WSIS Forum Highlights Critical Role of Information Technologies in Advancing SDGs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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During the WSIS Forum opening ceremony, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said “connecting the unconnected” is crucial for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and for sharing information and giving all people a voice.

The Forum demonstrated how the WSIS and SDG processes are aligned at the implementation level and how this alignment can be strengthened.

WSIS Prizes recognized success in implementing development-oriented strategies that leverage the power of ICTs in support of the SDGs.

23 March 2018: More than 2,500 information and communication technology (ICT) experts came together for the 2018 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum to explore the role of ICTs in advancing the SDGs, particularly those related to health (SDG 3), hunger (SDG 2), education and youth inclusion (SDG 4), employment (SDG 8), gender empowerment (SDG 5), the environment and climate change (SDGs 13, 14 and 15, among others), and infrastructure and innovation (SDG 9).

The WSIS Forum, which convened in Geneva, Switzerland, from 19-23 March 2018, aimed to foster partnerships, showcase innovation and exchange ICT best practices.

Meeting under the theme ‘Leveraging ICTs to Build Information and Knowledge Societies to Advance the SDGs,’ the event was co-organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), in close collaboration with WSIS Action Line facilitators and other UN organizations.

During the opening ceremony, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, via video link, said “connecting the unconnected” is crucial for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and for sharing information and giving all people a voice. He recalled the international community’s commitment to ensure universal and affordable Internet access in least developed countries (LDCs) by 2020.

The Forum demonstrated how the WSIS and SDG processes are aligned at the implementation level and how this alignment can be strengthened.

The Forum included more than 200 workshops, panel discussions and other events. A display of ‘ICT Solutions for SDGs’ included drones for social development, robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. WSIS Prizes 2018 winners were also announced, recognizing successes in implementing development-oriented strategies that “leverage the power of ICTs in support of the SDGs.” Approximately one million online votes were cast for the nominated 492 projects out of 685 submitted, of which 18 became winners.

A ‘Hack Against Hunger’ focused on the development of ICT solutions to end hunger and was organized by ITU and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). The event aimed to advance SDG 2 through innovative technology applications related to sustainable food and agriculture. Technology applications included a data-driven solution to monitor groundwater, use of intelligent transport to prevent food waste, a global mapping project to track national seed policies and an initiative to increase digital literacy of farmers. More than 75 “hackers,” coders, engineers and agriculture experts participated in a 36-hour “hackathon.”

Another session, convened by UNESCO, aimed to leverage ICTs to engage youth and accelerate the achievement of SDGs, particularly SDG 4, SDG 5, SDG 8 and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). To this end, a number of strategies were presented, including:

  • the Global Schools Program, an online platform, which provides educational materials, lesson plans and curriculum guides on the SDGs for students and teachers;
  • YouthMobile, which focuses on developing digital skills and innovation in Africa by helping youth identify challenges faced by their communities, develop mobile application solutions, elaborate business plans, and build confidence and skills to market their applications; and
  • an open e-learning platform in Bangladesh to help develop skills among youth to meet future jobs demands.

The first WSIS Forum in 2003 agreed on the Geneva Plan of Action, which detailed the need for a “just and equal information society” through the identification of 18 areas of activity, or Action Lines. The WSIS Action Lines detail how governments, civil society, businesses and international organizations can work together to achieve the potential of ICTs for development. The 2018 Forum demonstrated how the WSIS and SDG processes are aligned at the implementation level and how this alignment can be strengthened, building on a WSIS-SDG Matrix, which emphasizes linkages between the SDGs and WSIS Action Lines. [ITU Pre-Forum Press Release] [WSIS Forum 2018 Website] [ITU Press Release on the Opening of the WSIS] [WSIS Forum Agenda] [ITU Press Release on WSIS Prizes 2018] [WSIS Prizes 2018] [ITU Blog on Technology Solutions to Fight Hunger] [ITU Blog on UNESCO’s Youth Session]


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