Acronym: CyberPeace Institute
Address: Campus Biotech Innovation Park, 15 avenue de Sécheron, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations
The CyberPeace Institute is an independent and neutral non-governmental organisation (NGO) that strives to reduce the frequency, impact, and scale of cyberattacks, to hold actors accountable for the harm they cause, and to assist vulnerable communities.
The Institute works in close collaboration with relevant partners to reduce the harm from cyberattacks on people’s lives worldwide, and provide assistance. By analysing cyberattacks, it exposes their societal impact and how international laws and norms are being violated, and advances responsible behaviour to enforce cyberpeace.
At the heart of the Institute’s efforts is the recognition that cyberspace is about people. It supports providers of essential services to the most vulnerable members of society, ultimately benefitting us all, like NGOs and the healthcare sector. Attacking them can have a devastating impact on beneficiaries and patients, putting their rights and even lives at risk.
To deliver on this mission, the Institute relies on donations and the generosity of individuals, foundations, companies, and other supporters. This support enables it to assist and support vulnerable communities, including NGOs, to enhance their resilience to cyberattacks.
The Institute also provides evidence-based knowledge and fosters awareness of the impact of cyberattacks on people, to give a voice to and empower victims to highlight the harm and impact of cyberattacks. It reminds state and non-state actors of the international laws and norms governing responsible behaviour in cyberspace, and advances the rule of law to reduce harm and ensure the respect of the rights of people.
Created in 2019, the Institute assesses the impact of cyberattacks from a human perspective, focusing on the rights of people. It grounds its analysis on evidence and the impact on human well-being, telling the story of people, linking with the technical reality of cyberattacks, and assessing it against the violation of laws. The Institute advocates for an evidence-based, human-centric approach to the analysis of cyberattacks as essential to the process of redress, repair, and/or justice for victims. It works collaboratively in its research, analysis, assistance, mobilisation, and advocacy. It engages with vulnerable communities to understand their needs for cybersecurity support and provides free and trusted cybersecurity assistance to vulnerable communities.
The CyberPeace Institute
- assists NGOs and other vulnerable communities to prepare for and recover from cyberattacks.
- investigates cyberattacks targeting vulnerable communities, analysing these attacks to provide alerts and support and for accountability.
- advocates to advance the rule of law and respect for the rights of people.
- anticipates threats to people associated with emerging and disruptive technologies.
- Examples of operational activities
- Assisting humanitarian and other NGOs with free and trusted cybersecurity support.
- Analysing cyberattacks and highlighting their impact on people and how they violate the rule of law.
- Documenting violations of international laws and norms and advocating for strengthened legal protection in cyberspace.
- Offering expertise and support to states and civil society in relation to responsible behaviour in cyberspace.
Digital policy issues
Cyberattacks against critical infrastructure have been on the rise, from attacks against hospitals and vaccine supply chains to attacks on the energy sector. When such disruptions occur, access to basic services is at risk. It is vital that there is an increase in the capacity and ability to improve resilience to cyberthreats in critical sectors, such as healthcare. The CyberPeace Institute urges stakeholders in diplomatic, policy, operational, and technical areas to increase their capacity and resilience to cyberthreats.
The Institute advocates for capacity building aimed at enabling states to identify and protect national critical infrastructure and to cooperatively safeguard its operation. This includes capacity building, implementation of norms of responsible behaviour, and confidence building measures. In strengthening efforts to protect critical infrastructure, the Institute calls for the sharing of lessons learned between countries to assist those with less capacity and fewer capabilities.
NGOs in civilian-critical sectors, for example water, food, healthcare, energy, finance, and information, need support and expertise to help them strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities. While these NGOs provide critical services to communities and bridge areas not covered by public and private actors, they lack the resources to protect themselves from cybersecurity threats.
Examples of the Institute’s work in this regard:
- Calls to governments to take immediate and decisive action to stop all cyberattacks on hospitals and healthcare and medical research facilities, as well as on medical personnel and international public health organisations.
- Capacity building is essential for achieving cyber preparedness and resilience across sectors and fields, and activities focus on providing assistance and capacity building to NGOs that might lack technical expertise and resources.
- Publication of the strategic analysis report Playing with Lives: Cyberattacks on Healthcare are Attacks on People, and launch of the Cyber Incident Tracer (CIT) #Health platform that bridges the current information gap about cyberattacks on healthcare and their impact on people. This is a valuable source of information for evidence-led operational, policy, and legal decision-makers.
- Monitoring and analysing how cyberattacks and operations are and have been, targeting critical infrastructure and civilian objects in the armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation through the publicly accessible Cyber Attacks in Times of Conflict Platform #Ukraine. The information on cyberattacks can be used to identify developments or clarify the law in relation to the use of cyber operations in armed conflicts, and for accountability in any future judicial proceedings.
NGOs play a critical role in ensuring the delivery of critical services, such as the provision of healthcare, access to food, micro-loans, information, and the protection of human rights.
Malicious actors are already targeting NGOs in an effort to get ransoms and exfiltrate data. Often these NGOs do not have the budget, know-how, or time to effectively secure their infrastructures and develop a robust incident response to manage and overcome sophisticated attacks.
With this in mind, the Institute launched its CyberPeace Builders programme in 2021, a unique network of corporate volunteers providing free pre- and post-incident assistance to NGOs supporting vulnerable populations.
This initiative brings support to NGOs in critical sectors at a level that is unequalled in terms of staff, tools, and capabilities. It assists NGOs with cybersecurity whether they work locally or globally, and supports them in crisis-affected areas across the globe.
The Institute believes that meaningful change can occur when a diversity of perspectives, sectors, and industries work together. To address the complex challenges related to ensuring cyberpeace, it works with a wide range of actors at the global level including governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, philanthropies, policymaking institutions, and other organisations. The Institute contributes by providing evidence-led knowledge, emphasising the need to integrate a genuine human-centric approach in both technical and policy-related projects and processes, and by highlighting the civil society perspective to support and amplify existing initiatives.
To contribute to closing the accountability gap in cyberspace, the Institute seeks to advance the role of international law and norms.
It reminds state and non-state actors of the international law and norms governing responsible behaviour in cyberspace, and contributes to advancing the rule of law to reduce harm and ensure the respect of the rights of people.
Contribution to UN processes
- In 2021–2022, the Institute contributed to and commented on various UN-led processes (notably the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing responsible state behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security (UN GGE) and the Working Group (WG) on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination).
- The Institute has closely followed the work of the UN Open-Ended Working Group (UN OEWG) on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, advocating recognition of the healthcare sector as a critical infrastructure and raising concerns about the lack of commitment towards an actionable and genuine human-centric approach.
- In the Open-Ended Working Group on security of and in the use of information and communications technologies 2021–2025 (OEWG II), the Institute set out three key action areas and related recommendations, and is contributing its expertise in relation to the protection of humanitarian and development organisations from cyberattacks.
Participation in international initiatives: The Paris Call Working Groups
The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace is a multistakeholder initiative launched by the French government at the Paris Peace Forum in November 2018. The Call itself sets out nine principles promoting and ensuring the security of cyberspace and the safer use of information and communications technology (ICT).
- To operationalise these principles, in November 2020 six working groups were created to work on various issues that relate to them. The Institute co-led WG5 with colleagues from Geopolitics in the Datasphere [Géopolitique de la Datasphère] and The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS).
- The work of this group led to the Final Report published during the Paris Peace Forum 2021. It presents a methodology to facilitate understanding of how the implementation of normative, legal, operational, and technical measures, or the lack thereof, contribute to stability in cyberspace and ultimately to cyberpeace.
- The Institute contributed to WG3: Advancing the UN negotiations with a strong multistakeholder approach, leading to the publication of the final report on Multistakeholder Participation at the UN: The Need for Greater Inclusivity in the UN Dialogues on Cybersecurity.
