ITU – WSIS Action Lines on tech for good are considered key UN framework for progress on the Sustainable Development Goals

Ministerial Round Table at 10th World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum, 8-12 April 2019, emphasized the importance of the WSIS Action Lines – on which many national digital agendas were built – as a key United Nations framework for progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Round T​​able participants also highlighted the need for sharing of ​​scarce resources, as well as stre​ngthening collaboration to build confidence and security in the use of technology for good and digital skills so more people can benefit.

For 10 years, the WSIS Forum has been providing an open and inclusive space for some of the most leading voices in government, the private sector, academia, and civil society to foster partnerships, showcase innovation, share knowledge and information, enhance networks, and share good practices to advance the SDGs through information and communication technologies.

“Ten years on, we are joined by more than 30 agencies of our extended United Nations family. People’s lives have been transformed. With the emergence of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 5G and other new technologies, the next decade will continue to bring enormous opportunities,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General.

The outcomes of the WSIS Forum contribute to global processes:

    • United Nations regional commissions committed to strengthen regional WSIS action through multi-stakeholder platforms and a series of face-to-face meetings. It is anticipated that WSIS Action Lines will be included in the UN Regional Coordination Mechanism and will become one of the pillars of the regional SDG Forums. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) was appointed as the Chair of the WSIS UN Regional Commission.
  • The United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) reiterated its commitment to the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines towards the SDGs, with a joint statement to be released during the United Nations High-Level Political Forum 2019, to be co-chaired by ITU and the United Nations Development Programme. UNESCAP was appointed as the Vice-Chair representing the UN regional commissions.

This year’s more than 300 sessions, fully crowdsourced following an open consultation process, highlighted the contributions of tech in SDG priority areas such as accessibility, education, employment, environment, gender empowerment, health, hunger, tech infrastructure and innovation and youth.

Youth voices are crucial to UN processes and policy-making to advance tech for good. Hence, the track on youth explored the key role of young people in building digital economies, from dedicated coding sessions for school children to workshops on digital skills for decent jobs for youth.

Below some tech for good initiatives from United Nations family agencies:​

    • ​​​​​Millions of people are impacted each year by war, civil conflict, drought, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, crop failures and natural disasters. Over the past two years, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been using innovative technologies, notably blockchain, to enhance its ability to provide effective, efficient food assistance. The benefits include: ​The ​beneficiary refugees are empowered to feed themselves and their family; no money is sent upfront to potentially unstable entities; cost savings on local banking fees.​
    • To date, despite significant efforts and investments in digital technologies and applications for development, amounting to billions of dollars worldwide, progress has been hampered by a lack of coordination, in particular from not taking a whole-of-government approach to digital investments. ITU and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) launched an SDG Digital Investment Framework that helps governments address key strategic investment questions and choose effective, scalable technology-based solutions with maximum return on investment.
  • Assistive technologies have proven to be life-changing for persons with disabilities or special needs. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) discussed the effectiveness of the Marrakesh Treaty which provides exceptions to copyright law for the production of works that are accessible to persons who have difficulty reading print. The final session of the WSIS Forum Accessibility Day, ‘Universal Design for Sustainable Development,’ outlined some of the societal changes needed to ensure that technologies are not just inclusive for persons with disabilities, but are universal in their use and applications.

WSIS Forum 2019 was made possible through the support of its strategic partners – Gold plus partner: United Arab Emirates; Gold Partner: Saudi Arabia; Partners for Specific Activities: Japan, IEEE, Oman, Switzerland; Contributing Partners: Poland, Rwanda, ICANN, ISOC, ELM; Supporting Partner: IFIP and University of Geneva.​

​​For more information about the WSIS Forum process and WSIS Action Lines, please visit: www.wsis.org/forum

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