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Guterres calls for end to digital divide, stressing ‘tremendous opportunities’ ahead

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© ILO/Ahmad Al-Basha/Gabreez A woman mends a laptop at her phone and computer maintenance shop in Taiz, Yemen.

That’s the message from UN chief António Guterres ahead of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day on Thursday.

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Mr. Guterres insisted on the need to confront technology’s perils, including the amplification of economic inequalities, the proliferation of hate speech and disinformation, as well as the lack of governance and unchecked development of artificial intelligence, or A.I.

In his video message, the UN chief said the digital revolution was a “defining force of our era.”

“The opportunities are tremendous: from transforming education and healthcare, to accelerating climate action and the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Bridge the divide

He stressed that technology must be an instrument that can reduce divides – not deepen them.

And while the internet becomes ever more central to value creation and innovation, “we must dramatically improve accessibility and inclusivity and eliminate the digital divide.”

This starts with supporting digital public goods such as open-source software, data accessible to all, and open content.

“We must invest in the capacities of public institutions so that they have the skills and resources to understand, oversee, shape, and engage with Artificial Intelligence and other transformative technologies”, the Secretary-General added.

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Global Digital Compact

He called for countries to come together around a Global Digital Compact, and avoid fragmentation, safeguard human rights, and ensure technology is a force for good.

He commended the UN specialised agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for working to accelerate global connectivity for all, by the 2030 sustainable development goal deadline.

Guterres calls for end to digital divide, stressing ‘tremendous opportunities’ ahead

UNDP/Aurélia Rusek A woman uses solar energy to charge her cell phone in a displaced persons camp in Burkina Faso.

AI governance boost for multilateralism

Echoing the UN chief’s words, his Technology Envoy Amandeep Gill told UN News in an interview in Geneva, why it was so urgent and important, to get governance right when it comes to AI.

“If we can demonstrate to the rest of the world that we can get our act together around A.I., not just shutting things down, stopping progress, but governing it in a way that no one is left behind”, against the backdrop of other global challenges, “then that is a larger message on the success of multilateralism.”

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