Highlights and Outcomes

The WSIS Forum goes virtual this year!

After careful consideration and in light of the global health crisis and pervasive travel restrictions, the co-organisers decided to hold the WSIS Forum 2020 in a virtual format. The WSIS Forum 2020 strived to create a meaningful virtual experience for WSIS stakeholders and to scale the event to reach a wider audience. The WSIS Forum is an open and inclusive space for all, harnessing the potential of ICTs and accelerating the achievement of the SDGs through the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines.

This year’s theme is “Fostering digital transformation and global partnerships: WSIS Action Lines for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, featured special tracks with thematic topics, high-level sessions, regional workshops, as well as a series of WSIS Action Line facilitation meetings to keep up the momentum of this special year that marks the 15-year milestone since the creation of the World Summit on the Information Society. For the last 15 years, WSIS Forum has proven to be an efficient global multistakeholder platform that is open and inclusive for all to exchange knowledge and information, enhance collaborative networks, and to share best practices in the ICTs sector.

The agenda and programme of the WSIS Forum 2020 were spread over the summer months to culminated in the final week of the Forum running from 7 to 10 September. As with the physical event, attendees were able to watch and listen to all live sessions, interacted with panellists through a Q&A, engaged and network with different communities, shared emerging technologies and recent developments in the ICT sector in facing COVID-19 pandemic to continue working towards building inclusive information and knowledge societies.

“This year is also special because it marks the 15-year milestone since the creation of the World Summit on the Information Society. This period has seen a remarkable growth in the use of digital technologies, transforming people’s lives around the globe," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

The Forum garnered a lot of interest and excitement worldwide – with a cumulative attendance of over 15,000 attendees from around 150 countries who took part in about 160 virtual sessions with 846 different speakers. The virtual sessions were organised by WSIS stakeholders to highlight the role of ICTs in sustainable development.

The Forum officially kicked off with the High-Level Opening Ceremony of the Virtual WSIS Forum 2020 Workshops and Special Tracks on 22 June 2020. The Chairman of the WSIS Forum 2020, His Excellency Mr. Gustavo Montalvo, Minister of the Presidency of the Dominican Republic, was appointed on this occasion.

An inauguration of the Virtual WSIS Forum 2020 exhibition space took place on 7 July 2020. The virtual exhibition space enables more than 130 exhibitors to fully showcase their initiatives and products and allows attendees to access and explore no matter where they are.

Social and networking elements of the Virtual WSIS Forum 2020 can be enjoyed by participants through imeetyouatWSIS platform, a dedicated online networking space that provides opportunities to meet other attendees, start conversations, interact with scheduled speakers and build personalized schedule of sessions.

The outstanding outcomes also manifested in a good regional and gender balance participation, which shown the positive energy and commitment towards the WSIS Process and the strengthening of WSIS implementation activities to achieve the SDGs.

The concrete outcomes of WSIS Forum 2020 will enable stakeholders to strengthen implementation of WSIS Action Lines and the alignment of the WSIS and SDG processes, and include among others:

  • UN Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) reiterated commitment to the WSIS Action Lines implementation and alignment of the WSIS and SDG processes, with contributions to the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) 2020; submitted a written contribution and held a side-event at the HLPF 2020 (www.ungis.org). UNCTAD assumes the Chair of UNGIS for the year 2020-2021. As the current Chair of UNGIS, UNCTAD has initiated a Dialogue on the Role of Digitalization in the Decade of Action to raise awareness of both the importance of digitalization in achieving the SDGs and of the unique opportunity that UNGIS presents for more effective collaboration in this area within the UN System.

  • UN Regional Commissions organised a series of workshops to highlight the regional activities in implementing the WSIS Action Lines for the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Many announcements have been made calling on all regional partners and stakeholders to join forces and collaborate in joining upcoming WSIS-related events and activities. WSIS will be continue to be included in the UN Regional Coordination Mechanisms and WSIS4SDG will become one of the pillars of the regional SDG Forums. UN ECLAC was nominated as the Chair of the WSIS UN Regional Commissions group for 2020-2021.

