Arab Forum Highlights Technology Needs for SDGs
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
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The second Arab High-level Forum on World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and 2030 Agenda convened from 19-20 March 2019, in Beirut, Lebanon.

Participants called for boosting research, development and innovation to build a robust digital economy that allows the creation of jobs for youth.

Lebanon's Minister of Telecommunication said the linkage between WSIS and the 2030 Agenda is “the most practical way” to achieve sustainable development.

20 March 2019: A high-level forum for the Arab region addressed internet governance, digital financial inclusion, and the digital economy in the context of the SDGs. Experts and officials from both the public and the private sectors stressed the need for a “large infrastructure” to provide affordable access to internet and electronic services for everyone. Forum discussions also called for boosting research, development and innovation to build a robust digital economy that allows the creation of jobs for youth.

The second Arab High-level Forum on World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and 2030 Agenda convened from 19-20 March 2019, in Beirut, Lebanon. It was organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Arab Regional Office, the Lebanese Government, OGERO Telecom-Lebanon, and the League of Arab States.

The WSIS is a UN initiative that convened summit events in 2003 and 2005, which were followed by a review, in 2015, of the implementation of its outcomes. That review resulted in calls for alignment between the WSIS process and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, highlighting the crosscutting contribution of information and communications technologies (ICT) for the SDGs and poverty eradication.

Opening the Arab High-level Forum on WSIS and the 2030 Agenda, Rola Dashti, ESCWA Executive Secretary, said Arab countries are still behind when it comes to adapting technology for sustainable development, including because of “frail” technology-related policies that encourage technology production and innovation. She mentioned that Arab states committed in the Beirut Consensus on Technology for Sustainable Development to use technology and innovation to ensure “comprehensive” development focused on human growth.

Mohamed Choucair, Lebanon’s Minister of Telecommunication, noted that the linkage between WSIS and the 2030 Agenda is “the most practical way” to achieve sustainable development. He reported that the Lebanese government will create “efficient” initiatives involving both the public and private sectors to achieve progress on the SDGs through technology.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU, highlighted collaboration and cooperation as key for connecting the remaining 50% of the global population still without access to the online world.

During the summit, ESCWA launched a publication titled, ‘Arab Horizon 2030: Digital Technologies for Development,’ which focuses on policy changes needed to enable the utilization of digital technologies for sustainable development in Arab countries. The report, which was released in February 2019, includes recommendations for harnessing digital technologies for social, economic and human development opportunities. [ESCWA Press Release March 19] [ESCWA Press Release March 20]

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