Statement of Co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Digital Technologies at the 59th Session of the Commission on Social Development
Read the Statement of Co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Digital Technologies delivered at the 59th Session of the Commission on Social Development on 11 February 2021 by H.E. Jukka Salovaara, Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN.
Thank you Madam Chair.
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of Finland, Singapore, and my own country, Mexico, in our capacity as co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Digital Technologies.
We welcome this year’s priority theme for the Commission “Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and the well-being of all”.
Indeed, digital technologies play a central role in almost every facet of contemporary life. Nevertheless, we must not forget that 57% of the world’s people, 3.6 billion, remain offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.
The Commission has the potential, through its resolution on the priority theme, to provide practical guidance on the social development aspects of digital technologies. Digital technologies have revolutionized the ability to communicate with others and to share and access knowledge, to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies.
We recognize that digital technologies have a central role on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets and for a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital technologies have facilitated distance learning, health services, reduced and secured the transaction costs of remittances, promote the development of national strategies and public policies, and allowed vital business continuity in many industries. Also, they have the potential to support the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
However, many people have been left out of the benefits of digital technology. Digital dividends co-exist with digital divides. Well more than half the world’s population still either lacks affordable access to the internet or is using only a fraction of its potential despite being connected.
In this sense, we highlight the importance that women and girls and persons in vulnerable situations –such as older persons and those with disabilities; indigenous groups; and those who live in poor, remote or rural areas– can have safe and affordable access to digital technologies. Digital inclusion must be a common goal for all of us.
In order to effectively address these challenges, we urge the Commission to take due note of the Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. This landmark document should be analyzed though the lens of social development and can effectively guide the Commission’s deliberations along with other inputs. The roadmap contains a series of recommendations to help socially just transition towards sustainable development such as global connectivity, digital public goods, digital inclusion, digital capacity-building and global digital cooperation.
Likewise, we must continue promoting science, technology and innovation; recognizing the important role of public finance and policies in research and technological development; and to adopt science, technology and innovation strategies as integral elements of our national sustainable development strategies. In this sense, we recognize the importance of implementing the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and reaffirm our support for the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, whose work is essential for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In this regard, we want to highlight the Online Platform of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, a gateway to existing STI initiatives, mechanisms and programmes for accelerating progress towards the SDGs. We call on the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to brief on the development and operationalization of the online platform.
We also encourage the Commission to adopt a comprehensive approach to the matter of digital technologies, considering the links between social development, the economy, the environment, international cooperation and human rights. This will allow for the work of the Commission to be duly taken up to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ensure that no one is left behind.
The Group of Friends will remain as a steadfast partner to all Member States as we work together to advance digital inclusion and promote digital cooperation for the benefit of all.