  • Dominican Republic, Chair of the WSIS Forum 2020, has been nominated as the Chair of the ITU-Group of Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC).

  • Launched the first ever ICTs and Older Persons track at the WSIS Forum 2020. The reference of this activity was included in the UN Secretary General Report “Follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing” (A/75/218) submitted pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 74/125. Para 42: Another barrier to the participation of older persons in the labour force are labour markets that do not offer the flexibility that would benefit older persons. Offering flexible and part-time work arrangements, which are highly valued by older workers, as well as exploiting the potential of new digital technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence, to support employment among older persons can incentivize older workers to extend their working lives. While information and communications technologies (ICT) have become ubiquitous in the economic and social life of both developed and developing countries, digital divides continue to prevent ICT from achieving their full development potential, particularly in the least developed countries (see A/75/62-E/2020/11). Highlighting the importance of older persons as a cross-cutting topic, in 2020 the World Summit on the Information Society Forum, for the first time, has dedicated a special track to older persons and ICT. In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the new track will address the role of ICT in combating age-based discrimination in the workplace, achieving healthier ageing, building smarter cities, ensuring the financial inclusion of older persons and supporting millions of caregivers across the world and in digital inclusion across the generations to enable the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020–2030.

  • UNDESA has launched United Nations E-Government Survey 2020. Since its inception in 2001, the United Nations E-Government Survey has become an indispensable “ranking, mapping and measuring” tool for policymakers and analysts engaged in comparative analysis and contemporary research on e-government.

  • Strengthened the engagement with ITU Study Groups in line with the WSIS Process

  • Ministerial Round Table participants committed to bridging the digital divide and connecting the unconnected.

  • ITU and University of Geneva collaborated for the virtual Hackathon through the Open Seventeen Summer Challenge.

The Forum also included the announcement of the WSIS Prizes 2020 winners and champions, which represented all seven continents and all WSIS stakeholder groups. In addition, the winning entries of the WSIS Forum Photo Contest 2020 were unveiled, highlighting how ICTs are playing a vital, enabling role on the road to achieving the SDGs.

WSIS Forum 2020 was made possible through the generous support of its strategic partners:

  • United Arab Emirates - Platinum Partner
  • Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of) - Gold Plus Partner
  • Switzerland (Confederation of) - Partner for Specific Activities
  • Japan - Partner for Specific Activities
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) - Partner for Specific Activities
  • Internet Society (ISOC) - Contributing Partner
  • Rwanda (Republic of) - Contributing Partner
  • The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) - Contributing Partner
  • International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) - Supporting Partner
  • Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) - Supporting Partner
  • University of Geneva – Geneva Tsinghua Initiative - Supporting Partner

Agenda and Recordings

Facts and figures

15,000+ attendees
45% Female – 55% Male
The Americas 15%
Western Europe 17%
Eastern Europe and Northern Asia 8%
Africa 20%
Asia and Australasia 40%
Regional participation
Multistakeholders participation
Multistakeholders participation
Figures are based on session registrations
Virtual sessions and WSIS action lines
Virtual sessions and WSIS action lines
The figure shows contribution to the WSIS Action Lines from the thematic workshops content.
Virtual sessions and WSIS COVID-19
Virtual sessions and COVID-19
The figure shows the amount of sessions that highlighted issues related to the topic of COVID-19.
Virtual sessions and the SDGs
Virtual sessions and the SDGs
The figure shows contribution to the SDGs from the thematic workshops content.
Exhibitors - Stakeholder type distribution
Exhibitors - Stakeholder type distribution

High-Level Policy Sessions Highlights

Between July 20 and July 29, more than 1500 participants have joined us for the 11 High-Level Policy sessions of the WSIS Forum 2020. This year’s sessions have covered a wide range of topics including Bridging digital Divides, ICT Applications and Services, Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, Enabling Environment, Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society, e-Trade, Capacity building, e-Learning and Gender Mainstreaming and ICTs.

