Upcoming forum seeks solutions for inclusive digital future


Major internet-themed UN gathering in Ethiopia is set to seek solutions for building an open, free, secure and inclusive digital future.

The upcoming 17th Internet Governance Forum (IGF), slated to be held in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, is expected to determine concrete steps for achieving universal and meaningful internet connectivity, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

The high-level annual gathering is expected to being together governments, businesses, civil society, the technical community and international organizations against a backdrop of surging geopolitical tensions, internet shutdowns and deepening mistrust, it said.

The IGF, convened annually by the UN Secretary-General, is a critical platform for enabling open and engaging discussions on internet governance, including the Internet’s sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development.

This year’s edition of the forum, hosted by the Ethiopian government with support from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs in collaboration with the UNECA, will be in a hybrid format.

Discussions at the high-level gathering will focus on five key areas that are connecting all people and safeguarding human rights; avoiding internet fragmentation; governing data and protecting privacy; enabling safety, security and accountability; as well as addressing advanced digital technologies.

According to the UNECA, safe and secure internet is a fundamental human right and pivotal to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. Open and secure internet access can generate huge benefits in the health, economic and educational sectors.

In countries where there is low broadband connectivity, providing schools with access to the internet can grow GDP by 20 percent, according to figures from the UNECA.

“The 17th IGF comes at a crucial time when approximately 2.9 billion people still remain unconnected, many of them living in least developed countries and rural communities,” according to the UNECA.

Women also lag behind men in terms of internet access. Other than access to and affordability of devices, an open and free internet has also allowed for its misuse through online misinformation and disinformation, cyberattacks and the endangerment of child online safety, it said. Enditem

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