The 2023 World Summit on Information Society Forum (WSIS Forum) kicked off the in-person portion of the event 13-17 March 2023 at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Headquarters in Geneva, with the leadership and attendance of many Broadband Commissioners.
The annual WSIS Forum is a global multistakeholder platform facilitating the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines for advancing sustainable development, hosted by ITU and co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, in close collaboration with all UN WSIS Action Line facilitators/co-facilitators and other UN organizations.
It provides an opportunity for information exchange, knowledge creation and sharing of best practices, while identifying emerging trends and fostering partnerships, whilst considering the evolving Information and Knowledge Societies. This year’s event theme is “WSIS Action Lines for building back better and accelerating the achievement of the SDGs.”
The 2023 WSIS Forum is dedicated to the goal of achieving a common vision, the desire and the commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information.
This year’s event brought together leaders from governments, civil society, the private sector, and international organizations to discuss strategies for harnessing digital technology solutions to support sustainable development, with over 2700 participants attending both onsite and remotely. The forum comprised over 250 sessions, and it attracted participants from over 150 countries worldwide.
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development and the WSIS Process have always had a strong connection, as both organizations have set out to promote access to digital technologies in order to achieve sustainable development. Secretary-General of ITU and Co-Vice Chair of the Commission, Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, was joined by a number of Commissioners in sessions and discussions over the week to discuss their shared vision of creating an inclusive and development-oriented information society.
At the WSIS 2023 Opening Ceremony, Ms. Bogdan-Martin, emphasized the importance of investing in an open, free, and secure digital future for all, stating, “Let’s reaffirm our commitment to the WSIS Action Lines and the SDGs, and let’s invest in an open, free, and secure digital future for all”
Dr. Tawfik Jelassi, Assistant Director General for Communication and Information of UNESCO, concluded his keynote noting that the information ecosystem “must be inclusive, governed as a common good, and managed in the public interest to ensure sustainability and equitable distribution.”
H.E. Mr. Mohammed Saud Al Tamimi, Governor of Communications, Space, and Technology Commission of Saudi Arabia (CST) and Broadband Commissioner, highlighted the importance of finding solutions to challenges such as limited access to the internet, stating, “Wi-Fi can be a solution and can provide us these access for everyone.”
H.E. Mr. Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Deputy Director General of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), United Arab Emirate and Broadband Commissioner, stressed the need to build bridges and strengthen existing ones to face the future, saying, “It requires an interconnected world. We have to remember that one-third of the world has no access to Internet“.
Dr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Broadband Commissioner, joined the forum remotely, affirming FAO’s commitment “to build a people-centered, inclusive, and development-oriented information society together”.
These leaders have demonstrated their commitment to Broadband Commission’s advocacy targets through their commitment to investing in technology, connectivity and digital cooperation. In their inputs to the WSIS Forum, they highlighted the importance of bridging the digital divide to ensure everyone has access to the benefits of the digital world.
Broadband Commissioners at WSIS 2023 High-Level Track
The WSIS Forum 2023 High-Level Track Policy Sessions gathered high-ranking officials of the WSIS Stakeholder community, representing the Government, Private Sector, Civil Society, Academia and International Organizations.
This year’s included 11 High-level policy Sessions looked at the challenge of bridging the digital divide from diverse angles and had a significant presence of 46 Ministers, 50 Ambassadors, and 15 Mayors from various countries around the world.
Broadband Commissioners, H.E Mr. Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Deputy Director General of TDRA, UAE and H.E. Mr. Mohammed Saud Al Tamimi, Governor of CST, Saudi Arabia joined the Ministerial Roundtable on-site in Geneva. They were joined virtually by, H.E. Ms. Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT & Innovation, Rwanda.
WSIS Prizes recap
The WSIS Prizes contest evaluates projects and activities that leverage the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to advance the United Nations agenda for 2030.
The ITU announced winners of the 2023 WSIS Prizes on March 14th, with 18 Winning projects linking digital transformation to sustainable development across 11 internationally recognized action lines.
WSIS Action Lines and SDG Matrix
The WSIS-SDG Matrix developed by UN WSIS Action Line Facilitators serves as the mechanism to map, analyze and coordinate the implementation of WSIS Action Lines, and more specifically, ICTs as enablers and accelerators of the SDGs. This mapping exercise 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
The High-Level Track of the 2023 WSIS Forum concluded on March 15th, with a focus on the need for comprehensive and collaborative solutions to bridge digital divides worldwide.
ITU Secretary-General, Ms. Bogdan-Martin closed the event by underlining the importance of collaboration stating,
The WSIS Forum 2023 will continue into the Spring with virtual workshops and sessions in April and May. Stay tuned for updates on Broadband Commission-led workshops and to see how the Broadband Commission and its members will participate this Spring. Check out the event website for more information on the agenda.
Sessions featuring Broadband Commissioners & their Entities (Disclaimer this is not exhaustive list, please refer to the WSIS Website for more info)
- High level Dialogue: Accelerating Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Digital Development (ITU/South Africa Mission)
- High-Level Dialogue: Setting Standards for Sustainable Development: Adopting a rights-based approach to technical standard setting (ITU/OHCHR)
- Mayors’ High-Level presentations (ITU/Geneva Cities Hub)
- GovTech 4 Impact: Executive experience sharing on digital public service development in Europe (ITU)
- ALFM: WSIS Action Lines ALFM C2: Infrastructure and WSIS Action Line C5: Cybersecurity: The Next Frontier: Let’s talk Digital Resilience – Cyber and Space (ITU)
- Capacity Building and Enabling Environments for Meaningful Access in Indigenous and Rural Communities (ITU-D Digital Inclusion, Rhizomatica Communications and Association for Progressive Communications (APC))
- GovStack CIO Digital Leaders Forum (Germany, Estonia, ITU and the Digital Impact Alliance)
- ALFM: WSIS Action Line C6: Enabling environment (ITU)
- Accelerating digital development in Europe and Central Asia: On our way to Agenda 2030 (ITU)
- AI for Good (ITU)
- Leveraging the power of sports for children’s online safety (ITU)
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship Alliance – Power Session (ITU)
- EQUALS – EU (ITU)
- ICTs and Clean Technologies for Climate Change special track: Enabling the net zero transition – harnessing ICT solutions to reduce GHG emissions (ITU)
- Opening of the ICTs and Youth Special Track (ITU and WSIS Youth Campaigners)
- Inter-Agency Working Group on AI- Bringing together the UN System expertise on AI (ITU/UNESCO)
- High-Level Dialogue on the Implementation of the UNESCO Open Educational Resources (OER) Recommendation (UNESCO)
- High-Level Dialogue: Digital Governance (UNESCO)
- ALFM: WSIS Action Line C3: Access to information: The policy guidelines for the development and promotion of the right to information
- ALFM: WSIS Action Line C7: e-Learning: Implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER) (UNESCO)
- ALFM: WSIS Action Line C8: Cultural diversity (UNESCO)
- Applying Internet Universality ROAM-X framework for WSIS+20 review and Global Digital Compact (UNESCO)
- ALFM: WSIS Action Line C10: Ethics: Moving from Principles to Practice in Governing AI Using The UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI (UNESCO)
- ALFM: WSIS Action Line C9: Media: Digital platform regulation (UNESCO)
- ICTs and Clean Technologies for Climate Change special track: Reimagining the interface between digital tech and the physical environment (DESC/UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, Royal Holloway, University of London)
- ALFM: WSIS Action Line C7: e-Science: Post truth on Open Data, Disinformation and Climate Change: Can Technology help? (UNESCO)
- WSIS Action Lines C10: Ethics: The UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence: Putting ethics at the heart of AI systems
- Giga: Defining and Financing Meaningful School Connectivity (GIGA) (UNICEF and ITU).
- Forum track – UAE (United Arab Emirates – Platinum Partner)
- HIGH-LEVEL LUNCH *invitation only* *sponsored by United Arab Emirates (Platinum partner)
- The UAE’s Digital Journey: From Digital Identity to City SuperApps and Beyond
- Technology for Democracy: Lessons learnt and the way forward for technology for democracy and human rights (1st Segment): Fireside Chat on Way Forward for Technology for Democracy and Human rights (UNDP)
- Technology for Democracy: Lessons learnt and the way forward for technology for democracy and human rights (2nd Segment)
- ALFM: WSIS Action Line C7: e-Health (WHO/ITU)
- The role of the Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025 in strengthening country’s autonomy in fast tracking UHC and the health related SDGs (WHO/ITU)