At the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, in May 2022, the CyberPeace Institute joined Access Now, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Consumers International to call on decision-makers to take action and initiate a moratorium limiting the sale, transfer, and use of abusive spyware until people’s rights are safeguarded under international human rights law.
This is in addition to a call made in 2021, in which the Institute joined more than 100 civil society organisations calling for a global moratorium on the sale and transfer of surveillance technology until rigorous human rights safeguards are adopted to regulate such practices and guarantee that governments and non-state actors don’t abuse these capabilities.
Digital technology plays an important role in conflict mediation and global peacebuilding. It can extend inclusion, allowing more women or people from marginalised groups to take part in or follow a mediation process. It can make mediation faster and more efficient and can allow mediators to draw on resources from around the world.
However, digital technology brings risks, too. It can increase polarisation, for example, and allow disinformation to spread to more people, more quickly. It can increase vulnerability to malicious actors, spying, and data breaches. These risks can undermine trust in the process.
Mediators work in low-trust, volatile contexts and don’t always have the knowledge to assess the risks posed by digital technology. A new online platform helps to raise awareness of those risks, as well as offering training on how to deal with them. The Digital Risk Management E-Learning Platform for Mediators was created in 2021 by the CyberPeace Institute, CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation, and the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNDPPA) Mediation Support Unit.
As part of the integration and engagement with the stakeholder ecosystem in Geneva, the Institute is a member of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services (CCIG). Various academic collaborations are ongoing through participation in conferences, workshops, and lectures,
namely with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Centre for digital trust EPFL (C4DT), the University of Geneva (UNIGE), and the Graduate Institute (IHEID). In 2020, the Institute formed a strategic partnership with the SwissTrust Valley for Digital Transformation and Cybersecurity.
The Institute and its staff have received several awards for innovative and continuous efforts promoting cyberpeace including the 2020 Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), second prize for Innovation in Global Security, and the Prix de l’Economie in 2021 from CCIG.
Acronym: Geneva Graduate Institute
Address: Case postale 1672, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
The Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva Graduate Institute) is an institution of research and higher education at the postgraduate level dedicated to the study of world affairs, with a particular emphasis on the cross-cutting fields of international relations and development issues.
Through its core activities, the Institute promotes international cooperation and contributes to the progress of developing societies. More broadly, it endeavours to develop creative thinking on the major challenges of our time, foster global responsibility, and advance respect for diversity.
By intensely engaging with international organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governments, and multinational companies, the Institute participates in global discussions and prepares future policymakers to lead tomorrow’s world.
In 2022, the Institute launched a new Competence Hub on digital technologies. The Tech Hub brings together a diversity of internal and external expertise to explore technologies from a human-centred and human-biotype-centred perspective. The focus will be the exploration of current and future technological innovations from a social science perspective, with an interest in the socio-political, governance, and geopolitical consequences of the current technological revolution. It will progressively structure different kinds of activities as well as welcome and foster research projects.
This transdisciplinary and horizontal initiative enables the Institute to forge and express its own unique voice on the digital turn and its consequences. It has indeed a particular role to play in the exploration of all those questions that need a transdisciplinary social science and humanities perspective and are by nature profoundly inter-transnational. The reality is that the Institute is already producing research and knowledge on those questions and diffusing them through teaching and events.
As part of its main strategy, the Institute seeks to develop digitally driven innovation in teaching and research, as well as information technology (IT) services. At the same time, as a research institution focusing on global challenges and their impacts, the digital turn has become one of its fundamental and policy-oriented research areas.
In terms of research, a growing number of researchers and PhD candidates analyse the impact of digitalisation on international relations and development issues. A few examples of research topics are cybersecurity, hybrid threats and warfare, surveillance technologies, internet governance, digital diplomacy, digital health, digital rights, digital trust, digital economy, the future of work, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, AI and humanitarian law, and AI and peace negotiations among others. The Institute has also developed expertise in using digital technologies as new research methods, including computational social scientific methods and big data analytics.
In terms of teaching, its Master, PhD, and executive education courses are increasingly focused on the effects of digitalisation on society and the economy, and more generally the global system. Some examples of courses are Digital Approaches to Conflict Prevention, Digital Innovation in Nature Conservation, Internet, Technology and International Law, Introduction to Digital Social Science Research, Technology, Society and Decision- making, The Politics of Digital Design, AI and Politics, Internet Governance and Economics, Technology and Development, and Digital Diplomacy and Power Relations on Cyberspace. Digital skills workshops are also organised for students to provide them with basic digital competence for their future professional or academic life, including big data analysis, introduction to programming with R and Python, and data analysis in various contexts.
The Institute is now involved in the development of a doctoral school on Digital Studies. This is a partnership with University of Lausanne (UNIL), École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), University of Geneva (UNIGE), University of Neuchâtel (UNINE), and University of Fribourg (UNIFR) and will be hosted by CUSO (Conférence Universitaire de Suisse Occidentale). As part of its membership of SwissUniversities, it also offers a very complete programme for doctoral students – Strengthening Digital Skills in Education. Launched in 2019, the second phase of that programme runs from 2021 to 2024.
Over the years, the Institute has developed a performing IT infrastructure with secured data storage space and digital platforms (e.g. Campus, Moodle, TurntIn, Zoom, MyHR, Salesforces, Converis) to provide seamless services as well as dematerialised/paperless processes (e.g. student applications, course registration) for students, staff, and professors.
The Institute has developed digital tools (e.g. app for students, responsive website) and used digital services (e.g. social media, Facebook, Google ads) for many years in its student recruitment and communication campaigns.
Digital tools are also part of the pedagogical methods to improve learning. Flipped classrooms, MOOCs, SPOCs, and podcasts, to name a few, are used by professors in Master’s and PhD programmes, as well as in executive education. The Institute also supports professors in developing pedagogical skills and in using digital tools. Workshops are offered to all faculty members at the end of the summer to prepare them for hybrid teaching and the use of new technological tools in the classroom.
The Institute also organises workshops, seminars, film screenings, and other events on the digital turn, ranging from the digital divide and the governance and regulatory aspects of data to cybersecurity.
Digital policy issues
Some of the Institute’s prominent research initiatives are listed under respective digital policy issues sections.
Conflict and peacebuilding
The faculty carries out a number of digital policy-related research projects, some of which focus on AI in particular. For example, the project titled Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) and War Crimes: Who is to Bear Responsibility? aims to clarify whether and to what extent the requirements for ascribing criminal responsibility for the commission of an act – and in particular the key concepts of culpability theories – can be applied to the use of LAWS in combat operations. This analysis will serve to identify lacunae and inconsistencies in the current legal framework in the face of the advent of military robotics.
This project explores how the increasing digitalisation of peace processes affects international peace building efforts that take place in a global environment characterised by friction between liberal and authoritarian approaches. To make sense of these dynamics, the project draws on the concept of apomediation, to suggest that solutions to conflict are no longer simply supplied by human agents, but through a complex entanglement of human-machine networks.
The Intrepid Project aims to develop a general understanding of how policy announcements by state agencies are interpreted by journalists in ways that send signals, indicate intent, and otherwise provoke economic and political reactions. Machine learning (ML) techniques and the semantic and syntactic properties of announcement texts are then used to develop models of the announcement interpretation process.
A number of projects carried out by the Institute’s members address the relationship between digital technologies and health. For instance, the Modelling Early Risk Indicators to Anticipate Malnutrition (MERIAM) project uses computer models to test and scale up cost effective means to improve the prediction and monitoring of undernutrition in difficult contexts.
The Institute hosts the new Digital Health and AI Research Collaborative (I-DAIR) directed by former Ambassador of India and Visiting Lecturer at the Institute Amandeep Gill. I-DAIR aims to create a platform to promote responsible and inclusive AI research and digital technology development for health. This platform is supported by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA).
The project Governing Health Futures 2030: Growing up in a Digital World, hosted at the Global Health Centre (GHC), explores how to ensure that digital development helps improve the health and well-being of all, and especially among children and young people. It focuses on examining integrative policies for digital health, AI, and universal health coverage to support the attainment of the third sustainable development goal (SDG).
