Digital technologies have been a lifeline for millions of people during the COVID-19 pandemic. They provide new ways to connect, transact, and educate. But challenges associated with digitalization need to be addressed!
“In light of the importance of addressing the digital divide in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Sustainable Development Goals, the President of the General Assembly has decided to convene a one-day High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity on Tuesday, 27 April 2021, in the General Assembly Hall, United Nations Headquarters.”
The full-day program includes expert speakers in tech, telecommunications, and digital governance, discussing important issues related to digitalization. Sustainability in the Digital Age’s Executive Director, Dr. Éliane Ubalijoro, will be speaking at 4:10 PM (EDT) on Panel 3: “Greening The Digital Future: Local, Regional and Multilateral Partnership.”
Some of the pressing digital issues that will be discussed during the debate include the following:
- Digital divides threaten to become the new face of inequality. 3.7 billion digitally disconnected people worldwide do not have the option to work remotely or learn and trade online. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are also the least connected, with only 19% of their populations online. In 2 out of every 3 countries, more men and boys use the Internet than women and girls. Decades of hard-won development gains are at risk of being wiped out due to the pandemic. We must act urgently.
2. The COVID-19 pandemic has enabled many countries and regions to leap into a digital future, transforming the way people learn, work, and get basic services, such as healthcare. We must ensure no one is left offline. This is especially important as digitalization impacts the future of work. Transformations in technology, automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the digital skills necessary to thrive in this changing environment, have profound consequences for the labor market. To capture the opportunities digitalization can bring, we must prepare for the shifts in the nature of work and support workers during the economic recovery from the pandemic.
3. Those in vulnerable and marginalized positions, e.g. rural populations and Indigenous peoples, women and girls, people on the move, older persons, and persons with disabilities, are disadvantaged in the digital world as well, even though they would benefit from the advantages of technologies the most. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these biases. Alongside this issue, are the risks digitalization carries. New technologies are increasingly being abused to commit crimes, divide communities, spread mis- and disinformation, oppress and exploit people and invade privacy. Efforts to bridge the digital divide must include adequate safeguards to protect the vulnerable, respect privacy, and human rights and enhance media and information literacy.
4. Skyrocketing energy usage, ICT-induced carbon emissions and toxic electronic waste show that digital technologies are part of the climate change problem. In our quest to end the digital divide and transition to a green economy, we must expose and address the environmental footprint of the digital age. When done right, digital information and communication technologies (ICT) present a huge opportunity to improve supply chains and accelerate environmental sustainability. They can reduce carbon emissions in mobility, manufacturing, agriculture, energy and the building sector by 20%. ICT solutions can also help cut nearly 10 times more CO2 than they emit.
5. Digital technologies are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, we cannot reap the full benefits of the digital age without bridging the digital divide and mobilizing the global cooperation and governance needed to prevent potential negative impacts. Digital cooperation must keep pace with the accelerating shift towards a digital world. As we emerge from the pandemic, there needs to be a global, collective responsibility to rebuild economies and societies on a safer, greener, and more equitable technological foundation. We must embrace ‘whole-of-society’ approaches in shaping a common digital future.
Join the debate tomorrow! The livestream starts at 10 AM (EDT): https://www.un.org/pga/75/digital-cooperation-and-connectivity/
Don’t miss out!