ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO has signed a joint statement on how to achieve meaningful connectivity for all at the 2021 High-Level Digital Debate of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Connectivity and Digital Cooperation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that meaningful digital access is indispensable to global resilience and prosperity. Since the onset of the crisis, digital technologies have helped sustain business operations and keep economies afloat. Technology has been critical to detect and manage the spread of the virus. In the process, digital technologies have reshaped the way we work, study and live our daily lives and these technologies will be critical in achieving an inclusive and durable post-COVID rebuild.

For many, video conferences, online streaming and home delivery services have become the new normal. However this new normal has remained beyond the reach of many and, without bold and determined action, digital divides will continue to compromise our collective efforts to contain the pandemic and achieve a sustainable economic recovery for all.

This is why, on behalf of businesses worldwide, ICC is proudly joining a multistakeholder initiative calling for concerted action at all levels to bridge digital divides, especially the pervasive and persistent gender digital gap. The joint statement, delivered during the 2021 High-Level Digital Debate of the General Assembly on Connectivity and Digital Cooperation, comes in response to the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, which ICC has enthusiastically supported since its launch in June 2020.

Specifically, the Joint Statement calls for the global community to come together to:

  1. Close the digital divide by 2030
  2. Invest in affordable technology solutions
  3. Empower people everywhere
  4. Mobilise new financing models to reach the unconnected
  5. Protect the most vulnerable online

For many years, the business community has highlighted the propensity for digital technologies to act as catalyst for the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the voice of business, ICC is proud to join this chorus of multistakeholder voices to call for strengthened cooperation to harness the power of digital technology and chart a digital future that works for everyone, everywhere.

Signing the statement on behalf of ICC, Mr Denton said:

“Throughout this challenging year, many of us have benefitted greatly from high levels of digital access to remain connected to family, friends and colleagues. But the crisis has laid bare a tragic reality: too many of us have been left behind for too long on the side-lines of an all too disparate digital transition. It’s incumbent upon business, government and civil society to work cooperatively to design and implement the enabling environments for digital access that will end these digital differences and make technology truly work for all.”

Welcoming ICC’s commitment, ICC Executive Board member Candace Johnson, Founder/Co-Founder of SES ASTRA and SES Global, Loral Teleport Europe, Europe Online and Oceania Women’s Network Satellite/Kacific, the Global Telecom Women’s Network and today Vice-Chair of NorthStar Earth and Space said:

“We in the private sector and global entrepreneurial, innovation eco-system must work together to inform policy stakeholders globally on the power of digital technologies in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals and which policy framework we need in place to quickly and collectively achieve these goals. Only then will we impel policymakers to make effective policy decisions. This statement highlights the immediate action areas that policymakers urgently need to consider in order to truly leverage the empowering effects of digital technologies for the advancement of the SDGs.”

To act on this commitment, ICC will be mobilising its global network of private sector representatives within the ICC Commission on the Digital Economy and ICC Business Action to Support the Information Society (BASIS) initiative to address issues linked to connectivity and access to digital technologies.

Next week, ICC BASIS will host a workshop with leaders from business and development organisations to discuss barriers and enablers of connectivity investments. Organised under the auspices of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum, the session will seek to explore what policy and regulatory reforms are needed to stimulate the sustainable funding of connectivity to close the digital divide – especially where market forces are insufficient. Register here to tune in for the session at 15:00-16:00 CEST on Friday, 7 May

ICC has also launched a dedicated Working Group on Access and Connectivity that will convene business experts from a diverse range of sectors and geographies to develop a white paper on delivering universal meaningful connectivity. This paper will provide additional guidance and recommendations on how to advance the objectives set in the joint statement.