Questions about the potential impact of the internet are now routinely raised in relation to political events and elections in most places. The project on the Digital Infrastructuring of Democracy asks how the digital infrastructuring of democracy unfolds through regulatory and political processes, with a heuristic focus on both its transnational dimension and its specific reverberations in democracies of the Global South. The project concentrates on one thematic controversy related to each aspect of infrastructure: the accountability of algorithms for code, data protection for content, and encryption for circulation.
Taking stock of the centrality of AI in society and in the citizen-government relation, this project hosted at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy seeks to engage with youth in Switzerland to explore the future role of AI in democracy through storytelling and narrative foresight. It will give a voice to the citizens of tomorrow and collaborate with art schools to design participatory AI art.
Future of work
Focusing on the Global South, the project African Futures: Digital Labor and Blockchain Technology strengthens empirical knowledge on changing trends in employment in the region by way of a two-pronged approach to the increasingly interconnected global division of labour: (1) App-based work mediated by online service platforms and (2) the use of blockchain technology in mining sites for ethical sourcing, traceability, and proof of origin.
The emergence of AI and digitally mediated work represents a fundamental challenge for most developing economies. Coupled with jobless economic growth, rising human productivity, and the exponential increase of the available labourpool, few jobs can be said to be safe from automated labour. This project examines the impact of digital work and automation in the Global South, from blockchain technology to ride-sharing apps, to inform debates on automation, computerisation and non-standard forms of work.
Projects carried out by the Institute’s members also address the role of digital technologies in enhancing financial inclusion. The project Effects of Digital Economy on Banking and Finance studies digital innovations and how fintech extends financial services to firms and households and improves credit allocation using loan-account level data comparing fintech and traditional banking.
- Digital collections that allow free access to historical documents, texts, and photographs on international relations from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.
- Two free online courses (MOOCs) on globalisation and global governance.
- Podcasts showcasing professors’ and guests’ expertise (What matters today, In conversation with, Parlons en).
- Podcasts are also integrated into the curricula of several international histories and interdisciplinary Master’s courses to encourage students to use social network platforms to popularise their findings.
Future of meetings
Social media channels
LinkedIn @geneva graduate institute
YouTube @Geneva Graduate Institute
Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations
Founded in 1980, UNIDIR is a voluntarily funded, autonomous institute within the United Nations. One of the few policy institutes worldwide focusing on disarmament, UNIDIR generates knowledge and promotes dialogue and action on disarmament and security. Based in Geneva, UNIDIR assists the international community to develop the practical, innovative ideas needed to find solutions to critical security problems.
The research areas of UNIDIR’s SecTec focus on cybersecurity, such as threats and vulnerabilities related to information and communications technologies (ICTs), and the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) applications in warfare. SecTec has supported the UN processes on ICTs Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) and continues to support the OEWG on security of and in the use of ICTs (2021–2025). It focuses on research and awareness raising on this topic with a broad range of stakeholders and maps the cybersecurity policy landscape.
Digital policy issues
SecTec builds knowledge and raises awareness of the security implications of new and emerging technologies. Cyber stability is one area of focus for UNIDIR, the work of which supports the implementation of specific norms and recommendations previously agreed by member states. It also explores options to strengthen cyber stability and crisis management mechanisms. UNIDIR provides technical and expert advice to the chairpersons of the UN GGE and OEWG on norms, international law, confidence-building measures, capacity building, cooperation, and institutional dialogue. The annual Cyber Stability Conference brings various stakeholders together to promote a secure and stable cyberspace and in particular the role of the UN processes such as the OEWG on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communications Technologies (2021–2025).
Launched in 2019, the Cyber Policy Portal is an interactive map of the global cyber policy landscape. It provides profiles of the cyber policies of all 193 UN member states, in addition to various intergovernmental organizations and multi-stakeholder instruments and other initiatives. This confidence-building tool supports informed participation by relevant stakeholders in all policy processes and promotes trust, transparency, and cooperation in cyberspace. The updated version of the portal was launched in May 2022, providing several new features, such as full text search, and is available in all UN official languages.
Accessible from the portal, the National Survey of Implementation of United Nations Recommendations of Responsible Use of ICTs by States in the Context of International Security collates national take-up of the recommendations from the 2015 GGE report, with a view to assisting assessment of their further development and implementation. The survey allows UN member states to conduct regular self-assessments of national implementation of the recommendations.
It can also support UN member states in responding to an invitation from the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to continue to inform the Secretary-General of their views and assessments on the issue of developments in the field of ICTs in the context of international security.
It supports transparency, information sharing, and confidence building by giving UN member states the possibility of making the results of the survey publicly available on their national profiles on UNIDIR’s Cyber Policy Portal.
The Cyber Policy Portal Database provides direct access to documents and references through the profiles of all 193 UN member states on the Cyber Policy Portal. The database allows searching across several categories, including state, type of document, topic, issuing body, and more.
- 2021 Cyber Stability Conference Report
- Enhancing Cooperation to Address Criminal and Terrorist Use if ICTs
- Non-Escalatory Attribution of International Cyber-Incidents: Facts, International Law and Politics
- Due Diligence in Cyberspace: Normative Expectations of Reciprocal Protection of International Legal Rights
- International Cyber Operations: National Doctrines and Capabilities Research Paper Series
- ICTs, International Security, And Cybercrime
- Applying Chapters VI and VII of the Charter of The United Nations in the Cyber Context
- International Cooperation to Mitigate Cyber Operations Against Critical Infrastructure
- 2020 Cyber Stability Conference Report
- Electronic and Cyber Warfare in Outer Space
- Supply Chain Security in the Cyber Age: Sector Trends, Current Threats and Multi-Stakeholder ResponsesLimiter L’utilisation à des Fins Malveillantes des Menaces et Vulnérabilités Dans Les Tic [Limit the Malicious Use of Threats and Vulnerabilities In ICT]
- Stemming the Exploitation of ICT Threats and Vulnerabilities
- Fact Sheet – Gender in Cyber Diplomacy
- Cyber Stability Conference 2019 Report: Strengthening Global Engagement
- Innovations Dialogue 2019 Report The Role of Regional Organizations in Strengthening
- Cybersecurity and Stability
- 2022 Cyber Stability Conference: Protecting Critical
- Infrastructure and Services Across Sectors
- International Cyber Crisis Management Regional Workshop Series
- National Survey of Implementation of United Nations Recommendations on Responsible Use of ICTs by States in the Context of International Security
- Open-Ended Working Group Cyber 201: Framework Recap
- 2021 Cyber Stability Conference: Towards a More Secure Cyberspace
- ICTs, International Security, and Cybercrime: Understanding Their Intersection for Better Policy Making
- Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue: Enhancing International Cooperation Mechanisms for Cybercrime And Cyberterrorism Investigations
- Political, Technical and Legal Aspects of Attribution: Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on the Norms of Responsible State Behavior in Cyberspace
- Applying Chapters VI and VII of the United Nations Charter in the Cyber Context
- Due Diligence in Cyberspace: Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on the Norms of Responsible State Behavior
- 2020 Cyber Stability Conference: Exploring The Future of Institutional Dialogue
- 2019 Innovations Dialogue Annual Conference
- 2019 Cyber Stability Conference: Strengthening Global Engagement
- The 2nd International Security Cyber Issues Workshop Series: The Role of Regional Organizations in Strengthening Cybersecurity and Stability
- Implementing Cyber Norms: National Experiences and Emerging Good Practices
- Unidir Side Event: Supply Chain Security in the Digital Age
- Multilateral Responses to Cyber Security Challenges: A Conversation with the chairs of the UN GGE and the OEWG
- Operationalizing Cyber Norms: Critical Infrastructure Protection
- Geneva Peace Week: Legal and Humanitarian Challenges in the Age of Cyber Conflict
- Presentation to the FirstSsession of the OWEG on Regular Institutional Dialogue
- Historical Briefing on the GGE Process for the GGEInformal Consultations – 5 December 2019 (Part 1& Part 2)
- The 2nd International Security Cyber Issues Workshop Series – Preserving and Enhancing
- International Cyber Stability: Regional Realities and Approaches
- The UN, Cyberspace and International Peace and Security
AI and the weaponization of increasingly autonomous technologies is one of UNIDIR’s current research areas. It aims to raise awareness and build capacities of various stakeholders, including member states, technical communities, academia, and the private sector. Research on AI covers a broad range of topics from human decision-making, autonomous vehicles, and swarm technologies.
