ICTs for well-being, inclusion and resilience

Statement delivered by Haoliang Xu at the 2022 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum Inaugural Ceremony

March 15, 2022

Excellencies, distinguished colleagues representing diverse WSIS stakeholders, ladies and gentlemen, greetings from UNDP and good morning from New York.

I am pleased to join you today to inaugurate WSIS Forum 2022.

The pandemic kept us apart, but ICTs have helped to keep us connected, enabling us to gather and work together like we do now.  

WSIS stakeholders always understood this potential of ICTs to respond to needs.

From many in WSIS in fact came the tools and strategies that helped us fight the pandemic --apps for contract tracing, AI for rapid development and deployment of vaccines, connectivity to help governments and businesses function, devices to deliver life-saving information, and innovations like drones and robots to extend the reach of critical services.

We are a world transformed by both the pandemic and rapid digitalization, but the WSIS Action Lines agreed in 2003 not only remain relevant today but are more crucial for planning recovery pathways that get us back on track towards 2030. They are areas for our collective action – from building capacities to addressing the ethical dimensions of new technologies.

Let me share some of our priorities at UNDP.

First, on building future-ready capacities. Governments everywhere are trying to meet increasing demands, to be more effective and transparent and to provide better services. Many however are still “playing catch up,” trying to improve internal operations and machinery fit for today’s landscape. At UNDP, we therefore call for whole-of-government approaches, noting the implications of weak digital capacities for prospects of entire countries.

Second, on governing in the digital age. Rapidly evolving technologies transform our world, challenging established ways of policy-making and changing engagement in the public sphere. Social media and AI are raising ethical issues around data privacy and security. Mis/Disinformation is destabilizing trust in institutions. At UNDP, we are enhancing efforts to inform digital efforts, anchoring them in rights-based principles, and keeping them focused on the goals of development.

Colleagues, pandemic recovery requires a serious rethink of how we advance development. Closing digital inequality is imperative. Three billion people (37% of the world’s population) remain unconnected, mainly from the developing world, among people who could not afford connectivity or devices or do not have the skills to connect. They are at risk of being left further behind.

We need greater solidarity to move forward. The WSIS community has, collectively, the expertise and the resources to help us accelerate progress on the SDGs. I look forward to learning more in the coming weeks not only about more ICT and digital projects, but about how insights from the pandemic could help us meet the challenges ahead towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.

Thank you.