The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) brings together more than 7,000 innovators, leaders of large tech companies, young people, ministers and parliamentarians to spur efforts to build an open, secure and free digital future for all.
In his video message to Tuesday’s opening session, UN Secretary-General AntÃ³nio Guterres explained how the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the theme of the âInternet Unitedâ forum.
Global cooperation essential
The global crisis has highlighted the life-changing power of the internet, he said, with digital technology enabling millions of people to work, study and socialize safely online.
Yet it has also amplified the digital divide and the dark side of technology, as evidenced by “the super-rapid spread of disinformation”, for example.
âWe cannot meet these challenges together, through enhanced cooperation,â said Mr. Guterres.
“By setting clear rules to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, regaining control of our data, fighting disinformation and hate speech, and connecting everyone to the internet by 2030 . ”
Shape the conversation
Mr Guterres said the IGF has a crucial role to play in shaping the conversation on an open, free and secure digital space accessible to all.
The meeting is convened annually by the Secretary General with objectives that include promoting dialogue around Internet governance, sharing best practices and experiences, and identifying emerging issues.
The number of people using the internet has increased during the pandemic, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), which supports the IGF secretariat.
Internet use is increasing
COVID-19 saw the number of Internet users jump from 4.1 billion in 2019 to 4.9 billion two years later, data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency, revealed. United. The additional 782 million people who logged on during that time is more than double the population of the United States.
However, DESA noted that the lack of “accountability on the Internet” has allowed the spread of inflammatory hate speech, violent extremism and disinformation about the pandemic.
Data breaches have also increased, as have digital violence, cyberbullying and online harassment, targeting women and girls in particular. At the same time, nearly three billion people in the world, mainly in developing countries, do not have access to the Internet.
A digital future for all
Given the impact of the pandemic on the digital landscape, the IGF “could deliver on its promise to shape a digital future for the world – turn the COVID-19 crisis into opportunities,” said Liu Zhenmin, the secretary general UN deputy who heads DESA.
âIndeed, it is easier said than done, because the global governance of the Internet is complex. But united, we can succeed, together, âhe added.
The IGF started on Monday and is being held both in person and virtually.
Over 250 sessions will take place over its five days, examining issues such as economic inclusion and human rights protection online, universal access and meaningful connectivity.
Participants will also seek common solutions to four cross-cutting issues: climate, electronic waste and the environment; data and consumer protection; digital cooperation; and trust, security and stability.
The outcomes of the forum will inform public and private sector policies.