Many high-level participants emphasised on the importance of bridging the digital divide. Let’s remember that 3.6 billion people around the world are still not connected to the Internet, mostly those living in rural areas and remote communities, our core mission must be to connect everyone everywhere.

Throughout the sessions, some countries shared their efforts to respond to and cope with the impact of COVID-19. It was emphasised that we need to leverage the potential of ICTs towards combating the pandemic. It is now well recognized that ICTs are a key part of building back better, for more inclusive healthcare and education, more sustainable business practices, and for the implementation of the SDGs.

The WSIS Forum remains the platform to track the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, in collaboration with partner UN Agencies.

The summary of the High-Level Policy sessions will be included in the “WSIS Forum 2020 High-Level Outcomes and Executive Brief”, and will also be presented by the High-Level Track Facilitators during the “Outcomes of the High-level Policy Sessions and Conclusion of High-Level Track by Chairman” session. The Final Week of the Virtual WSIS Forum 2020, will take place from 7 to 10 September 2020, featuring an Opening segment, a closed Ministerial Round Table meeting, and High-Level dialogues.

HLPS 1 - Bridging Digital Divides
HLPS 2 - Bridging Digital Divides
HLPS 3 - ICT Applications and Services
HLPS 4 - Building Confidence and Security in the use of ICTs
HLPS 5 - Building Confidence and Security in the use of ICTs
HLPS 6 - Inclusiveness, Access to Information and Knowledge for all
HLPS 7 - Digital Economy and Trade, Financing for Development and Role of ICT
HLPS 8 - WSIS Action Lines and 2030 Agenda / Enabling Environment
HLPS 9 - Knowledge Societies, Capacity Building and E-Learning
HLPS 10 - Ethical Dimensions of Information and Knowledge Societies
HLPS 11 - Gender Mainstreaming and ICTs
Mr. Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General closing the High-Level Policy Sessions

Insightful and informative sessions

Word cloud of diverse topics addressed during the Forum
Topics addressed

The Virtual WSIS Forum 2020 has brought together high-level officials, academics, practitioners, ICTs experts, youth, business, and civil society leaders to engage in addressing issues on ICT for development. So far, more than 800 key speakers have participated throughout the weeks in about 160 different sessions organised by WSIS stakeholders.

In addition to the virtual workshops, the Forum features special tracks with thematic topics, including:

  • The ageing of the global population will be the defining demographic trend of the 21st century—yet our societies struggle to see the opportunities that this trend can unfold. The new ICTs and Older Persons track addresses the role of technology in achieving healthier ageing, but also how technology can help us build smarter cities, combat age-based discrimination at the workplace, ensure financial inclusion of older persons, and support millions of caregivers across the world.

  • The ICTs and Gender Mainstreaming track aims to integrate and mainstream a gender equality perspective through the use of ICTs as well as to strive for 50/50 gender balance participation at the Virtual WSIS Forum 2020. This track comprised of interactive sessions with different topics covering gender and ICTs issues.

Special Tracks

Stories from the ground: WSIS Forum 2020 Photo Contest workshops

The WSIS Forum Photo Contest, running for the fourth consecutive year since its launch in 2017, received 209 submissions in total — almost doubling the number received in the previous year. Excellent photos were received from all walks of life around the world illustrating how ICTs are playing an enabling role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The photo contest virtual sessions provided opportunities for the winners and finalists from WSIS Forum 2020 Photo Contest to share the story behind their photos and the impact of their photography and to showcase related projects that implement ICTs for achieving the SDGs.

View all photos

Stories from the ground: WSIS Prizes 2020 and Champions

A series of five virtual interactive sessions on WSIS Prizes 2020 Champion Success Stories started on 24 June and 25 June, and will continue on 14 August, 21 August, and 26 August.

This series seek to provide useful, replicable, and actionable information to WSIS community and beyond, highlighting WSIS Action Lines Implementation and SDGs Advancement. We invite all to make good and timely use of this data, reach out to our speakers, and promote ICTs as enablers of SDGs. All panellists featured in these sessions are coming from the WSIS Prizes 2020 Champions community.