UNIDIR SecTec is currently developing the Artificial Intelligence Portal. This tool will gather available information at the national, regional, and international levels on policies, processes, and structures that are relevant to the development and use of AI for military or security purposes. The portal will be developed to support transparency, information sharing, and confidence building in the field of AI.
- UNIDIR on Lethal Autonomous Weapons
- Table-Top Exercises on the Human Element and Autonomous Weapons System
- Known Unknowns: Data Issues and Military Autonomous Systems
- The Black Box, Unlocked
- Modernizing Arms Control
- Swarm Robotics: Technical and Operational Overview of the Next Generation of Autonomous Systems
- The Human Element in Decisions About the Use of Force
- The Role of Data in Algorithmic Decision-Making
- Framing Discussions on the Weaponization of Increasingly Autonomous Technologies
- Increasing Transparency, Oversight and Accountability of Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
- Change in the Air: Disruptive Developments in UAV Technology
- Towards Ethically Driven Robotics and Automation Systems
- Predictability and Understandability in Lethal Autonomous Weapons
- Capturing Technology: Rethinking Arms Control. The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Cyber Operations
- Webinar Series on the Technological, Military and Legal Aspects of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems
- Predictability and Understandability in Military AI
- The Weaponization of Increasingly Autonomous Technologies: Future Scenarios
UNIDIR’s research equally focuses on security dimensions of innovations in science and technology. In synergy with the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament and recent UNGA resolutions on the role of science and technology in the context of international security, UNIDIR proactively identifies and examines emerging and over-the-horizon innovations. It analyses potential implications for international security and facilitates dialogue among relevant stakeholders to encourage cross-sector cooperation.
- Exploring the Use of Technology for Remote Ceasefire Monitoring Aad Verification
- 2021 Innovations Dialogue Conference Report
- Exploring Distributed Ledger Technology for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: A Primer
- Exploring Science and Technology Review Mechanisms Under the Biological Weapons Convention
- 2020 Innovations Dialogue Conference Report
- Advances in Science and Technology in the Life Sciences
- Magnifying Nanomaterials
- Virtual Launch of the Technology and Ceasefires Publication: Exploring the Use of Technology for Remote Ceasefire Monitoring and Verification
- Directed Energy Weapons: The ‘new’ Option for Militaries
- 2021 Innovations Dialogue: Deepfakes, Trust and International Security
- Drones and Counter-Drone Technology: An Escalating Dynamic
- New Technological Opportunities to Bolster Treaty Compliance
- Innovations in Life Sciences2020 Innovations Dialogue: Life Sciences, International Security and Disarmament
- Scientific and Technological Responses to Pandemics: Drawing Parallels Between International Security and Public Health
- National survey of implementation of United Nations recommendations on responsible use of ICTs by states in the context of international security
- Cyber Policy Portal Database
- Artificial Intelligence Portal (to be launched)
- Biological Weapons Convention National Implementation Measures Database (to be launched): Over the last two decades, many initiatives designed to reduce biological risks have emerged at the international, regional, local, and institutional levels, including risk assessment mechanisms, codes of conduct, dual-use education, and voluntary peer review initiatives. It is unclear what happened to many of these measures or indeed whether they worked. To take stock of these earlier risk-reduction measures and build an evidence base to inform the development of future measures, UNIDIR will develop a virtual repository of these risk mitigation measures, complete with insights around lessons learned from these instruments.
- Space Security Portal (to be launched): Space policies and doctrines are evolving rapidly as more states articulate their perspectives and approaches to addressing space security. Building on the success of the Institute’s Cyber Policy Portal, UNIDIR will develop and sustain a Space Security Portal to serve as a one-stop online hub for materials on the space security policies of key stakeholders, including states and regional organizations.
Future of meetings
Acronym: ITU, UIT
Address: Place des Nations, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations
ITU is the United Nations specialised agency for information and communications technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 member states and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organisations. Established 157 years ago in 1865, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communications infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, intelligent transport systems, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based Earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, internet, cable television and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. For more information, visit www.itu.int.
Some of ITU’s key areas of action include radiocommunication services (such as satellite services, and fixed/mobile and broadcasting services), developing telecommunications networks (including future networks), standardisation of various areas and media related to telecommunications, and ensuring access to bridge the digital divide and addressing challenges in ICT accessibility. ITU’s work supports emerging technologies in fields such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), Intelligent Transport Systems, disaster management, agriculture, smart sustainable cities, and the internet of things (IoT); access and digital inclusion; the accessibility of ICTs to persons with disabilities; digital health; ICTs and climate change; cybersecurity; gender equality; and child online protection, among others. These and many more ICT topics are covered both within the framework of radiocommunication, standardisation, and development work, through various projects, initiatives, and studies carried out by the organisation.
Digital policy issues
Information and communication infrastructure development is one of ITU’s priority areas. The organisation seeks to assist member states, sector members, associates, and academia in the implementation and development of broadband networks, wired (e.g. cable) and wireless technologies, international mobile telecommunications (IMT), satellite communications, the IoT, and smart grids, including next-generation networks, as well as in the provision of telecommunications networks in rural areas.
ITU’s International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) have as an overall aim the facilitation of global interconnection and interoperability of telecommunication facilities. Through the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), ITU is involved in the global management of the radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, used for telecommunications services, in line with the Radio Regulations.
The international standards developed by ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) enable the interconnection and interoperability of ICT networks, devices, and services worldwide. It has 11 technical standardisation committees called Study Groups (SGs), with mandates covering a wide range of digital technologies:
- SG2 – Operational Aspects
- SG3 – Economic & Policy Issues
- SG5 – Environment, EMF & Circular Economy
- SG9 – Broadband Cable & TV
- SG11 – Protocols, Testing & Combating Counterfeiting
- SG12 – Performance, QoS & QoE
- SG13 – Future Networks
- SG15 – Transport, Access & Home
- SG16 – Multimedia & Digital Technologies
- SG17 – Security
- SG20 – IoT, Smart Cities & Communities
The work on standards is complemented by short-term exploration/incubation ITU-T Focus Groups (FGs) whose deliverables guide the ITU-T SGs in new areas of standardisation work:
- ITU-T Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) for Digital Agriculture (FG- AI4A)
- ITU-T Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence for Health (FG-AI4H)
- ITU-T Focus Group on Environmental Efficiency for Artificial Intelligence and other Emerging Technologies (FG-AI4EE)
- ITU-T Focus Group on Vehicular Multimedia (FG-VM)
- ITU-T Focus Group on AI for Autonomous and Assisted Driving (FG-AI4AD)
- ITU-T Focus Group on AI for Natural Disaster Management (FG-AI4NDM)
- ITU-T Focus Group on Autonomous Networks (FG- AN)
- ITU-T Focus Group on Testbeds Federations for IMT- 2020 and Beyond (FG-TBFxG)
Collaboration among various standards bodies is a high priority of ITU-T. Various platforms were established to support coordination and collaboration on various topics, for example:
- eCollaboration on Intelligent Transport SystemsCommunication Standards (CITS)
- Global Standards Collaboration (GSC)
- World Standards Cooperation (WSC)
- Digital Currency Global Initiative
- Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) Symposium
- United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative
The Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) establishes an enabling environment and provides evidence-based policy-making through ICT indicators and regulatory and economic metrics, and implements a host of telecommunications/ICT projects.
