Photo: UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya. Women learning to code at a technology centre in Herat, western Afghanistan. - Photo: 2018

UN Chief Asks Melinda Gates and Ali Baba’s Jack Ma To Head Digital Experts Panel

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – Noting that “the scale, spread and speed of change made possible by digital technologies is unprecedented, but the current means and levels of international cooperation are unequal to the challenge,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres has announced the launch of a High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation.

As Guterres told reporters at the UN Headquarters in New York on July 12, this is the first such Panel of its kind. It is comprised of women and men at the frontiers of technology, public policy, science, and academia.

The U.S.-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates (USA) and Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma from China are Co-Chairs of the 20-member Panel.

“Digital technologies make a significant contribution to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals and they cut uniquely across international boundaries,” said Guterres on the launching of the Panel.

“Therefore, cooperation across domains and across borders is critical to realizing the full social and economic potential of digital technologies as well as mitigating the risks that they pose and curtailing any unintended consequences,” he added.

The UN Chief has asked the Panel to contribute to the broader public debate on the importance of cooperative and interdisciplinary approaches to ensure a safe and inclusive digital future for all taking into account relevant human rights norms. The Panel is expected to identify policy, research and information gaps, and make proposals to strengthen international cooperation in the digital space.

Explaining the purpose of the Panel, Melinda Gates noted: “Technology is neither good nor bad. It’s just a tool – a very powerful tool – and what matters is how the world uses it. If all people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, have equal access to digital technology, they will use it to improve life for themselves and their families and raise their voices in conversations about what the future holds. Enabling this widescale empowerment is what this panel is about.”

The Panel will hold its first in-person meeting in late September 2018 and is expected to submit its final report to the Secretary-General within nine months.

In carrying out its work, the Panel will undertake a wide range of public consultations, including at least two public events and an open process inviting global inputs including through online engagement activities starting in September. It will be supported by a small Secretariat funded by donor resources, and based in New York and Geneva.

Jack Ma said: “Soon, every industry will be digitized, and this will have a tremendous impact on every aspect of life. In this digital era, data and technology are more broadly available, enabling entrepreneurialism, economic growth, and improved quality of life for those who have the access and training to leverage it. Global, cross-sector collaboration is critical to ensure the benefits of the digital era are possible for all.”

Members of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, in addition to the two co-chairs are: Mohammed Al Gergawi (UAE), Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, UAE; Yuichiro Anzai (Japan), President of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; Nikolai Astrup (Norway), Minister of International Development, Norway; Vinton Cerf (USA), Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google; and Fadi Chehadé (USA), Partner at ABRY Partners.

Other members are: Isabel Guerrero Pulgar (Chile), Director, IMAGO Global Grassroots and Lecturer, Harvard Kennedy School; Marina Kaljurand (Estonia), Chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace; Bogolo Kenewendo (Botswana), Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Botswana; and Akaliza Keza Ntwari (Rwanda), ICT advocate and entrepreneur.

Further Panel members are: Marina Kolesnik (Russian Federation), senior executive, entrepreneur and WEF Young Global Leader; Doris Leuthard (Switzerland), Head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, Switzerland; Cathy Mulligan (United Kingdom), Visiting Research Fellow Imperial College Centre for Cryptocurrency; Edson Prestes (Brazil), Professor, Institute of Informatics, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul; and Kira Radinsky (Israel), Director of Data Science, eBay.

Still more members are: Nanjira Sambuli (Kenya), Digital Equality Advocacy Manager, World Wide Web Foundation; Sophie Soowon Eom (Republic of Korea), Founder of Adriel AI and Solidware; Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah (Australia), Secretary General, CIVICUS; and Jean Tirole (France), Chairman of the Toulouse School of Economics and the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse.

Amandeep Singh Gill (India), Executive Director, Secretariat of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation and Jovan Kurbalija (Serbia), Executive Director, Secretariat of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation are ex officio members.

According to the UN, all Panel members serve in their personal capacity, not as representatives of their respective institutions. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 July 2018]

Photo: UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya. Women learning to code at a technology centre in Herat, western Afghanistan.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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