ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- With 2.7 billion people still left offline, participants at the United Nations 17th Internet Governance Forum in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, have called for concerted efforts for a safe, sustainable and inclusive digital future for all.
This year's edition of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF-2022), which kicked off on Monday and runs through Friday and is the first held in the African continent in 11 years, is being held under the theme "Resilient Internet for a Shared, Sustainable, and Common Future."
According to the UN, the IGF-2022 is in particular putting a spotlight on the African continent, which is the least connected, with 60 percent of the population offline due to a combination of reasons.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addressing the forum in a video message on Tuesday, emphasized the need to keep working for a safe, equitable and open digital future that does not infringe on privacy or dignity.
"We often hear that the future will be digital. But the future of digital must be human-centered. That ambition is reflected in your theme," he said.
Guterres said the notion is behind his proposal for the Global Digital Compact on an open, free, inclusive and secure digital future for all.
"We are aiming for this compact to be agreed by governments at the 2024 Summit of the Future, with input from technology companies, civil society, academia and others," he said.
"I urge the Internet Governance Forum and its leadership panel to help carry all of these issues forward - bringing together governments, the private sector, civil society and more, through concrete actions for a safe, sustainable and inclusive digital future," Guterres said.
The UN, in a statement regarding the ongoing forum, said there is immense potential in empowering youth to thrive in a digital economy and leapfrogging technologies. It, however, said for a staggering 2.7 billion people, many of them living in developing and least developed countries, meaningful connectivity remains elusive.
According to the UN, while the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation in some sectors including health and education, it also exacerbated various forms of digital inequality, running deep along social and economic lines.
The increase in internet use has also paved the way for the proliferation of its dark side, with the rampant spread of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, the regular occurrence of data breaches, and an increase in cyber-crimes, it said.
The UN said the theme of the forum calls for collective actions and a shared responsibility to connect all people and safeguard human rights; avoid internet fragmentation; govern data and protect privacy; enable safety, security and accountability; and address advanced digital technologies.
According to the UN, the outcomes of the IGF, including from its high-level, parliamentary and youth tracks, will serve as a concrete framework for the Global Digital Compact that is expected to be agreed on at the UN Summit of the Future in 2024. ■