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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

08 October 2023

ESCAP ES

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates and participants,

Allow me to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government of Japan, DESA and ITU for offering me the opportunity to speak at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2023 in Kyoto.

Under the overarching theme of this year's Forum, the "Internet We Want - Empowering All People," I am confident that with the active engagement of all stakeholders, this event will help build global consensus for an empowering future for people and the Internet.

While digital connectivity brings significant digital dividends to society, if such dividends are not equitably shared, risks will be increasingly difficult to address.

I am therefore pleased to see that the eight sub-themes chosen for the Forum this year are all topical, notably the sub-themes on “AI and Emerging Technologies” and “Digital Divides and Inclusion.”

Allow me to share some regional perspectives.

Digital Divides and Inclusion: Challenges

 Asia and the Pacific remains the most digitally divided region in the world. Our study has highlighted that limited and unaffordable Internet access, as well as the gender digital divide, continued to worsen in countries in special situations during the pandemic.

Digitally advanced economies such as Japan are racing ahead to embrace emerging technologies, accelerating the transformation to digital societies through frontier technology digital hubs and digital governance, while others, with limited digital infrastructure and digital skills, are adapting more slowly to the rapid stream of digital innovations. 

AI and Emerging Technologies: Opportunities

The deployment of emerging technologies is particularly promising for Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate change, which is the only Goal in the region where implementation is in reverse. 

For example, Singapore, through its “Smart Nation” initiative, is using AI to drive growth and innovation in a resource-efficient manner, while in Japan, a number of AI-driven applications have enhanced disaster resilience and climate adaptation.

Similarly, the Republic of Korea is investing in AI to develop curriculum and teacher training aimed at instilling advanced digital skills that prepare students for an AI-driven future. 

Work on directing the development of AI through a people-centred approach based on commonly shared human values and rights has just begun. And much remains to be done. 

Notwithstanding the slow pace and often messiness of multifaceted, multistakeholder and multilateral approaches, it is our best hope for evolving the future we want.

Moving forward, I conclude with three messages.

We must double our efforts towards closing the widening digital divide by scaling up investments in digital connectivity infrastructure that is ready for the data-intensive traffic of the future.

We also need to promote digital literacy and skills that encompass fundamental human values for the productive use of the Internet in a responsible manner.

Finally, we need to strengthen cooperation between governments, the private sector and other stakeholders.

In this regard, we are working with member States to implement the Action Plan of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Initiative from 2022 to 2026.

This Action Plan serves as a blueprint for regional cooperative actions on bridging the digital divide and accelerating digital transformation.

I look forward to collaborating with all key stakeholders to achieve universal digital connectivity and digital transformation for all and the future we want.

Thank you.

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