Nº 4 2013 > WSIS Forum 2013
United Nations Group on the Information Society issues joint statement
ICT must move up the post-2015 development agenda
The 30 agencies that make up the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS; see box) issued a joint statement in Geneva on 13 May 2013 staking a claim for information and communication technologies (ICT) to play a central role in post-2015 development. According to the agencies, ICT should be the tools with which poverty and inequality are fought in the 21st century.
The UNGIS joint statement — agreed at a meeting held at ITU headquarters, as part of the World Summit on the Information Society — was addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, and to the United Nations System Task Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Millennium shift to ICT
As the UNGIS statement points out, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established in 2000, the international community was only just beginning to understand the catalytic potential of ICT to advance development agendas and priorities. By the MDG target date of 2015, it seems that the benefits of mobile services will be available to all, and that an ICT-related target will be achieved. But the potential of ICT as key enablers for inclusive development has yet to be fully acknowledged, harnessed and specifically linked to the achievement of all other MDG targets.
In 2003 and 2005, at the two phases of the World Summit on the Information Society, the international community recognized ICT as enablers for development. World leaders — representing governments, civil society, the private sector and the technical community — set out a strategic framework engaging multi-sectoral stakeholders as partners to promote the deployment and use of ICT.
This framework captures the potential of ICT to enhance access, especially of vulnerable populations, to education, health care, banking and other services. It recognizes that ICT open the door to information and knowledge, and the empowerment of women. The technologies offer ways of protecting the environment, mitigating natural disaster risks, and ensuring sustainable food production.
These uses of ICT are in line with internationally-agreed development goals. In particular, ICT can respond to the desire of the international community — as mentioned in both the Rio+20 Principles and Agenda 21 — for the sustainable use of natural resources.
Thirteen years since the United Nations Millennium Summit and ten years after the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, the ICT landscape has changed dramatically. Rapid innovation, diffusion and uptake of mobile technologies, and improved access to the Internet have greatly expanded the gamut of opportunities that ICT offer to promote inclusive development. As demonstrated by the ongoing review of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, international cooperation and multistakeholder collaboration on the strategic use of ICT has produced a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise. This learning should be harnessed by the United Nations system as it defines a new development agenda for the coming decades.
What we know today
ICT can provide a platform to better integrate and accelerate delivery on all three pillars of sustainable development, namely economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. ICT in general, and the Internet in particular, can play an important part in ensuring rights-based development. They enable a wider exercise of freedom of expression and press freedom, which in turn are critical to combating corruption, ensuring gender-sensitivity, deepening accountability, and promoting socially inclusive development.
As critical drivers and essential tools for the creation of jobs and the delivery of basic public services, ICT can improve access to knowledge and education. They can empower women, enhance transparency, and give marginalized populations a voice in decision-making processes that directly affect their own lives. ICT can play a transformative role in governance and regional cooperation, as well as in enhancing the technical effectiveness of development work.
For ICT to fulfil their potential requires adequate human capacity, knowledge management, content development, infrastructure deployment, and an enabling environment.
What needs to be done
UNGIS recommends that the potential of ICT as key enablers of development, and as critical components of innovative development solutions, is fully recognized in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. This means recognizing ICT, including broadband Internet, mobile technologies and relevant ICT applications, as tools that can help empower people, enable wider exercise of human rights including freedom of expression, foster access to information, open up employment opportunities, and expand access to learning, education and basic services.
In collaboration with other stakeholders, the United Nations system should take full advantage of ICT in addressing the development challenges of the 21st century. UNGIS also recommends that the Post-2015 Development Agenda should reflect the lessons learned during the past decade in the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society. It is important to build on what has been learned about the potential of ICT since the MDGs were established in 2000. In particular, account should be taken of international cooperation and collaboration galvanized by the 2003 and 2005 phases of the World Summit on the Information Society to promote ICT as enablers for development.
Efforts across the United Nations System should be coherent, connected and coordinated to achieve maximum, sustainable impact. UNGIS therefore recommends that work on the Post-2015 Development Agenda should interact with the WSIS+10 Review processes to create synergies.
An offer of assistance
UNGIS stands ready to assist in implementing the recommendations made in its joint statement. UNGIS offers a valuable knowledge and resource base, developed over the past decade on a multistakeholder basis, focusing on innovative tools and approaches to tackle multiple development challenges. This knowledge and resource base can help inform the setting of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
At international level, UNGIS can provide assistance in the form of expertise, and should engage on a consultative basis with the bodies tasked to shepherd the post-2015 development process.
At country level, UNGIS can make experts available to United Nations Member States, bringing in the experience of the past 10 years to support future development.
In keeping with its mandate, UNGIS is committed to supporting the United Nations community as it frames the Post-2015 Development Agenda. UNGIS is also committed to helping achieve the new set of post-2015 goals by ensuring policy and programme coherence within the United Nations system, and by providing guidance on the ways that ICT can be used to advance development.
United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS)
UNGIS was founded in 2006 to coordinate the inclusion of information and communication technologies (ICT) in development plans throughout the United Nations system.
UNGIS members are: FAO, IAEA, ILO, ITU, OECD, UN Women, UNCTAD, UNDESA, UNDP, UNECA, UNECE, UNECLAC, UNESCAP, UNESCO, UNESCWA, UN-Habitat, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNODC, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WB, WFP, WHO, WIPO, WMO and WTO.
For 2013, UNESCO holds the chairmanship of UNGIS, and ITU, UNCTAD, UNDP and UNDESA the vice-chairmanship.