UNITED NATIONS (AP) – World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee said on Thursday that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates ‘the gross inequality’ of a world where nearly half of the population cannot connect to the Internet .
He told a UN high-level meeting “our main focus should be to bridge the digital divide.”
About 3.5 billion people have missed the “lifeblood” that provided the Internet during the coronavirus crisis that enabled online work, education, and social connections, Berners-Lee said.
“This inequality hinders greater equality, and we know it affects those who are already marginalized most – people in developing countries, people on low incomes and of course women and girls,” he said. “Men remain 21 percent more likely than women to be online, and 52 percent more likely in least developing countries.”
He spoke at the online launch of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.
The first step is to develop new financial models to provide affordable internet connectivity for everyone by 2030.
To address inequality, the bar of basic access needs to be raised to ensure that people have “meaningful connectivity” to the Internet “that must contain data and devices to use its full power,” said Berners-Lee.
When people go online, they also need to discover it’s safe, participants said.
The digital world has many benefits, but has also been “severely abused,” Guterres said.
“Hateful language, discrimination and abuse are on the rise in digital spaces,” said the UN chief. “Wrong information campaigns endanger health and lives. … Life-threatening cyber attacks on hospital systems threaten to disrupt life-saving care. ”
The Digital Collaboration Roadmap aims to ‘connect, respect and protect people in the digital age’ by promoting open data, open artificial intelligence and funding models and open source software, Guterres said.
It also calls for comprehensive training, data protection and privacy, and provides the UN as a platform for cooperation to ensure that artificial intelligence is reliable, respects human rights and promotes peace.
“Unless we tackle digital instability and inequality, they will continue to aggravate physical instability and inequality,” said Guterres, who warns that digital divorces are becoming the “new face of insecurity and conflict”.
The World Wide Web Foundation, co-founded by Berners-Lee, helped develop the Roadmap. Last year it launched the ‘Contract for the Web’, a global action plan for governments, companies and civil society to counter increasing anti-democratic activity on the internet and keep knowledge freely available.
The contract has 1,300 approvals, and the foundation is developing ways for governments and businesses to demonstrate how they deliver on their promises to create a ‘safe and powerful internet, connect the disconnected, respect privacy (and) disinformation. fight, ‘Berners-Lee said.
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, internet use has increased by 70 percent, use of communication apps by 300 percent and virtual collaboration tools by 600 percent. Some video streaming services have grown twenty times the size, said Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.
But he said only about half of the world has access to the internet. Of the 25 least connected countries, 21 are in Africa.
The World Economic Forum has partnered with industry partners, the International Telecommunication Union, the World Bank and GSM – representing the interests of mobile operators around the world – and others to develop plans for private-public partnerships to expand digital connectivity.
“This has already been shared with 170 countries and is being actively used,” he said. “This rapid cooperation is very encouraging.”
Schwab called for “ambitious” measures for digital access and investment in innovative financing models. He noted that only 1% of global development banks’ funding goes to digital infrastructure.
Redefining cyberspace rules is just as important as building digital infrastructure, said Ajay Banga, incoming president of the International Chamber of Commerce and the president and CEO of Mastercard.
“Now is the time to focus on protecting the entire digital ecosystem and a global population of users rather than discrete parts of the system,” said Banga.
“We need to build better, more resilient and more inclusive,” Vodaphone CEO Nick Read told the forum. “The (UN) roadmap is crucial for this.”
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