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Members Communiqué

Spotlight on ‘Tech for Good’ at this year’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

ITU supports countries to use ICTs to achieve the SDGs

Geneva, 01 August 2018

The use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve livelihoods worldwide was widely recognized at the annual meeting of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), held 9-18 July in New York City. The HLPF is the central UN platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contained within it.

This year, under the theme Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies, the progress of six SDGs was reviewed: Clean water and sanitation (SDG6), Affordable and clean energy (SDG7), Sustainable cities and communities (SDG11), Responsible consumption and production (SDG12), Life on land (SDG15), and Partnerships for the goals (SDG17).

The 2018 HLPF Ministerial Declaration, adopted at the end of HLPF, recognized the importance of ICTs to achieve these six specific SDGs, noting:

  • “We will embrace innovation-driven development, digitalization and new technologies, especially information and communication technologies, in managing cities more effectively and holistically, including intelligent and resource efficient transport systems and new efficiencies in energy consumption and waste management."
  • “We will improve monitoring and reporting, including use of ICTs and remote sensing to tackle, in particular, illegal logging and wildlife trafficking, including poaching."
  • “A substantial digital divide persists, both between and within countries and between women and men, and between girls and boys. We stress the need to act proactively to avoid exacerbating inequalities between and within countries in the coming years, and that the introduction of new technologies should never blind us from our pledge to leave no one behind."

In remarks delivered on his behalf, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said, “The world needs the SDGs and the SDGs need ICTs. Countries are determined to seize the opportunities of the digital revolution, exploring innovations such as the Internet of Things. ITU is at the forefront of this revolution (and) ITU reaffirms our commitment to supporting countries as they digitalize."

“We also congratulate UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the launch of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation and support efforts to strengthen international cooperation in the digital space," added Mr Zhao.

ITU and other United Nations agencies and governments shared examples of how the innovative application of emerging technologies is being used, or is planned to be used, to achieve the SDGs in a new “Tech for Good" trend.

ICTs as catalysts to achieve the SDGs were included in 39 of the 46 Voluntary National Reviews presented by countries. Most underlined the development opportunities presented by the digital revolution, while many cited specific areas including: smart cities, e-health, digital entrepreneurship, digital skills, e-waste management and agriculture among others. Many countries also highlighted the importance of promoting digital inclusion, reaching out to youth, supporting women and girls to bridge the digital divide, and ensuring that the most vulnerable people are not “left behind".

Highlighting the importance of collaboration and international standards to fully leverage the potential of ICTs, Chaesub Lee, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said during the smart cities side event, “To reap the full benefits of advances in ICTs, new collaborators will need to build the common understanding necessary to work together on a basis of mutual trust. International standards, built by consensus, offer us common platforms for growth and innovation – with international standards, innovation can be shared."

ITU reaffirmed its commitment to supporting countries to implement a wide array of ICT-related initiatives. ITU experts led, coordinated and/or participated in more than 13 key events on the topics of: ICTs towards sustainable cities and resilient societies, children and mobile technology, mobile technology to achieve the SDGs, e-waste partnership, artificial intelligence, digital skills for youth, engaging the private sector, the use of broadband to enhance livelihoods – and moderated the 2018 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) High-level Segment Thematic Dialogue, Leveraging new technologies for the SDGs.

Participating in Colombia's Digital Agenda  for  Latin  America  and  the  Caribbean  as  a  catalyst  of  the SDGs side event, ITU Chief of Strategic  Planning  and  Membership Doreen  Bogdan-Martin, said, “ICTs  have  the  extraordinary  potential  to  improve  social  and  economic  development. Indeed,  these  technologies  are  a  key  driver  and  essential  for  the  Fourth  Industrial  Revolution  to  be  fully  realized."

ITU also coordinated and participated in the launch of the new report Broadband for national development in four LDCs: Cambodia, Rwanda, Senegal and Vanuatu by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development. The report shows that broadband (high-speed Internet) plays a valuable role in helping Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to overcome vulnerabilities, grow economies and enhance people's livelihoods.

In addition, ITU joined in supporting the launch of the report Enabling the Global Goals by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI). The report determines “a clear correlation between digital access and SDG achievement," citing that “a 5% increase in digital access has the potential to save 2 babies for every 1000 births, which equals to a 7.4% reduction in infant mortality."

Participants of this year's HLPF included over 125 heads and deputy heads of state and government, ministers, vice-ministers and other ministerial level officials, 130 panel speakers and over 2200 registrants.

Learn more about ITU's activities to support the SDGs at: