“Digital access is defined as having access to enough devices and speed and bandwidth to connect globally and it should be considered a fundamental human right”.
The collaborative Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum) is convened annually by the President of ECOSOC to discuss science, technology, and innovation cooperation around thematic areas for the implementation of the sustainable development goals (UN Agenda 2030).
This important meeting is held together with all relevant stakeholders, actively contributing to their area of expertise, in finding a way to overcome the digital divide.
There is a need for collaboration and an emergency of multi-stakeholder approaches, useful to facilitate decision-making on the opportunities emerging from the information society. Their role is to try to understand the changes to integrate new opportunities related to human rights and sustainable development.
The issues taken into consideration by the participants during this Forum are varied, but the general discussion revolves around determining the future and potential risks and opportunities of new technologies and their fields of application. The point of interest also dwelt a lot on the pandemic and the knowledge gained from this experience, using these tools to soften the impact of the COVID-19 at the individual, social and economic levels.
Economic inclusion is strictly linked to this process, but the new management of online data makes it complex to rebalance human dignity with economic benefits, putting these rights at risk.
The main objective is the development of innovative applications of technologies, always keeping in mind human well-being and health. To achieve these goals, collaboration at different levels is needed, and the Science, technology, and innovation stakeholders offered their support to work with governments in this field.
Closing the digital divide, digital identity, user trust, building capacity, and multi-stakeholder collaboration is essential in a world that is basing human well-being on technological development, to simplify some everyday aspects and ensure the exercise of human rights. The focus is always on connectivity, which has now become indispensable to participate in the international life of development and innovation and to "not be left behind".
The need for broadband connectivity is also linked to the need to understand the reasons why people use this information tool, which must be established in order to ensure a connection useful for the economic, technological, and social development of the country of reference.
Of course, there are still many unknowns in this process, such as the affordability of these tools and the security that must be guaranteed to users, since the regulation to ensure transparency remains insufficient.
In fact, are we sure that technology is always capable of ensuring a smaller digital gap and protection of human rights?
To be considered truly efficient, these technologies (such as modern AI) should be financed accompanied by investments in the human skills to manage them, to ensure correct and equitable access to these resources.
Anyway, secure online spaces are essential for successful digitalization and to counter false information, useful to defend and promote trustworthy information. To do that, an urgent and transparent dialog with youth is required to transmit to them the values of technology for sustainable development.
Moreover, we must consider that human rights apply online just as they do offline, and in this way, digital technologies provide not only new means to exercise human rights (job research, eMed…) but also to violate them (Data protection, privacy issues, surveillance technologies, online violence).
The United Nations can play a fundamental role in this sector, promoting new approaches to control technological impacts and new online security standards, always continuing, however, to design science, technology, and innovation policies and initiatives that translate into effective actions for Sustainable Development Goals.