In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, ITU-D launched the Global Network Resiliency Platform (REG4COVID) to address the strain experienced by telecommunication networks, which are vital to the health and safety of people. The platform pools experiences and innovative policy and regulatory measures.
Discussions involving the World Bank, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), and the World Economic Forum identified how to bring together communities to support ITU membership in their response to COVID-19. The Speedboat Initiative issued a COVID-19 Crisis Response:
Digital Development Joint Action Plan and Call for Action to better leverage digital technologies and infrastructure in support of citizens, governments, and businesses during the pandemic.
Connect2Recover provides country-specific support to reinforce digital infrastructures – using telework, e-commerce, remote learning, and telemedicine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support recovery and preparedness for potential future pandemics. ITU worked with the Government of Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on this initiative. ITU/WHO Focus Group on AI for Health works on a standardised assessment framework for the evaluation of AI-based methods for health, diagnosis, triage, or treatment decisions and in early 2020 it created an Ad-hoc Group on Digital Technologies for COVID-19 Health Emergencies (AHG-DT4HE) to review the role of AI (and other digital technologies) in combatting COVID-19 throughout an epidemic’s life cycle; it also delivered guidance on digital technologies for COVID health emergency.
The impact statement for the Telecommunications Development Bureau’s (BDT) thematic priority on Network and Digital Infrastructure is ‘Reliable connectivity to everyone’.
ITU-D SG1 also focuses on various aspects related to telecommunications infrastructure, in particular, Question 1/1 on ‘Strategies and policies for the deployment of broadband in developing countries’; Question 2/1 on ‘Strategies, policies, regulations, and methods of migration and adoption of digital broadcasting and implementation of new services’; Question 4/1 on ‘Economic aspects of national telecommunications/ICTs’; Question 5/1 on ‘Telecommunications/ICTs for rural and remote areas’; Question 6/1 on ‘Consumer information, protection and rights’; and Question 5/2 on ‘Adoption of telecommunications/ICTs and improving digital skills’.
ITU plays a key role in managing the radio spectrum and developing international standards for 5G networks, devices, and services, within the framework of the so-called IMT-2020 activities. ITU-R SGs together with the mobile broadband industry and a wide range of stakeholders established the 5G standards.
The activities include the organisation of intergovernmental and multistakeholder dialogues, and the development and implementation of standards and regulations to ensure that 5G networks are secure, interoperable, and operate without interference.
ITU-T is playing a similar convening role for the technologies and architectures of non-radio elements of 5G systems. For example, ITU standards address 5G transport, with Passive Optical Network (PON), Carrier Ethernet, and Optical Transport Network (OTN), among the technologies standardised by ITU-T expected to support 5G systems. ITU standards for 5G networking address topics including network virtualisation, network orchestration and management, and fixed-mobile convergence. ITU standards also address ML for 5G and future networks, the environmental requirements of 5G, security and trust in 5G, and the assessment of 5G quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE).
ITU-R manages the coordination, notification, and recording of frequency assignments for space systems, including their associated earth stations. Its main role is to process and publish data and carry out the examination of frequency assignment notices submitted by administrations towards their eventual recording in the Master International Frequency Register.
ITU-R also develops and manages space-related assignment or allotment plans and provides mechanisms for the development of new satellite services by determining how to optimise the use of available and suitable orbital resources.
Currently, the rapid pace of satellite innovation is driving an increase in the deployment of non-geostationary satellite systems (NGSO). With the availability of launch vehicles capable of supporting multiple satellite launches, mega-constellations consisting of hundreds to thousands of spacecraft are becoming a popular solution for global telecommunications.
Regarding climate change, satellite data today is an indispensable input for weather prediction models and forecast systems used to produce safety warnings and other information in support of public and private decision-making.
ITU develops international standards contributing to the environmental sustainability of the ICT sector, as well as other industry sectors applying ICTs assembling technologies to increase efficiency and innovate their service offer. The latest ITU standards in this domain address sustainable power-feeding solutions for IMT-2020/5G networks, energy-efficient data centres capitalising on big data and AI, and smart energy management for telecom base stations.
Emergency telecommunications is an integral part of the ITU mandate. To mitigate the impact of disasters, the timely dissemination of authoritative information before, during, and after disasters is critical.
Emergency telecommunications play a critical role in disaster risk reduction and management. ICTs are essential for monitoring the underlying hazards and for delivering vital information to all stakeholders, including those most vulnerable, as well as in the immediate aftermath of disasters for ensuring the timely flow of vital information that is needed to co-ordinate response efforts and save lives. ITU supports its member states in the four phases of disaster management:
- Design and implementation of national emergency telecommunications plans (NETPs).
- Development of tabletop simulation exercises.
- Design and implementation of multi-hazard early warning systems (MHEWS), including the common alerting protocol (CAP),
- Development of guidelines and other reports on the use of ICTs for disaster management.
ITU activities in the field of radiocommunications make an invaluable contribution to disaster management. They facilitate prediction, detection, and alerting through the coordinated and effective use of the radio-frequency spectrum and the establishment of radio standards and guidelines concerning the usage of radiocommunication systems in disaster mitigation and relief operations.
ITU-T SG2 plays a role as the lead study group on telecommunications for disaster relief/early warning, network resilience, and recovery. Other study groups are working on emergency telecommunications within their mandates. Examples are shown in the following paragraphs.
ITU standards offer common formats for the exchange of all-hazard information over public networks. They ensure that networks prioritise emergency communications. And they have a long history of protecting ICT infrastructure from lightning and other environmental factors. In response to the increasing severity of extreme weather events, recent years have seen ITU standardisation experts turning their attention to ‘disaster relief, network resilience, and recovery’. This work goes well beyond traditional protection against environmental factors, focusing on technical mechanisms to prepare for disasters and respond effectively when disaster strikes.
ITU standards now offer guidance on network architectures able to contend with sudden losses of substantial volumes of network resources. They describe the network functionality required to make optimal use of the network resources still operational after a disaster. They offer techniques for the rapid repair of damaged ICT infrastructure, such as means to connect the surviving fibers of severed fiber-optic cables. And they provide for ‘movable and deployable ICT resource units’ in various sizes, such as emergency containers, vehicles, or hand-held kits housing network resources and a power source – to provide temporary replacements for destroyed ICT infrastructure.
ITU is also supporting an ambitious project to equip submarine communications cables with climate- and hazard-monitoring sensors to create a global real-time ocean observation network. This network would be capable of providing earthquake and tsunami warnings, as well as data on ocean climate change and circulation. This project to equip cable repeaters with climate and hazard-monitoring sensors – creating Science Monitoring And Reliable Telecommunications (SMART) cables – is led by the ITU/WMO/UNESCO-IOC Joint Task Force (JTF) onSMART Cable Systems, a multidisciplinary body established in 2012. Currently, several projects are ongoing to realise SMART cables.
In ITU-D, a lot of effort is directed at mainstreaming disaster management in telecommunications/ICT projects and activities as part of disaster preparedness. This includes infrastructure development, and the establishment of enabling policy, legal, and regulatory frameworks. ITU also deploys temporary telecommunications/ICT solutions to assist countries affected by disasters. After providing assistance for disaster relief and response, ITU undertakes assessment missions to affected countries aimed at determining the magnitude of damage to the network through the use of geographical information systems. On the basis of its findings, ITU and the host country embark on resuscitating the infrastructure while ensuring that disaster-resilient features are integrated to reduce network vulnerability in the event of disasters striking in the future.
ITU is also part of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), a global network of organisations that work together to provide shared communications services in humanitarian emergencies.
ITU-D SQ Question 3/1 ‘The use of telecommunications/ICTs for disaster risk reduction and management’ was agreed at the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2022 (WTDC-22) and will operate for the 2022–2025 study period. This Question continues the work of Question 5/2 of the 2018–2021 period.
The ITU/WMO/UNEP Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence for Natural Disaster Management (FG-AI4NDM), established by ITU-T SG2 has been developing best practices to leverage AI to assist with data collection and handling, improve modelling across spatiotemporal scales, and provide effective communication.
