Oct 10

Leveraging benefits of rapid advances in artificial intelligence and digitalisation, while mitigating risks underpins UN Forum on Internet Governance

Press Release

Against a backdrop of growing geopolitical tensions, proliferating crises and widening inequalities, the challenges facing the global community in reaching the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are vast. With the Internet holding a critical role in navigating these complexities, the 18th UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) got underway in Kyoto, Japan today under the overarching theme, ‘The Internet We Want – Empowering All People’.

While tech is moving at warp speed in a select group of countries, the reality is that 2.6 billion people are still offline, mostly in the Global South and vulnerable communities. Digitalization is a whole-of-society phenomenon, impacting connected and unconnected populations alike, yet the distribution of its benefits remains highly uneven. With rapid tech advances, including in Artificial Intelligence, risking exacerbating existing inequalities, the Forum will focus on how we leverage the benefits of digital technologies, while mitigating the risks.

In his opening message to the Forum, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the need to work together to close the connectivity and digital governance gap, and to re-enforce a human rights, human-centered approach to digital cooperation: “We need to keep harnessing digital technologies enabled by the Internet to help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, take climate action and build a better world.”

The Secretary-General also highlighted the importance of the UN Global Digital Compact which aims to set out principles, objectives and actions to secure a human-centred digital future, which will be taken up at the Summit of the Future next year: “Governments, the private sector and civil society must come together regularly to ensure that the commitments enshrined in the Compact are followed up.”

The Internet We Want Vision Paper

The opening day of the Forum also saw the release of the ‘The Internet We Want’ vision paper by the UN Secretary-General appointed IGF Leadership Panel Chair, Vint Cerf and Vice-Chair Maria Ressa. The paper reiterated that digital governance is critical for economic, social and environmental development, and is a crucial enabler of sustainable development. It further elaborated what it means for the Internet to be whole and open, universal and inclusive, free-flowing and trustworthy, safe and secure and rights-respecting.

Highlighting the integral role of the Internet in navigating global challenges, moving towards a better and more resilient future, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Li Junhua cautioned: “But this requires responsive policies that leverage the benefits of digital technologies while mitigating the risks.

“The Forum needs to further strengthen its role as being the global digital policy forum, in finding points of convergence and consensus and in identifying digital solutions in reaching the 2030 Agenda.”