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Press Release

ITU celebrates 15 years of the second phase of WSIS with 150 countries joining the Virtual WSIS Forum 2020

15,000 cumulative attendees participated in 160+ virtual sessions to advance the role of ICTs in sustainable development




Geneva, 10 September 2020
The 15th annual World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum concluded today following 11 weeks of virtual events that saw attendees from UN agencies, private sector, governments, academia and civil society joining together online to review their progress on using information and communication technology (ICT) to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
 
"This year marked our 15-year milestone and we celebrated the remarkable way digital technologies have transformed people's lives for the better around the globe," said Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). "The WSIS Forum was a pioneering summit when it was first launched. We anticipated a time when pupils would enhance their studies online, agriculture would be more productive thanks to satellite imaging, health care would benefit from better patient diagnosis and treatment and climate change could be monitored through remote sensing. Technology advances have exceeded our expectations and we believe the next 15 years will show even more progress in the use of ICTs to achieve sustainable development and improve the lives of the world's citizens." 
 
For over a decade and a half, the pioneering WSIS Forum has brought together many different players involved in shaping an Internet beneficial to society and empowering individuals. This 'multi-stakeholder model' became accepted as the main way forward for the information and knowledge societies. The Forum's commitment to connect the unconnected has spearheaded many initiatives to enable everyone to benefit from digital technologies, wherever they are, and however they live.
 
The many announcements, launches, agreements and commitments at this year's summit highlighted the progress relating to e-Government, cybersecurity, environmental impact, digital accessibility, COVID-19, education, gender equality and youth and older persons, ethics and wellbeing.
 
Hosted and co-organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the specialized United Nations agency for ICTs, the WSIS Forum remains the leading global platform for multi-stakeholder collaboration to drive global development and accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. A cumulative total of 15,000 participants took part in more than 160 virtual sessions organized by WSIS stakeholders, with thousands of participants from over 150 countries following the live broadcast on social media. WSIS Forum 2020 was chaired by the Dominican Republic. The Forum was co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD in close collaboration with all United Nations agencies. 
 
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NOTE TO EDITORS
 
Key achievements, announcements, launches, agreements, and commitments from WSIS Forum 2020
  • The launch of the first ICTs and Older Persons track to support the highly-valued contribution by older workers, as well as explore the potential of robotics and artificial intelligence for work and wellbeing, addressing the role of ICT in combating age-based discrimination to enable the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020–2030.
  • UNDESA launched United Nations E-Government Survey 2020, an indispensable ranking, mapping and measuring tool for policymakers and analysts researching e-government.
  • UN Regional Commissions called on all regional partners and stakeholders to join forces and support upcoming WSIS-related events and activities. WSIS remains a key part of the UN Regional Coordination Mechanisms and WSIS4SDG will become one of the pillars of the regional SDG Forums. UNECLAC was appointed as the Chair of the WSIS Regional Commissions Group for 2020-2021.
  • Dominican Republic, Chair of the WSIS Forum 2020, was nominated Chair of the ITU-Group of Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC).
  • WSIS Forum 2020 was also an opportunity for partnerships to be forged and valuable tools and initiatives to be launched. The full list of Official WSIS Forum 2020 Outcomes are available on the WSIS Forum 2020 website (www.wsis.org/forum).
  • The announcement of the WSIS Prizes 2020 winners and champions, which represented all seven continents and all WSIS stakeholder groups. A full list of award winners and sponsors is available on the WSIS Forum 2020 website (www.wsis.org/forum).
  • WSIS Action Line C1, C7 - E-Government and C11: Latest findings from the United Nations E-Government Survey 2020 (UNDESA).
  • The Community Internet Experience service to be launched in Central America, Peru and countries in Africa in 2021.
  • Waste and Water Data Solutions for Reducing Environmental Impact - Womenvai/European Water Project
  • Digital Accessibility in a COVID-19 World - Announcement of Project Pakistan by OptiKey to provide free open source software and hardware devices to persons with physical impairments.
  • Driving sustainable Growth by Educating Marginalised Girls - EMEA Satellite Operators Association, ESOA.
  • Bridging the digital divide - how ITU-T standards enable installation of optical fibre cable in remote areas - ITU-T SG15 and Global Plan Inc.
  • Living the standard – the finalization of an IFIP Code of Ethics.
  • 15 Years & Beyond: Building the Information Society of the Future - UNCTAD, UNECA, UNECE, UNESCAP, UNESCWA - launch of new report “Fifteen Years Since the World Summit on the Information Society"
  • WSIS Arab Regional Meeting – how all WSIS action lines are interlinked to all SDGs, with an initial consensus among Arab main partners and stakeholders towards a unified approach in 2021
  • Opening of the ICTs and Older Persons Track GCOA and ITU - Digital Inclusion Across the Generations to Enable the Decade of Healthy Ageing.
  • Women engineers and technicians contributing to ICTs related SDGs and WSIS objectives - Raising visibility of Women and Artificial Intelligence regulation for better gender equality
  • African Women in ICT - Prioritizing gender equality at the highest levels of policy making including in the ICT sector
  • ICTs and Accessibility: Safe Listening - the role of policy makers, manufacturers and apps developers towards a common goal of creating a world where nobody's hearing is in danger due to unsafe listening practices.
  • ICTs and Accessibility: UN Collaborative efforts towards SDGs, CRPD and UNDIS implementation in Digital Accessibility - identifying how artificial intelligence AI and new assistive technologies AT support the independent life and social and economic participation of persons with disabilities in the society.