A significant stride forward was achieved last week by the information and communication technology (ICT) for development community at the World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2017 (WSIS Forum 2017), attended by more than 2,000 stakeholders from 163 countries. Participants came together to share experiences, knowledge and perspectives; and to announce new tools and initiatives to use ICTs to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in such critical areas as ICT-centric innovation, accessibility, gender equality, youth empowerment, e-health and cyber security among many others.
WSIS Forum 2017 was held 12-16 June in Geneva, and included the participation of more than 85 high-level government and civil society representatives, as well as 500 remote interventions and thousands following the webcast. The forum was chaired by Mr Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth and ICT, Government of Rwanda, and co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDP, in close collaboration with all UN agencies.
“I congratulate the global WSIS community on another successful forum. The progress made here in Geneva last week – whether on providing five million youths with digital skills, improving digital accessibility, or giving countries the tools to advance their digitalization – will be felt around the globe. It was a clear demonstration of the important role that ICT plays in realizing the SDGs and improving livelihoods,” said ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao.
The concrete outcomes of WSIS Forum 2017 will enable stakeholders to strengthen implementation of WSIS Action Lines and the alignment of the WSIS and SDG processes. These actions included:
- UN Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) reiterated commitment to the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines and alignment of the WSIS and SDG processes. ITU was appointed as the Chair of UNGIS for 2017-2018, while UN Regional Economic Commission for Africa was appointed as the rotating Vice Chairman to strengthen the regional perspective.
- UN Regional Commissions committed to strengthen regional level WSIS action through multi-stakeholder platforms and a series of regional face-to-face meetings. It is anticipated that WSIS will be included in the UN Regional Coordination Mechanisms and WSIS4SDG will become one of the pillar of the regional SDG Forums.
- ICT4SDG mobile application built on WSIS Action Lines and SDG Matrix launched by the University of West Indies and ITU, strengthening the WSIS Stocktaking Process.
- Ministerial Round Table participants emphasized importance of WSIS Action Lines framework as key UN framework for work on the information and knowledge societies, and reiterated that many national digital agendas were built upon it. They also emphasized the value of the WSIS Forum as the only UN platform for exchanging best practices and advancing implementation of ICTs4SDGs. Many ministers also expressed continued support and strengthened commitment to the WSIS process.
- The Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development launched a Task Group on ICT for SDGs, which will prepare a thematic list of ICT indicators aimed to complement the monitoring framework for measuring progress towards the achievement of the SDGs.
The forum also included the announcement of the WSIS Prizes 2017 winners and champions, which represented all seven continents and all five WSIS stakeholder groups.