UN Panel Reviews Benefits, Risks of Digital Technology
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The High-level Panel’s final report will be submitted to the Secretary-General in mid-2019.

Guterres underscored the ways in which technology can help accelerate achievement of the SDGs.

Hochschild underscored the need to address the lack of internet access in the world’s poorest nations, as well as the digital gender gap.

23 January 2019: UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the UN High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation to propose innovative ways to harness the benefits and manage the risks of the digital age. The Panel met in Geneva, Switzerland, in preparation to submit its final report in mid-2019.

Guterres established the High-level Panel in July 2018 to identify good practices and propose modalities for working cooperatively across sectors, disciplines and borders to address challenges in the digital age. The Panel is co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Alibaba founder Jack Ma. It gathers input from industry and the private sector, as well as governments, academia, civil society and intergovernmental organizations.

Speaking via video link to the Panel’s meeting from 22-23 January 2019, Guterres underscored the ways in which technology can help accelerate achievement of the SDGs. The Panel reviewed insights gained from its global consultations and discussed the framing and contents of its final report. The Panel also met with the heads of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to discuss their experiences with international cooperation in the digital realm. Cooperation across domains and across borders is critical for realizing the transformational potential of digital technologies, while protecting against risks and unintended consequences.

The digital sphere amplifies existing inequalities, Hochschild said.

Panel members have held consultations with and received submissions from more than 2,000 individuals, and convened seven virtual discussion groups on topics such as: the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI), data privacy and internet governance; inclusive development; data, human rights and human agency; and digital trust and security. Panel representatives have: visited technology hubs, including Silicon Valley, and hubs in China, Israel and India; met with policymakers in many countries; and participated in various technology and digital policy events.

The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace met alongside the Panel in Geneva to discuss international security and information and communications technology (ICT). Fabrizio Hochschild, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, who participated in both meetings, reiterated the UN Secretary General’s belief that challenges posed by the digital age are “one of the key issues of our time,” next to climate change and inequality. He supported an international mechanism to prevent “digital flashpoints from escalating.” Noting that the digital sphere “amplifies existing inequalities,” Hochschild underscored the need to address the lack of internet access in the world’s poorest nations, as well as the digital gender gap. [High-level Panel Press Release] [High-level Panel Website]

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