Highlights and Outcomes
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2021 was organised in a virtual format by ITU as the lead coordinator, in collaboration with the co-organisers UNESCO, UNCTAD, and UNDP, and in close collaboration with more than 30 UN agencies. The WSIS Forum 2021 provided an inclusive global multistakeholder platform for all to exchange knowledge and information, enhance collaborative networks, and to share best practices in the information and communication technologies (ICTs) sector.
The Forum’s theme this year, “ICTs for Inclusive, Resilient and Sustainable Societies and Economies (WSIS Action Lines for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals)” created an opportunity for WSIS stakeholders to share their efforts and innovative ideas to leverage the (ICTs). Also, it built momentum to advance action-oriented dialogue on efforts in the context of COVID-19 recovery and initiatives to implement the WSIS Action Lines to advance the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Over the course of seventeen weeks (since January 2021), the WSIS Forum 2021 hosted more than 250 sessions, including workshops, live interviews, WSIS TalkX, the high-level track, Hackathon and many more. The WSIS Forum 2021 garnered a lot of interest and excitement worldwide – with a cumulative attendance of over 50,000 attendees (zoom room, zoom recording, Facebook Live videos, YouTube, and other format) over 185 countries from Government, Civil Society, Academia, Private Sector, the UN to exchange discourse on ICTs emerging issues to strengthen information and knowledge societies.
The WSIS Forum 2021 also welcomed more than 150 high-level participants – Ministers, Deputies, Head of Regulatory bodies, etc. with an increased participation especially from the Americas region, including Ministers and Regulators from Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, Uruguay, United States (Chairwoman), Jamaica, Peru and others.
Throughout the entire Forum, there was a strong call for ensuring connectivity for everyone and maximising the benefits of ICTs for economic, social and environmental development. The crucial use of ICTs in COVID-19 response activities and programme was highlighted throughout the Forum. The central values and principles of WSIS are to promote and accelerate the use of ICTs and digital technologies for the inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies and economies of all (WSIS Action Lines for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals).
WSIS Forum 2021 was chaired by H.E. Mr. Maxim Parshin, Deputy Minister, Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, Russian Federation.
The 11 High-Level Policy Sessions were moderated by the High-Level Track Facilitators nominated by the organisations representing different stakeholder types.
WSIS Forum 2021: Outcomes, Achievements and Announcements
The concrete outcomes, achievements and announcements of WSIS Forum 2021 will enable stakeholders to strengthen implementation of WSIS Action Lines and the alignment of the WSIS and SDG processes, and include among others:
WSIS Action Lines advancing the achievement of the SDGs: UN WSIS Action Line Facilitators (ITU, UNESCO, UNDP, UNCTAD, UPU, ITC, WMO, WHO, FAO, UN DESA, UNEP) successfully held several Action Line Facilitation meetings displaying opportunities, challenges, and key trends in each Action Line.
UN Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) reiterated commitment to the WSIS Action Lines implementation and alignment of the WSIS and SDG processes, with a UNGIS Joint Statement to be released during the High-Level Political Forum, UNESCO were appointed as the rotational UNGIS Chair for the year 2021-2022 and the Vice-Chairs are ITU, UNCTAD, UNDP and UN ESCWA.
UN Regional Commissions committed to strengthen regional-level WSIS action through multi-stakeholder platforms and a series of regional face-to-face meetings. 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. UNESCWA was nominated as the Chair of the WSIS Regional Commission Group for 2021-2022.
Ministerial Round Table: Around 40 Ministers, Deputy-Ministers, and High-Level officials joined the Ministerial Round Table meeting held during the final week of the WSIS Forum 2021. Participants emphasized the importance of the WSIS Action Lines framework as a key UN framework for work on the information and knowledge societies. They highlighted the importance of investment in ICTs to close the digital gaps and divides. They emphasised on the importance of resilient and secure ICTs infrastructure in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They applauded the WSIS Forum for creating global partnerships and collaborations.
