Broadband Commissioners meet at the 2023 WSIS Forum in Geneva

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. 

Opening Remarks

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 

Closing Remarks 

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,    

“When it comes to bridging digital divides there is no one-size-fits-all and no one entity can do it alone digital divides needs to be tackled comprehensively and also holistically with solutions that work in different parts of the world and with different communities”

Upcoming Work 

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) 

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