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World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2023: Empowering Least Developed Countries through Digital Transformation

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) is celebrated this year with a focus on “Empowering the least developed countries through information and communication technologies.” The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) called upon both public and private sectors to make pledges for universal connectivity and digital transformation in these countries through its Partner2Connect Digital Coalition.

Amidst the agenda to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, the least developed countries (LDCs) face substantial challenges. The Fifth Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) held in Doha, Qatar, has established an ambitious United Nations program of action to deliver sustainable development for all by 2030.

Recognizing the LDCs as the world’s greatest untapped resource, their needs must be addressed to achieve the SDGs. Shockingly, approximately one-third of the 2.7 billion people lacking internet access reside in the 46 LDCs. Investing in these young and vibrant countries can drive sustainable growth for generations to come.

The WTISD celebrations, held annually since 1969 on May 17, mark the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the founding of ITU in 1865. This year’s theme emphasizes the importance of leveraging information and communication technologies to empower the least developed countries.

In his message for WTISD, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the transformative power of technology in advancing sustainable development in LDCs. He acknowledged the tremendous opportunities brought about by the digital revolution, from enhancing education and healthcare to accelerating climate action and achieving all SDGs.

However, Secretary-General Guterres also emphasized the need to address the perils associated with technology. He emphasized the importance of establishing ethical guardrails, robust governance frameworks, and combating hate speech, disinformation, and social divides. Guterres also stressed the risks posed by artificial intelligence, emphasizing the need for human-centered approaches and eliminating bias.

To ensure that LDCs do not fall further behind, the Secretary-General called for improved accessibility, inclusivity, and the elimination of the digital divide. He emphasized the importance of investing in public institutions’ capacity to understand, oversee, and engage with transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence. Guterres also called for the creation of digital public goods, such as open-source software, open data, and open content.

Highlighting the ITU’s efforts to accelerate global connectivity for all by 2030, Secretary-General Guterres urged global collaboration to close the digital divide and create a more equitable and sustainable future. He emphasized the need for a Global Digital Compact that avoids fragmentation, safeguards human rights, and ensures technology serves human well-being, solidarity, and progress.

As the world celebrated WTISD, it reinforced the commitment to empower the least developed countries through digital transformation. With renewed efforts, 2023 can be a year of significant progress, enabling these countries to leverage information and communication technologies for sustainable development and bridge the digital divide.

The WTISD 2023 served as a reminder that technology, when harnessed responsibly and inclusively, can be a powerful force in reducing disparities and ensuring a brighter future for all.