President Of UN Economic & Social Council, Paki Ambassador Munir Akram, Underlined Need For Political Commitment To Address “Digital Divide.”

The President Of UN Economic And Social Council (ECOSOC), Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram, Has Underlined The Need For Political Commitment To Address The “Digital Divide”, the gap between under-connected and highly digitalized countries, to help the developing world unlock opportunities for rapid all round progress.

While the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the world’s dependence on computers, international cooperation was essential to optimize the opportunities offered by digitalization and the associated frontier technologies, he said in a high-level debate on ‘Digital Cooperation and Connectivity’ held in the UN General Assembly Hall.

“Among these opportunities were higher productivity in all sectors, agriculture, manufacturing, services, finance, trade and communication, job creation, the fastest growth in employment is now in work related to the ICT (Information and communications technology) sector, and expanding digitalization,” Ambassador Akram said. To highlight the digital divide, he said that while 87% of people are online in the advanced countries, only 19% are connected in poorest countries, pointing out that women were doubly disadvantaged, especially in the developing countries.

Bridging the digital divide, the ECOSOC chief will require investment in both hardware and software, the ECOSOC chief said, noting that the poor people cannot access the tools required for education, for commerce, or production with these software. “We need to invest in the infrastructure. Infrastructure for broadband, the Internet cables and the last mile solutions that are required to connect the world,” he said. Investment in software requires developing the skills in education, as well as the ability to access the computers and other devices at affordable prices.

“Indeed,” he said, ” with appropriate national support and international cooperation, developing countries can aim, not so much to emulate the existing development model in the advanced economies, but to leapfrog with the help of a digitalized knowledge and skills into the economies of the future.” The key to the developing countries’ success was the political will of their governments to invest in the essential hardware and software, and to foster participation in the emerging frontier technologies — G five, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the cables and broadband required for connection.

At the same time, Ambassador Akram also warned of the dark sides of the web, a world where the net is used to propagate terrorism, purvey pornography, defame people and states, target minorities in vulnerable groups, intrude into personal privacy, conduct cyber warfare against sovereign nations and instigate conflict and rivalries.

“We must develop the digital tools to identify such malicious activities and to defend against them, and to neutralize them,” he told delegates. “It is self-evident that these objectives to optimize the opportunities offered by digitalization and to defend against this misuse, cannot be achieved without inclusive international cooperation among all stakeholders.” Seventy percent of the ICT infrastructure was owned by private companies located in two countries, and they collect most of the data generated by internet use.

The United Nations and its functional agencies and bodies, including ECOSOC, Ambassador Akram said, possess the legitimacy and the convening power to promote and serve as the venue for international cooperation and effective governance of the digital space. He expressed the hope that “while seeking to bridge the north, south digital divide, we will be cautious not to trigger an equally debilitating east, west digital divide,” adding that the competition to harness technology should not become the face of future trade wars. “It will divide the world and erode the promise for accelerated global growth and transformation, and the realization of a world which is sustainable, green, and equal.,” the ECOSOC chief added.

This news was originally published at APP.