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UN Secretary-General’s Report: Commission for Social Development 59

The Secretary-General released a report for the 59th Commission for Social Development on priority theme: “Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all”.

Throughout the report the Secretary-General addressed the requirement for a socially just movement towards “inclusive, equitable, resilient and sustainable development” within the context of digital technologies.

The Secretary-General stated that digital technology has the potential to provide new opportunities for achieving three of the core Social Development Goals, including: eradicating poverty, promoting full and productive employment and fostering social inclusion. However, using digital technology to achieve social development presents the issue of the digital divide. Only 53.6 percent of the world uses the Internet, leaving just less than half, without the Internet.

The Secretary-General stressed that “leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline.” He also suggested that “ironically, those on the wrong side of the digital divide are often the social groups whose well-being could be most improved by those technologies.”

The Secretary-General addressed the four broad categories of the digital divide, including: access, affordability, skills and awareness.

In terms of access, the Secretary-General emphasised the importance of the private sector, in its efforts to increase ICT infrastructure, especially in rural and remote areas. Bangladesh and Myanmar increased their range of broadband from 10 percent to 90 percent by opening up competition in the market.

In order to close the digital divide, technological access needs to be affordable. In Africa, the average price for fixed broadband is 64 percent of the continent’s average income. In order to combat this issue, places like Colombia have enforced subsidy programs for low-income households.

The Secretary-General mentioned that another barrier towards the digital divide is skills. The Secretary-General said that schools are at the heart of efforts to educate individuals on digital skills and proficiency.

Finally, awareness is also a barrier towards the digital divide. There are low incentives to go online due to a scarcity of relevant content online. Encouraging diverse content online will aid the process of decreasing the digital divide.

IBVM/CJ focused their Oral Statement at CSocD59 on the issue of access to quality education and its link to access to digital technology. IBVM/CJ gathered information from the local network on their experience of the impact of unequal access to digital technology on the access to quality education.

They reported that during COVID-19, education has been placed online, which has had positive impacts on those who have access to digital technology. However, those who do not have access to digital technology, are experiencing further inequality. Supporting the issues raised by the UN Secretary-General’s report.

Link to Sec Gen’s CSocD Report here:

Author: Evangeline Polymeneas