Work includes the following:
- Disruptive Technologies and Their Use in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, a 2019 report.
- The Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications (GET-19), which took place 6–8 March 2019, Balaclava, Mauritius.
- National Emergency Telecommunication Plans.
- Emergency Telecommunication Simulation Exercises.
- ITU-DSG Question 5/2: Utilizing Telecommunications/ICTs for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management(2018 – 2021) with video and annual deliverables.
- The Guide to Develop a Telecommunications/ ICT Contingency Plan for a Pandemic Response 2020, Focused on Telecommunications/ICT Service Delivery and Business Continuity in the Context of a Pandemic.
- ITU published Women, ICT and Emergency Telecommunications – Opportunities and Constraints in 2020. It explores the digital gender divide blocking women from becoming equal stakeholders in society, putting entire communities at greater risk during emergencies.
- With the ETC, ITU developed the Disaster Connectivity Map (DCM), with information critical for first responders on network outages and connectivity gaps following disasters.
- ITU joined the Crisis Connectivity Charter(CCC) in 2019, joining the satellite industry and the humanitarian community in making satellite communication more available.
- ITU established an ITU Emergency Telecommunications Roster. ITU staff are trained on deployment of ITU telecommunications equipment and on supporting the ETC on the ground.
- ITU, with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), launched a Call to Action on Emergency Alerting in 2021, inviting all partners to support countries in implementing CAP. The organisations are supporting the WMO to establish a CAP HelpDesk.
- Strengthening the Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems, ITU partnered with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), WMO, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO), and the World Broadcasting Unions in 2020 to develop Media Saves Lives to reinforce broadcasters’ role in the early warning chain.
ITU works on the development and use of AI to ensure a sustainable future for everyone. To that end, it convenes intergovernmental and multistakeholder dialogues, develops international standards and frameworks, and helps in capacity building for the use of AI.
AI and machine learning (ML) are gaining a larger share of the ITU standardisation work programme in fields such as network orchestration and management, multimedia coding, service quality assessment, operational aspects of service provision and telecom management, cable networks, digital health, environmental efficiency, and autonomous driving.
AI for Good is organised by ITU in partnership with 40 UN sister agencies and co-convened with Switzerland. The goal of AI for Good is to identify practical applications of AI to advance the UN SDGs and scale those solutions for global impact. It’s the leading action-oriented, global, and inclusive UN platform on AI.
Various ITU-T SGs address aspects of AI and ML within their mandates. The work has so far resulted in ITU-T Recommendations and Supplements, for example, in the L-, M-, P-, and Y-series of ITU-T Recommendations.
The ITU-T AI/ML in 5G Challenge, introduced in 2020, rallies like-minded students and professionals from around the globe to study the practical application of AI and ML in emerging and future digital communications networks and sustainable development. The second Challenge (in 2021) attracted over 1,600 students and professionals from 82 countries, competing for prizes and global recognition. The 2022 Challenge covered a wide range of topics including AI/ML in 5G, GeoAI, and tinyML. By mapping emerging AI and ML solutions, the Challenge fostered a community to support the iterative evolution of ITU standards. To learn more, see the Challenge GitHub.
Several ITU-T FG are considering the use of AI and ML including:
- ITU-T Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) for Digital Agriculture (FG- AI4A)
- ITU-T Focus Group on AI for Natural Disaster Management (FG-AI4NDM)
- ITU-T Focus Group on AI for Autonomous and Assisted Driving (FG-AI4AD)
- ITU-T Focus Group on Environmental Efficiency for Artificial Intelligence and other Emerging Technologies (FG-AI4EE)
- ITU-T Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence for Health (FG-AI4H)
Main activities related to ITU-R SGs and reports include:
- ITU-R SG1 covers Spectrum Management and Monitoring. In relation to AI, Question ITU-R 241/1 ‘Methodologies for assessing or predicting spectrum availability’ was approved in 2019 and is under study.
- ITU-R SG6 covers all aspects for the broadcasting service. SG6 deliverables and work items related to AI and ML including Question ITU-R 144/6 ‘Use of artificial intelligence (AI) for broadcasting’; and Report ITU-R BT.2447 ‘Artificial intelligence systems for programme production and exchange’.
- AI forRoadSafetyinitiative: Launched in October 2021, the initiative promotes an AI-enhanced approach to reduce fatalities across road-safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, safer road users, post-crash response, and speed control.
During the 40th High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) session in October 2020, an Interagency Working Group on AI (IAWG-AI) was established to focus on policy and programmatic coherence of AI activities within the UN. IAWG-AI, co-led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and ITU, aims to combine the ethical and technological parts of the UN to provide a solid foundation for current and future system-wide efforts on AI with a view to ensuring respect for human rights and accelerating progress on the SDGs. It is a joint effort between ITU and 46 UN agencies and bodies, all partners of AI for Good or members of the UN IAWG-AI. The report usually presents over 200 cases and projects run by the UN system, in areas covering all 17 SDGs and ranging from smart agriculture and food systems to transportation, financial services, healthcare, and AI solutions to combat COVID-19. In 2021, the report was presented for the first time with an Executive Summary, an analysis of all the projects submitted to the report, providing a snapshot of the key tracks, trends, and gaps in AI activities within the UN system.
The UN-led initiative, United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC), coordinated by ITU, UNECE, and UN-HABITAT and supported by 17 UN agencies and programmes, has been examining how AI can be employed in the smart city domain and through its Thematic Group on Guiding Principles for Artificial Intelligence in Cities for implementing AI-based solutions in line with the SDGs.
ITU, through its Development Sector, also holds an annual meeting for all telecommunications regulators on the occasion of the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR), which discusses and establishes a regulatory framework for all technologies including AI, and addresses this issue at its two SGs. Several areas under ITU-D SG2 explore applications of AI in various domains to support sustainable development.
Critical internet resources (1)
Over the years, ITU has adopted several resolutions that deal with internet technical resources, such as Internet Protocol-based networks (Resolution 101 (Rev. Dubai, 2018)), IPv4 to IPv6 transition (Resolution 180 (Rev. Dubai, 2018)), and internationalised domain names (Resolution 133 (Rev. Dubai, 2018)). ITU has also adopted a resolution on its role regarding international public policy issues pertaining to the internet and the management of internet resources, including domain names and addresses (Resolution 102 (Rev. Dubai, 2018)). In addition, the ITU Council has set up a Working Group on International Internet (CWG-Internet)- related Public Policy Issues, tasked with identifying, studying, and developing matters related to international internet-related public policy issues. This Working Group also holds regular online open public consultations on specific topics to give all stakeholders from all nations an opportunity to express their views with regard to the topic(s) under discussion.
ITU is also the facilitator of WSIS Action Line С2 – Information and communication infrastructure.
Digital standards (2)
International standards provide the technical foundations of the global ICT ecosystem.
Presently, 95% of international traffic runs over optical infrastructure built in conformance with ITU standards. Video now accounts for over 80% of all internet traffic; this traffic relies on ITU’s Primetime Emmy-winning video-compression standards.
ICTs are enabling innovation in every industry and public-sector body. The digital transformation underway across our economies receives key support from ITU standards for smart cities, energy, transport, healthcare, financial services, agriculture, and AI and ML.
ICT networks, devices, and services interconnect and interoperate thanks to the efforts of thousands of experts who come together on the neutral ITU platform to develop international standards known as ITU-T Recommendations.
Standards create efficiencies enjoyed by all market players, efficiencies, and economies of scale that ultimately result in lower costs to producers and lower prices to consumers. Companies developing standards-based products and services gain access to global markets. And by supporting backward compatibility, ITU standards enable next-generation technologies to interwork with previous technology generations; this protects past investments while creating the confidence to continue investing in our digital future.
The ITU standardisation process is contribution-led and consensus-based. Standardisation work is driven by contributions from ITU members and consequent decisions are made by consensus. The process aims to ensure that all voices are heard and that resulting standards have the consensus-derived support of the diverse and globally representative ITU membership.
