UN Secretary-General Says Future of Digital Must be Human Centered

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Addis Ababa (ENA) November 29/2022 The future of digital must be human centered by building a resilient internet for a shared, sustainable and common future, Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres said.

Delivering his video message at the opening of the 17th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) being underway in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa today, Secretary-General Guterres said “We often hear that the future will be digital, but the future of digital must be human centered.”

He stated that it is also the motivation behind my proposed Global Digital Compact on an open, free, inclusive and secure digital future for all.  

“We are aiming for this compact to be agreed by governments at the 2024 summit of the future, with inputs from technology companies, civil society, academia and others,”  The Secretary- General said.

For the Secretary-General, the compact firmly anchored in human rights aims to deliver in three areas as universal connectivity, closing the digital divide and reaching the 3 billion people who are offline, the majority of who live in the global south.   

A safe, secure, human centered digital space begins with the protection of free speech, freedom of expression and the right to online autonomy and privacy, he further indicated.

Governments, tech companies and social media platforms have a responsibility to prevent online bullying and deadly disinformation that undermines democracy, human rights and science, the Secretary-General noted.

The digital compact should focus on ways in which governments working with technology companies and others can foster the safe and responsible use of data.

“We are seeing the growing use and abuse of data. Our data is being used to shape and manipulate our perceptions without our even realizing it. Governments can exploit the data to control the behavior of their own citizens, violating human rights of individuals and groups.”

The secretary-General stressed the need to keep working for a safe, equitable and open digital future that does not infringe on privacy or dignity.

He urged the IGF and its leadership panel to help carry all of the issues forward, bringing together governments, the private sector, civil society and more through concrete actions for the safe, sustainable and inclusive digital future.

Ethiopia is hosting the 17th IGF international meeting in collaboration with UNECA that attracted more than 2,500 participants from across the world including representatives of governments, international organizations, private sectors as well as academician.