unctad.org | Here’s how we are accelerating digital development for all
Here’s how we are accelerating digital development for all
18 June 2020

​Written by Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General and UNGIS Vice-Chair


Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been instrumental to keeping economies and societies going during the COVID-19 crisis.

They are helping children continue to learn. They are helping adults continue to work. They are helping people to access critical medical and financial services. They are helping keep the food supply chain moving.

The key role of telecoms networks – and ITU

For 155 years, ITU has helped to steer the progress of ICTs.

Through wars, famines and global pandemics of years past, our members have continued to work together to advance technology to change and improve people’s lives.

But never before have telecommunication networks been so vital to our health and safety, and to keep our economy and society working, as during the COVID-19 crisis we are living through today.

[International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao]

That’s why ITU is rapidly responding to COVID-19, from our new Global Network Resiliency (REG4COVID) Platform to the Broadband Commission Agenda for Action to the All Year, Always Online AI for Good Global Summit to the, virtual WSIS Forum 2020, WSIS TalkX series, WSIS Stocktaking Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response ICT Case Repository to the Digital Financial Services Webinar Series to our common projects with sister UN agencies, including our work with UNESCO on e-learning, with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF on health messaging, and with the International Labor Organization (ILO) on digital skills for youth, starting with young people in Africa.

ICT industry players – including many of ITU’s private-sector members – have highly appreciated the support of public authorities during this crisis, but they also count on their support and expect more favorable investment environments and more flexibility to use limited resources.

A unique opportunity to accelerate digital development

The urgency of responding to COVID-19 presents us with a unique opportunity to unite to speed up the development of digital society. Having a new strategy for ICT development at the national and global level has now become more necessary than ever.

ITU’s Connect 2030 Agenda is a roadmap for all our members and others to bridge this gap. It lays out a path to create better environments for investment in ICT infrastructure and facilitates the development of new technologies like 5G, and the recently deployed satellite constellations.

With 10 years left to achieve the SDGs, Connect 2030 serves as an accelerator for digital inclusion.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing and 5G have the capacity to improve the lives of billions of people around the world. But none of this is possible without the necessary infrastructure, which ITU works with its members to provide.

A digital revolution – for all

Bound by the powerful belief that technology can be a source of good in this world, ITU members have stepped up and engaged in activities that have proven essential in saving lives and keeping the economy working.

ITU’s membership is growing and becoming ever more diverse, with large and small companies active in different sectors of the economy that keep our organization on the cutting edge of innovation and help strengthen the public-private partnerships critical to delivering on the promise of the digital revolution.

UN Agencies have also been working together across the UN System to achieve maximum sustainable impact though the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS).

We must seize this moment to accelerate the development of digital society and work together to turn today’s digital revolution into a development revolution for for all, thereby highlighting the strengthened linkages and alignment of the WSIS Action Lines with the SDGs.

The United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) has initiated this Dialogue on the Role of Digitalization in the Decade of Action to raise awareness of both the importance of digitalization in achieving the SDGs and of the unique opportunity that UNGIS presents for more effective collaboration in this area within the UN System.


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