ITU members develop standards year-round in ITU-T SGs. Over 4,000 ITU-T Recommendations are currently in force, and over 300 new or revised ITU-T Recommendations are approved each year.
For more information on the responsibilities of ITU SGs, covering ITU-T SG as well as those of ITU’s radiocommunication and development sectors (ITU-R and ITU-D), see the ITU backgrounder on study groups.
The ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) is the governing body of ITU’s standardisation arm (ITU-T). It is held every four years to review the overall direction and structure of ITU-T. This conference also approves the mandates of the Telecommunication Standardization Sector study group (ITU-T SSGs) (WTSA Resolution 2) and appoints the leadership teams of these groups.
ITU develops international standards supporting the co-ordinated development and application of IoT technologies, including standards leveraging IoT technologies to address urban-development challenges.
Internet of things (3)
It also facilitates international discussions on the public policy dimensions of smart cities, principally through the U4SSC initiative, an initiative supported by 17 UN bodies with the aim of achieving SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities).
ITU standards have provided a basis for the development of Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities. More than 150 cities worldwide have adopted the indicators as part of a collaboration driven by ITU within the framework of the U4SSC initiative.
To complement the work of the U4SSC, the first U4SSC Country Hub has been set up in Vienna, Austria, hosted by the Austrian Economic Centre (AEC). The U4SSC Hub provides a unique platform to accelerate cooperation between the public and private sectors and helps facilitate digital transformation in cities and communities, while enabling technology and knowledge transfer.
The range of applications of the IoT is very broad – extending from smart clothing to smart cities and global monitoring systems. To meet these varied requirements, a variety of technologies, both wired and wireless, is required to provide access to the network.
Alongside ITU-T studies on the IoT and smart cities, ITU-R conducts studies on the technical and operational aspects of radiocommunication networks and systems for the IoT. The spectrum requirements and standards for IoT wireless access technologies are being addressed in ITU-R, as follows:
- Harmonisation of frequency ranges, and technical and operating parameters used for the operation of short-range devices.
- Standards for wide area sensor and actuator network systems.
- Spectrum to support the implementation of narrowband and broadband machine-type communication infrastructures.
- Support for massive machine-type communications within the framework of the standards and spectrum for IMT-Advanced (4G) and IMT-2020 (5G).
- Use of fixed-satellite and mobile-satellite communications for the IoT.
ITU-D SG2 Question 1/2 ‘Creating smart cities and society: Employing information and communication technologies for sustainable social and economic development’ includes case studies on the application of the IoT, and identifies the trends and best practices implemented by member states as well as the challenges faced, to support sustainable development and foster smart societies in developing countries.
ITU-T SG20 is responsible for studies relating to the IoT and its applications, and smart cities and communities (SC&C). This includes studies relating to big data aspects of the IoT and SC&C, digital services for SC&C, and digital transformation of relevant IoT and SC&C aspects. ITU and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) for Digital Agriculture (FG- AI4A), established by ITU-T SG20, explores (1) how emerging technologies including AI and IoT can be leveraged for data acquisition and handling, (2) modelling from a growing volume of agricultural and geospatial data, and (3) providing communication for the optimisation of agricultural production processes.
New ITU standards for blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) address the requirements of blockchain in next-generation network evolution and the security requirements of blockchain, both in terms of blockchain’s security capabilities and security threats to blockchain.
ITU reports provide potential blockchain adopters with a clear view of the technology and how it could best be applied. Developed by the FG DLT, these reports provide an ‘assessment framework’ to support efforts to understand the strengths and weaknesses of DLT platforms in different use cases. The Group has also produced a high-level DLT architecture – a reference framework – detailing the key elements of a DLT platform. The FG studied high-potential DLT use cases and DLT platforms said to meet the requirements of such use cases. These studies guided the Group’s abstraction of the common requirements necessary to describe a DLT architecture and associated assessment criteria. The resulting reports also offer insight into the potential of DLT to support the achievement of the SDGs.
Blockchain and DLT are also key to the work of the Digital Currency Global Initiative, a partnership between ITU and Stanford University to continue the work of an ITU Focus Group on Digital Currency including Digital Fiat Currency (FG DFC). The Digital Currency Global Initiative provides an open, neutral platform for dialogue, knowledge sharing, and research on the applications of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and other digital currency implementations. The initiative will share case studies of digital currency applications, benchmark best practices, and develop specifications to inform ITU standards.
ITU-T SG3 is studying economic and policy aspects when using distributed ledger technologies such as for the improved management of the Universal Service Fund or to handle accounting.
ITU-T SG5 is studying the environmental efficiency of digital technologies including blockchain. For example, ITU-T SG5 has developed Recommendation ITU-T L.1317 on guidelines for energy-efficient blockchain systems.
ITU-T SG16 Question 22/16 on multimedia aspects of DLT and e-services and ITU-T SG17 Question 14/17 on DLT security continue the work of the now closed ITU-T Focus Group on distributed ledger technologies. Several Recommendations and Technical Papers have been produced, and more are being prepared.
ITU-T SG20 Question 4/20 on data analytics, sharing, processing, and management, including big data aspects, of the IoT and SC&C, is studying the role of emerging technologies such as blockchain to support data processing and management (DPM).
ITU standards provide the requirements and functional architectures of the cloud ecosystem, covering inter- and intra-cloud computing and technologies supporting anything as a service (XaaS). These standards enable consistent end-to-end, multi-cloud management and the monitoring of services across different service providers’ domains and technologies. They were developed in view of the convergence of telecoms and computing technologies that characterises the cloud ecosystem.
Cloud services provide on-demand access to advanced ICT resources, enabling innovators to gain new capabilities without investing in new hardware or software. Cloud concepts are also fundamental to the evolution of ICT networking, helping networks to meet the requirements of an increasingly diverse range of ICT applications.
As innovation accelerates in fields such as IMT-2020/5G and the IoT and digital transformation takes hold in every industry sector, the cloud ecosystem will continue to grow in importance to companies large and small, in developing as well as developed countries.
ITU-D SG1 Question 3/1 of the 2018–2021 period focused on the analysis of factors influencing effective access to support cloud computing, as well as strategies, policies, and infrastructure investments to foster the emergence of a cloud-computing ecosystem in developing countries, among others. For 2022–2025, this topic will be studied under Question 2/2 ‘Enabling technologies for e-services and applications, including e-health and e-education’.
ITU’s range of work on emerging technologies in fields such as AI, 5G, IoT, SC&C, ITS, quantum information technologies, and others have been covered in various other sections.
ITU-T SG5 on Environment, Electromagnetic Fields (EMF), and the Circular Economy is responsible for ICTs related to the environment, energy efficiency, clean energy, and sustainable digitalisation for climate actions. It carries out work to study the environmental efficiency of emerging technologies.
ITU-T SG20 Question 5/20 on the study of emerging digital technologies, terminology and definitions, serves as a facilitator with the research and innovation community to identify emerging technologies requiring standardisation for the global market and the industry.
U4SSC, through its various thematic groups, explores how leveraging emerging technologies such as the IoT, AI, blockchain, and digital twin, can help create a sustainable ecosystem and improve the delivery of urban services to improve quality of life for inhabitants. In this context, U4SSC has published the following reports:
- Digital Solutions for Integrated City Management and Use Cases
Quantum information technology
Quantum information technology (QIT) improves information processing capability by harnessing the principles of quantum mechanics. It has promoted the second quantum revolution and will profoundly impact ICT networks and digital security.
ITU’s work in the area of QIT includes developing standards. For example, several ITU-T SGs, including SGs 11, 13, and 17 are developing ITU-T Recommendations in this field. The work has so far resulted in ITU-T Recommendations and Supplements in the X-, and Y-series of ITU-T Recommendations.
The ITU-T Focus Groupon Quantum Information Technology for Networks (FG-QIT4N) provided a collaborative platform for pre-standardisation aspects of QIT for networks. It adopted nine technical reports.
