By Martina Fuchs
LISBON, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- China is a key player in tackling the global digital divide, a top digital official from the United Nations told Xinhua this week.
Innovation and technology are critical to meeting this challenge, said Robert Opp, Chief Digital Officer for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
"China is clearly a powerhouse of technology and finding innovative or novel ways to make technology more affordable and available," Opp said in an interview with Xinhua at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. "We also see that when it comes to looking at how digital technology can drive the green transition."
UNDP, the United Nations' global sustainable development organization, works across 170 countries to end poverty and inequality and tackle climate change.
"The innovations in technology that are going on in China, whether it's recycling solar panels or figuring out new ways of low-cost electricity generation, can help advance the country's progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," Opp said at the Summit, which runs from Nov. 13 to 16.
"We have an innovation lab in Chengdu which looks to utilize science, technology and innovative finance to take on the fast-evolving development challenges of the 21st century. It is helping to create SDG-mindful young entrepreneurs," he added.
CLOSING THE DIGITAL GAP
According to the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the number of people worldwide without a connection to the Internet fell to 2.6 billion in 2023 from 2.7 billion in 2022.
However, ITU warned that according to current trends, global targets for connectivity are unlikely to be met by 2030.
"The situation of the digital divide is urgent," Opp said. "There is a big difference between the developed countries in the Global North and those in the Global South. The number in the 46 countries classified as 'least developed' is also significantly different. Only about 35 percent or 36 percent of people in those countries access the internet regularly."
"There's also a difference between men and women, generally men have more access than women, and there's a difference between rural and urban areas as people in cities have better access."
The lack of access to high-speed broadband has compounded negative effects on economic and political equality.
"Our top priority is to accelerate the digital development of the countries that are lagging furthest behind in an inclusive and responsible way," Opp said. "That means the deployment of many different technologies and approaches, but it's really all about acceleration."
One of the world's largest tech conferences, the Web Summit is hosting 70,236 people from 153 countries, with 2,608 startups taking part in the event this year.
Web Summit events have also been held in Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, and Doha. ■