UN Secretary-General Releases Roadmap for Digital Cooperation

Jun 14, 2020 | Srivats Shankar

The UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres releases his roadmap for digital cooperation following the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation

Back in 2019 we had reported on the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Corporation’s first report. The report focused on the need to develop digital and artificial intelligence technologies to serve humanity as a whole, calling for states and private players to embrace human centric design. The rapid development of digital technology necessitates the requirement for transparent design and reporting, along with a respect for individual privacy and autonomy.

On June 11, 2020, Secretary-General Antnio Guterres laid down his roadmap for implementing the report by the High-Level Panel. The roadmap highlights the development of digital technology and its ability to effectuate change. Acknowledging, the reality of exacerbating existing economic and social disparity, the roadmap discusses how technology could be applied as recommended by the High-Level Panel to bring about greater access to resources and meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Digital technology does not exist in a vacuum – it has enormous potential for positive change, but can also reinforce and magnify existing fault lines and worsen economic and other inequalities.

To reiterate the five principles highlighted by the High-Level Panel Report of 2019 regarding the use of digital technology are as follows:

  1. Build an inclusive digital economy and society
  2. Develop human and institutional capacity
  3. Protect human rights and human agency
  4. Promote digital trust, security and stability
  5. Foster global digital cooperation

To effectuate these principles the roadmap built on comments made by member states and 300 private entities. Accordingly, the report summarizes the recommendations of the High-Level Panel and observations based on action points raised by the comments. Like before the report focuses on the impact of emerging technologies and how they can positively impact change, from improving global connectivity, leveraging “digital public goods” in the form of real-time and predictive insights from stakeholders, arguing in favor of digital inclusion particularly socioeconomic barriers to technology, limits on Digital capacity in different states based on capability, and effectuating digital human rights ranging from rights that exist offline which need to be respected in cyberspace along with protection of digital privacy, ensuring integrity of identity, safeguards against surveillance technology, and prevention of online harassment. This is supplemented by brief discussion on digital trust and security, and global digital cooperation.

The roadmap also includes a brief discussion of the growth in the artificial intelligence (AI) sector. According to the roadmap, AI is projected to generate $4 trillion by 2022. However, it raises major concerns about safety of users, including physical safety as a result of autonomous weapons. The roadmap recognizes existing gaps in international coordination, collaboration, and governance. The three main challenges recognized by the roadmap regarding artificial intelligence include – the lack of representation and inclusiveness in global discussions, the lack of overall coordination and accessibility of the technology, and the ability of the public sector to increase its capacity by engaging in artificial intelligence.

In his closing notes, the Secretary-General discusses how the UN can continue to serve as a platform for international dialogue between multiple stakeholders. The roadmap serves as a call to action for stakeholders to discuss how digital cooperation can be shaped in the years to come, in order to more equitably offer the resources available.

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