Eight panellists per session are sharing their success stories in using ICTs as opportunity to transform our lives and work, overcome challenges, and build the information society around the globe.

With the world struck by the Coronavirus pandemic, the WSIS Stocktaking online platform started collecting projects and activities on how ICTs are assisting stakeholders in their everyday life, work, and responding to challenges caused by this extraordinary disease. This series is also showcasing the WSIS Prizes 2020 Champions using tools and technologies to go through these extraordinary times.

We will have a very productive summer ahead of us with numerous activities related to the WSIS Stocktaking and WSIS Prizes, concluding with the WSIS Prizes 2020 Ceremony on 7 September, when the eighteen WSIS Prizes 2020 Winners will be announced, and nine global, regional and special WSIS Stocktaking Reports will be published.

We encourage all stakeholders to continue sharing best practices on the WSIS Stocktaking Platform, as our ICT Case Repository launched in response to COVID19 pandemic is still open for submissions until 31 July, while we will also soon be launching the new call for WSIS Prizes 2021.

COVID-19 Response – ICT Case Repository

WSIS Forum 2020 Virtual Exhibition

The WSIS Forum 2020 virtual exhibition was launched on 22 June and will run until 10 September 2020.

This year's Forum gathers more than 130 exhibitors from Civil Society, Academia, Technical Community, International Organizations, Private Sector, United Nations and Governments, as well as WSIS Prizes Champions community. The virtual exhibition allows a wide array of stakeholders to showcase their projects and the technology behind it. It provides an opportunity to share their initiatives and solutions that harness the power of ICT-enabled development to advance the achievement of the SDGs and expand our Information Society.

The virtual exhibition was inaugurated by the Secretary-General of ITU, Mr. Houlin Zhao. Accompanied by the WSIS Forum 2020 Platinum Partner representative H.E Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Deputy Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the United Arab Emirates, as well as the Gold Plus Partner represented by H.E. Dr. Mohammed Altamimi, Governor, Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), and one of the Partners for Specific Activities, IEEE, represented by Ms. Karen McCabe, Senior Director Public Affairs and Marketing. Joining the inauguration were four other exhibitors, who briefly presented their ICT-enabled projects and initiatives.

Visit our virtual exhibition

Social media and outreach


The virtual exhibition is hosted in our online networking platform, imeetyouatWSISForum, where we are able to reproduce some of the key networking aspects of the WSIS Forum. With already more than 3,000 registered participants, the platform facilitates communication by making bilateral or multilateral discussions possible between attendees, speakers, partners and exhibitors in different formats. The booths are animated with video(s) and other materials for the participants to browse through and even download.


imeetyouatWSISForum page views
Social media statistics: Instagram

The Instagram account currently has 1,671 followers. The account reaches approximately 631 accounts every week and the content posted is seen by approximately 3,635 accounts every week. The account is visited by roughly by 318 accounts, depending on the current content and promotion. In terms audience, the account gains approximately 10 or more followers weekly. Overall, the followers are 52% men and 48% are women. The age range of the accounts that actively follow wsis_process is 18-34 years old. The top locations where the followers are located are from Brazil, Switzerland, United States and UAE.


Social media statistics: Instagram
Social media statistics: Twitter

The @WSISprocess twitter account currently has 7,634 followers. This is a monthly summary, overall the account is growing in mentions from diverse accounts, 35.1% increase in profile visits and followers increase over 194 in a month. Every tweet earns approximately 105K impressions monthly. During the month of August more than 57 tweets were created and the account was mentioned around 150 times.


Social media statistics: Twitter
Social media statistics: Facebook

The WSIS Process Facebook account currently has 8,561 followers and 8,127 people like the page. All the growth from the page is exponentially organic. The WSIS Process Facebook page has a total reach of 35,789 people per month. The people who follow the page is from various locations such as, Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and many others.


Social media statistics: Facebook