From 25-29 May, the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2015 took place. The week was filled with panel sessions, high-level discussions and high-level statements from high-ranking officials representing governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations. The sessions and discussions of the week supported the WSIS Forum 2015 theme of Innovating Together: Enabling ICTs for Sustainable Development.
The week started off with a series of parallel thematic workshops hosted by a range of global stakeholders, including Cybersecurity and Privacy in a World of Data Driven Innovation hosted by IEEE. Discussions centered on information and communications technology (ICT) and its growth and impact in an increasingly hyper-connected world, focusing on progress that has been made on implementation of WSIS Outcomes and discussing the current challenges and challenges that may lie ahead as technology advances at tremendous speed.
In the various panels and discussions, multi-stakeholder collaboration across borders and among industries and communities was stressed. Throughout the conference the topic of Internet of Things (IoT) in the context of being a significant driver in revolutionizing the Internet was in the forefront. During a session organized by Japan, Japanese business representatives shared their experience with developing IoT and practical related e-applications. Tetsuo Nakakawaji from Mitsubishi Electric Corporation noted that he believes we are not yet in an IoT era, since for this to happen technologies need to be further developed, especially in relation to security and stable Internet networks.
Cybersecurity was also a significant part of the dialogue during the WSIS 2015 Forum, with several sessions organized on the topic. In the Building Trust in Cyberspace: Working Together session, Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of ITU, noted that despite the tremendous opportunity, ICT comes with equally tremendous challenges in terms of trust and confidence. In his statements, he noted that this [trust and confidence] can only be achieved when different stakeholders work in cooperation and not in isolation. Uri Rosenthal, former Dutch foreign minister and special envoy of the Global Conference on Cyberspace 2015, promoted awareness-raising activities on the proper use of ICTs and the Internet, as users share the responsibility in using the Internet appropriately.
Through the series of policy statements, the need for multi-stakeholder model of cooperation to bridge the digital gap, particularly to connect rural areas, was stressed. Other themes included the need for affordable access to ICTs, the encouragement for innovation, the inclusivity of the Internet and the applicability of ICTs in cybersecurity.
In general, throughout the week there was advocacy for increased inclusion of ICTs in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a universal set of goals, targets and indications that UN member states are expected to use to frame their agendas and policies over the next 15 years. The current set of SDGs are due to expire the end of this year, and this September UN members states will meet to review and set SDGs that will become applicable from January 2016, with an expected deadline for the new SDGs in 2030.
At the WSIS 2015 Forum there was an emphasis on linking the WSIS process with sustainable development. The UN overall WSIS+10 review initiates in June. The WSIS+10 Process marks the ten-year milestone since the WSIS, two-phase summit (2003-2005) that defined the issues, policies and frameworks to address ICTs to foster development. The meeting in June will lead to the UN General Assembly decision in December 2015 that will set the course for WSIS beyond 2015.
For information on how to join the IEEE Internet Initiative’s growing world-wide community of experts in technology and policy making, visit internetinitiative.ieee.org.
To showcase the impact of ICTs for sustainable development, a document that maps the WSIS Action Lines with the proposed UN Sustainable Goals was issued during the conference. This document draws direct linkages of the WSIS Action Lines with the proposed SDGs to continue strengthening the impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for sustainable development. To access the details of the WSIS 2015 Forum, please refer to the WSIS 2015 Forum Outcome Document.
Karen McCabe is a Senior Director of Technology Policy and International Affairs at IEEE, where she leads efforts to build and connect communities working in the technology policy ecosystem and where her focus is on the development and promotion of collaborative strategies that produce impactful outcomes among mulit-stakeholders to help advance technology for society and humanity benefit. Karen has over 20 years experience working at the nexus of mission-driven organizations, industry, NGO and government bodies to raise awareness, to educate and build capacity among stakeholders in the technology sphere.