WSIS 2018 Focused On SDGs, Never-Ending Digital Divide, Role Of SMEs 20/03/2018 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The UN-led World Summit on the Information Society Forum (WSIS) 2018 opened its doors this week, with over 2,500 participants. This year, the focus is on sustainable development. International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary General Houlin Zhao underlined the importance of reducing the digital divide in a press briefing this morning. ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao and H.E Eng. Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Chair of WSIS 2018 at press briefing today The 2018 edition of WSIS focuses on sustainable development trends and inclusive ICT initiatives in key areas of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is co-organised by the ITU, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and the UN Development Programme. The summit is taking place from 19-23 March. The 2018 WSIS Forum is hosting over 200 workshops, covering topics identified through a participatory process with WSIS stakeholders, according to an ITU press release. Issues covered in the agenda include the digital divide, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, education, digital transformation, access to knowledge, e-science, innovation, the digital economy, and blockchain. Zhao at today’s briefing this morning said the digital divide remains a key issue. He told Intellectual Property Watch that beyond that issue, the development of new technologies was a focus of WSIS 2018, as well as engaging small and medium-sized enterprises, and connecting the unconnected. The original WSIS took place in two parts, in 2003 (Geneva) and 2005 (Tunisia). WSIS is a great platform that connects different sectors and disciplines, said H.E Eng. Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, deputy director general, Telecommunication Sector, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and chair of WSIS 2018. He remarked at the briefing that throughout the 15 years of WSIS meetings, many of the 11 actions lines of WSIS have been implemented at the national, regional, and international levels. Action lines include access to information and knowledge, capacity building, enabling environment, the ethical dimensions of the information society, and international and regional cooperation. The common link of those action lines is the role of the ICT as a main player in achieving action line targets, he added. Without connectivity there is no achievement, he said, adding that half of the world population is still not connected. Al Mesmar talked about the interest of the UAE for artificial intelligence, and in particular the fact that the country is seeking ways to diversify its income beyond oil. Big data is another type of oil, he said, “that is the future.” Answering a question about the goals of WSIS and the annual Internet Governance Forum, Zhao said originally the IGF aimed at addressing political matters of internet governance (despite being a non-negotiating body). Lately, he said, the IGF also got into development issues, but it is not its focus. Meanwhile, the WSIS is focusing on development issues, and not so much on political debates, he said. People More Connected, but Knowledge Issues Remain Zhao told Intellectual Property Watch that ITU is a technical agency, established in 1965, which works with industry to develop new technologies and new standards. In the past, “big technology was coming from big guys, big companies,” he said. Nowadays things have changed. New ICT tools allow people to be connected, so people in developing countries and in remote areas can have access to the latest technologies, and they know how to manage those technologies and to develop their own products and solutions, he said. Today, the technology knowledge is not dominated by big companies only, but also by numerous small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the world, according to Zhao. The ITU found out that developing country SMEs have new ideas and new technologies, but either they do not have the chance to develop those further, or those ideas and technologies are discovered by big companies and they become the “big guy’s assets.” Knowledge sharing and the transfer of knowledge is a big challenge for the ITU, he told Intellectual Property Watch, and the ITU would like to use ICT to reduce the knowledge gap. Image Credits: Catherine Saez Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."WSIS 2018 Focused On SDGs, Never-Ending Digital Divide, Role Of SMEs" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.