WSIS Forum 2021 Hackathon – Ageing Better with ICTs: ITU, Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), and other stakeholders like WHO, UN DESA, etc. successfully organized the virtual hackathon on ICTs and Older Persons gathering more than 1,100 participants joining from 48 countries. The hackathon ideated ICT solutions addressing the areas of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, frailty, transportation and mobility, and financial tools for longevity. Four winners from each challenge areas were awarded during a High-Level Dialogue gathering expert judges in field of technology and ageing. One winning team in each challenge area received a 6-month mentorship with the Global Coalition on Aging and their member companies as well as a $1,000 cash prize. Learn more about the winners: https://www.hackerearth.com/challenges/hackathon/ageing-better-with-icts/ Watch our hackathon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBQ2lNBeGsY
WSIS Healthy Ageing Innovation Prize: WSIS Forum Special Track on ICTs and Older Persons initiated a special prize this year entitled, the WSIS Healthy Ageing Innovation Prize, focused on ICTs that specifically address the needs of people 60+ to achieve and sustain an active and engaged life as they age. 12 finalists were shortlisted and the winner was Age Care Technologies (UK). More info is available at: https://www.itu.int/net4/wsis/forum/2021/Home/ICTsOlderPersons
WSIS Prizes 2021: The Forum also included the announcement of the WSIS Prizes 2021 winners and champions, which represented all seven continents and all WSIS stakeholder groups. In addition, the winning entries of the WSIS Forum Photo Contest 2021 were unveiled, highlighting how ICTs are playing a vital, enabling role on the road to achieving the SDGs.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response - ICT Case Repository: https://www.itu.int/net4/wsis/stocktaking/Surveys/Surveys/Submit/15863048637525604 The repository was initiated for collecting projects and activities on how ICTs are assisting stakeholders in their everyday life, work, and combating challenges caused by this extraordinary pandemic. Several interviews were conducted with stakeholders and A Global WSIS Response - Amid the Pandemic documentary has been produced.
WSIS TalkX: A series of WSIS TalkX were conducted with the Ambassadors and stakeholders innovating to use ICTs for COVID-19 response and others to highlight the importance aspect of ICTs COVID-19 response and ICTs for Inclusive, Resilient and Sustainable Societies and Economies (WSIS Action Lines for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals).
WSIS Forum 2021 was also an opportunity for partnerships to be forged and valuable tools and initiatives to be launched. The full list of Official WSIS Forum 2021 Outcomes, and the below information materials are available on the WSIS Forum 2021 website.
WSIS Forum 2021 was made possible through the generous support of its strategic partners:
- United Arab Emirates - Platinum Partner
- Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of) - Gold Plus Partner
- Qatar - Gold Partner
- Japan - Partner for Specific Activities
- The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) - Partner for Specific Activities
- Huawei Technologies, Ltd. - Partner for Specific Activities
- Rwanda (Republic of) - Contributing Partner
- Switzerland (Confederation of) - Contributing Partner
- Internet Society (ISOC) - 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
High-Level Policy Sessions Highlights
Between 22 and 26 March, more than 1550 participants have joined us for 11 High-Level Policy sessions of the WSIS Forum 2021. 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.
More than 100—Ministers, Deputies, Head of Regulatory Agencies and High-Level Representatives representing Private Sector, Academia, International Organizations, Technical Community and Civil society joined with some joining for the first time, especially from the Americas region, including Ministers and Regulators from Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, Uruguay, United States (Chairwoman), Jamaica and Peru.
In addition to successful participation of Ministers and Regulators, a cross sectoral approach was engaged with the participation of Ministers and High-Levels form other sectors.
WSIS Action Lines Facilitators provided a context to how UN Agencies are implementing the WSIS Action Lines.
Many high-level participants emphasised on the importance of bridging the digital divide where 3 High-Level Policy Sessions focusing on this theme. Let us 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 2021 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 scheduled on May 20. The Final Week of the Virtual WSIS Forum 2021, will take place from 17 to 21 May 2021, featuring an Opening segment, a closed Ministerial Round Table meeting, and High-Level dialogues.
Announcements for WSIS Forum 2022 (30 May – 3 June 2022)
GCOA announced the continuation of the ICTs and Older Persons track and WSIS Healthy Ageing Innovation Prize, including strengthening linkages of the WSIS Forum with the Silver Economy Forum.
UNESCO and ITU WSIS Team will be jointly organizing a Hackathon and Special Prize in 2022 on ICTs and Indigenous Peoples and Cultures.
UNESCO announced a special track on ICTs and Indigenous people to be launched at WSIS Forum 2022.
Geneva Cities Hub expressed appreciation for the Mayor’s session at the WSIS Forum 2021 and announced strengthened partnership with a Mayors round table in 2022 focussing on Smart Cities for achieving the SDGs.
WSIS Forum 2022 will enhance cross-sectoral participation of Ministers, Private Sector, Academia and Civil Society in areas such as health, education, trade, culture and so on.
Special Tracks that will be continued in the WSIS Forum 2022:
ICT and Older Persons
ICTs and Youth: Launch of the WSIS Youth Campaigner for engaging Youth in the WSIS and SDGs processes.
ICTs and Gender Mainstreaming
ICTs and Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities and Specific Needs
ICTs for Well-being and Happiness
Emerging Technologies for Sustainable Development (Startups)