilija Stojmenova Duh, Minister of Digital Transformation, Slovenia, served as the Forum’s chair.
The Chairperson’s Summary of the Forum identifies three main takeaways:
- Access, availability, and affordability should be the driving forces of digitalization.
- Digital education and digital skills play a crucial role in the adoption of digital technologies by enabling people to use ICT for good while preventing harm and decreasing risks.
- Trust in digital technologies is key and can only be achieved by developing a human-centric and human rights-based approach to digital technologies that is fully inclusive.
However, the Summary notes, numerous challenges remain. These include the lack of access to high-speed internet, inadequate investment in ICT infrastructure development, limited availability of affordable devices, lack of digital literacy among marginalized populations, and limited access and low adoption of e-services.
To address these barriers, the Chairperson’s Summary stresses the need to, inter alia:
- Expand network coverage and increase investment in ICT infrastructure, including through public-private partnerships (PPPs);
- Implement universal service funds to ensure connectivity in underserved areas;
- Encourage manufacturers to develop low-cost and high-quality devices;
- Develop comprehensive digital literacy programmes targeting marginalized populations and bridging the digital gaps;
- Integrate digital literacy into school curriculums and adult education; and
- Invest in the development and promotion of user-friendly e-services for health, education, and public administration.
The Forum also considered the achievements along the 11 WSIS Action Lines, which cover:
- The role of public governance authorities and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development;
- Information and communication infrastructure;
- Access to information and knowledge;
- Capacity building;
- Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs;
- Enabling environment;
- ICT applications, including e-government, e-business, e-learning, e-health, e-employment, e-environment, e-agriculture, and e-science;
- Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity, and local content;
- Ethical dimensions of the Information Society; and
- International and regional cooperation.
Participants highlighted linkages between the WSIS Action Lines and SDGs and shared good practice examples of implementation.
Addressing the Forum in a video message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the need to bridge the digital divide while preventing and reducing the dangers of digital technologies. “That is why I have proposed a Global Digital Compact on an open, free, inclusive and secure digital future for all,” he emphasized. Guterres said the goal is for the Compact to be agreed by governments at the Summit of the Future in 2024 and outlined efforts to advance a Code of Conduct for information integrity on digital platforms.
The WSIS Forum 2023 was organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in close collaboration with WSIS Action Line co-facilitators and other UN organizations. WSIS virtual workshops continue throughout April-May 2023. [WSIS Forum 2023] [Highlights and Outcomes] [High-level Track Outcomes and Executive Brief]