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Internet Governance Forum: Leveraging benefits of AI and digitalisation while mitigating risks

Leveraging benefits of rapid advances in artificial intelligence and digitalisation, while mitigating risks underpins UN Forum on Internet Governance

Kyoto, Japan, 9 October 2023 – Against a backdrop of growing geopolitical tensions, proliferating crises and widening inequalities, the challenges facing the global community in reaching the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are vast. With the Internet holding a critical role in navigating these complexities, the 18th UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) got underway in Kyoto, Japan today under the overarching theme, ‘The Internet We Want – Empowering All People’.

While tech is moving at warp speed in a select group of countries, the reality is that 2.6 billion people are still offline, mostly in the Global South and vulnerable communities. Digitalization is a whole-of-society phenomenon, impacting connected and unconnected populations alike, yet the distribution of its benefits remains highly uneven. With rapid tech advances, including in Artificial Intelligence, risking exacerbating existing inequalities, the Forum will focus on how we leverage the benefits of digital technologies, while mitigating the risks.

In his opening message to the Forum, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the need to work together to close the connectivity and digital governance gap, and to re-enforce a human rights, human-centered approach to digital cooperation: “We need to keep harnessing digital technologies enabled by the Internet to help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, take climate action and build a better world.”

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The Secretary-General also highlighted the importance of the UN Global Digital Compact which aims to set out principles, objectives and actions to secure a human-centred digital future, which will be taken up at the Summit of the Future next year: “Governments, the private sector and civil society must come together regularly to ensure that the commitments enshrined in the Compact are followed up.”

The Internet We Want Vision Paper

The opening day of the Forum also saw the release of the ‘The Internet We Want’ vision paper by the UN Secretary-General appointed IGF Leadership Panel Chair, Vint Cerf and Vice-Chair Maria Ressa. The paper reiterated that digital governance is critical for economic, social and environmental development, and is a crucial enabler of sustainable development. It further elaborated what it means for the Internet to be whole and open, universal and inclusive, free-flowing and trustworthy, safe and secure and rights-respecting.

Highlighting the integral role of the Internet in navigating global challenges, moving towards a better and more resilient future, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Li Junhua cautioned: “But this requires responsive policies that leverage the benefits of digital technologies while mitigating the risks.

“The Forum needs to further strengthen its role as being the global digital policy forum, in finding points of convergence and consensus and in identifying digital solutions in reaching the 2030 Agenda.”

About the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

The Internet Governance Forum, convened by the United Nations Secretary-General and hosted this year by the Government of Japan, is the global multistakeholder forum for dialogue on Internet governance issues. Each year, the IGF annual meeting brings together stakeholders from around the world to discuss the most pressing Internet governance trends and challenges. The IGF meetings facilitate the exchange of information and the sharing of good policies and practices related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet.

Held from 8 to 12 October, this year’s IGF is bringing together more than 8,000 registered participants from over 170 countries, making it the largest and most geographically diverse Forum to date. Representatives from governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community and international organizations, are gathered under the umbrella theme of ‘The Internet We Want – Empowering All People’. The programme will feature over 300 sessions, with eight sub-themes: (1) AI & Emerging Technologies; (2) Avoiding Internet Fragmentation; (3) Cybersecurity, Cybercrime & Online Safety; (4) Data Governance & Trust; (5) Digital Divides & Inclusion; (6) Global Digital Governance & Cooperation; (7) Human Rights & Freedoms; and (8) Sustainability & Environment.

The outcomes of the IGF, including from its High-level, Parliamentary and Youth tracks, will also serve as a concrete framework for the Global Digital Compact that will be agreed on at the UN Summit of the Future next year.

Join onsite, online and via livestream. For additional information and schedule, please visit: https://www.intgovforum.org/en

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