© UNCTAD/Jonny Granger | A participant is interviewed at UNCTAD eWeek 2023.

UNCTAD eWeek 2023 kicks off to shape a better digital future for all

The week-long event will tackle pressing digitalization challenges to ensure the digital transformation leads to shared progress and sustainable growth.

UNCTAD eWeek 2023 kicked off on 4 December, gathering in Geneva and online more than 3,000 participants from over 130 countries to address one of the major challenges facing the world: Turning digital opportunities into shared development gains.

The week-long event convenes in a global context marked by a climate emergency, geopolitical conflicts and economic shocks that have reversed progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), only 15% of which are on track to be met by 2030.

“Looking for opportunities to mitigate the many challenges and create hope is more important than ever,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said in her opening statement.

“In this context, the potential of digitalization must be exploited to the fullest extent,” she said.

The UN deputy chief cautioned, however, that a digital transformation not properly managed could widen divides and spawn new forms of inequality.

“A lot is at stake, especially for developing countries,” she said.

Positioned strategically between the 2023 SDG Summit and the Summit of the Future, and ahead of the start of negotiations on the Global Digital Compact, eWeek serves as a springboard for meaningful dialogue and change.

‘Time is of the essence’

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan emphasized in her opening statement that the week’s theme, “Shaping the future of the digital economy”, is a call for urgent action.

Time is of the essence, Ms. Grynspan said. “Countries at the frontlines of development are being left behind.”

“Issues such as data privacy, ethical AI, and cyber security are not just technical issues, but societal ones,” she added. “Innovation is key, but so is regulation.”

Sessions during the week will address the development implications of artificial intelligence (AI) and how global governance efforts can keep pace to ensure equity and accountability. Discussions will feed into wider efforts driven by the newly launched UN AI Advisory Body.

Also in sharp focus will be the governance of massive data flows in the digital economy. The world’s largest digital platforms control most stages of the data value chain, with over 70% of the global digital advertising revenue going to just five platforms.

To help navigate these challenges, sessions will examine competition law and policies that can help level the playing field in digital markets.

Over 150 sessions

eWeek 2023 will feature over 150 sessions, held in person, online and in a hybrid format.

Key topics covered, besides platform governance and AI, will include promoting eco-friendly digital practices, empowering women through digital entrepreneurship and accelerating digital readiness in developing countries. (See the full programme.)

Other high-level speakers will include Amandeep Singh Gill, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology; Deemah AlYahya, Secretary-General of the Digital Cooperation Organization; Nizar Ben Neji, Tunisa’s Minister of Communication and Technologies; Henry Puna, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum; as well as top executives from the global investment and IT community.

A final declaration is expected at the end of the week.

The event is organized with the support of the Swiss government and other donors, as well as partners of the UNCTAD-led eTrade for all initiative.

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