A 2021 webinar series explores innovative QIT applications and their implications on security, on classical computing and ICT networks and the discussion of corresponding roadmaps for quantum networks.
ITU and the WSIS Action Line C5 – Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, bringing different stakeholders together to forge meaningful partnerships to help countries address the risks associated with ICTs. This includes adopting national cybersecurity strategies, facilitating the establishment of national incident response capabilities, developing international security standards, protecting children online, and building capacity.
ITU develops international standards to build confidence and security in the use of ICTs, especially for digital transformation. Topics of growing significance to this work include digital identity infrastructure, cybersecurity management, security aspects of digital financial services, intelligent transport systems, blockchain and distributed ledger technology, and quantum information technologies.
ITU-T SG17 (Security) is the lead SG on building confidence and security in the use of ICTs; facilitating more secure network infrastructure, services, and applications; and coordinating security-related work across ITU-T SGs. Providing security by ICTs and ensuring security for ICTs are both major study areas for SG17. Other ITU-T SGs, such as ITU-T SG9 (Broadband Cable and TV) and ITU-T SG13 (Future Networks, with Focus on IMT-2020, Cloud Computing and Trusted Network Infrastructures) contributed to fulfilling the ITU mandate on cybersecurity.
ITU-TSG5 (Environment, EMF, and the Circular Economy) studies the security of ICT systems concerning electromagnetic phenomena (High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP), High Power Electromagnetic (HPEM), information leakage).
ITU-T SG11 (Protocols, testing & combating counterfeiting) is developing a series of new ITU-T Recommendations (e.g. ITU-T Q.3057), which define the signalling architecture and requirements for interconnection between trustable network entities in support of existing and emerging networks. This Recommendation describes the use of digital signatures (digital certificates) in the signalling exchange which may guarantee the trustworthiness of the sender. More details are available at http://itu.int/go/SIG- SECURITY.
ITU-T SG20 Question 6/20 on Security, privacy, trust and identification for IoT and SC&C, is working on developing recommendations, reports, and guidelines on security and trust provisioning in IoT both at the ICT infrastructure and future heterogeneous converged service environments. ITU-R established clear security principles for IMT (3G, 4G and 5G) networks.
In 2008, ITU launched a five-pillared framework called the Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) to encourage co-operation with and between various partners in enhancing cybersecurity globally. The cybersecurity programme offers its membership, particularly developing countries, the tools to increase cybersecurity capabilities at the national level in order to enhance security, and build confidence and trust in the use of ICTs. The 2022 session of the ITU Council approved guidelines for better utilisation of the GCA framework by ITU.
ITU serves as a neutral and global platform for dialogue around policy actions in the interests of cybersecurity.
ITU issues the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) to shed light on the commitment of ITU member states to cybersecurity at the global level. The index is a trusted reference developed as a multistakeholder effort managed by ITU. In the last iteration of the GCI, 150 member states participated.
Alongside the ITU-T’s development of technical standards in support of security and ITU-R’s establishment of security principles for 3G and 4G networks, ITU also assists in building cybersecurity capacity.
This capacity-building work helps countries to define cybersecurity strategies, assists the establishment of computer incident response teams (CIRTs), supports the protection of children online, and assists countries in building human capacity relevant to security.
Strategies: ITU assists member states in developing and improving effective national cybersecurity frameworks or strategies. At the national level, cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, which requires coordinated action for prevention, preparation, and response on the part of government agencies, authorities, the private sector, and civil society. To ensure a safe, secure, and resilient digital sphere, a comprehensive national framework or strategy is necessary.
CIRTs: Effective mechanisms and institutional structures are necessary at the national level to deal with cyberthreats and incidents reliably. ITU assists member states in establishing and enhancing national CIRTs. In response to the fast-evolving technologies and manifestation of related threats, incident response must be updated and improved continuously.
Building human capacity:
- ITU conducts regional and national cyber drills, assisting member states in improving cybersecurity readiness, protection, and incident response capabilities at regional and national levels, and strengthening international cooperation among ITU member states against cyberthreats and cyberattacks. To date, ITU has conducted cyber drills involving over 100 countries.
- ITU’s Development Bureau organises regional cybersecurity forums across ITU regions, helping build capacity for Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) programmes and facilitating cooperation at the regional and international levels.
- Through the ITU Academy, ITU offers a number of training courses for professionals in the field of cybersecurity.
- BitSight provided access to ITU member states for its cybersecurity scoring platform – helping address cybersecurity challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and to support member states’ health infrastructure with timely information on cyberthreats.
- The Women in Cyber Mentorship Programme builds skills of junior women professionals entering the field of cybersecurity.
International cooperation: In its efforts on cybersecurity, ITU works closely with partners from international organisations, the private sector, and academia, strengthened by a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a range of organisations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Bank, Interpol, World Economic Forum, and several others.
Child safety online (4)
As part of its Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA), ITU launched the Child Online Protection (COP) Initiative in 2008, aimed at creating an international collaborative network and promoting the protection of children globally from all kinds of risks and harms related to the online environment, all while empowering children to fully benefit from the opportunities that the internet offers. The initiative focuses on the development of child online protection strategies covering five key areas: legal measures, technical and procedural measures, organisational structures, capacity building, and international cooperation.
Approaching child online safety with a holistic child-rights-based approach, the initiative has recently added to its key objectives the participation of children in policy-making processes related to child online protection as well as the digital skills development for children and their families.
In collaboration with other organisations, ITU has produced four sets of the 2020 Child Online Protection (COP) Guidelines, aimed at children, parents, guardians, and educators, as well as industry and policymakers. The first set of COP Guidelines were produced in 2009. The ITU Council Working Group on Child Protection Online (WG- CP) guides the organisation’s activities in the area of child safety online.
ITU has launched or supported a range of COP responses specific to COVID-19, including:
- Global Education Coalition for COVID-19 response – a collaboration between UNESCO, UNICEF, ITU, WHO, GSMA, and Microsoft.
- Agenda for Action to reduce the negative impact of COVID-19 on children.
- COVID-19 and its Implications for Protecting Children Online (2020) – in collaboration with UNICEF, Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children (GPEVAC), UNESCO, UNODC, WePROTECT Global Alliance, WHO, and World Childhood Foundation USA (Childhood USA).
- ITU signed an agreement with the SCORT Foundation on COP to empower and protect children online and offline, both in sport and through sport. It has contributed to discussions such as Safer Internet Day 2021 and the 15th European Football for Development Conference.
- Creating a Safe and Empowering Cyber Environment for Children (a 2020 agreement between ITU and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) kicked-off in August 2021 to further strengthen global efforts to implement the ITU COP Guidelines. The programme implements child online safety policies among governments, industry, and civil society and focuses on fostering a culture of child online safety.
The need for sustained efforts to expand internet access at a global level and bring more people online has been outlined in several resolutions adopted by ITU bodies. The organisation is actively contributing to such efforts, mainly through projects targeted at developing countries and focused on aspects such as human and institutional capacity building, education, and digital literacy; deployment of telecommunications networks and establishment of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs); the creation of broadband public access points to the internet; and the development and implementation of enabling policies in areas such as universal access. The organisation is also studying access-related issues within its various study groups, and it publishes relevant papers and studies. ITU also monitors progress made by countries in addressing the digital divide, through its periodically updated statistics and studies such as the ICT Facts and Figures and the series of Measuring Digital Development reports, including its analysis of ICT prices. The ITU DataHub brings together a broad range of indicators and statistics for easy consultation and download. The Connect 2030 Agenda envisions specific targets related to internet access; for instance by 2023, 65% of households worldwide will have access to the internet; by 2023, 70% of individuals worldwide will have with access to the internet; and by 2023, internet access should be 25% more affordable.
Access is treated in most meaningful connectivity-related Questions of ITU-D SG1 including:
- Question 1/1 on strategies and policies for the deployment of broadband in developing countries.
- Question 2/1 on strategies, policies, regulations and methods of migration to and adoption of digital technologies for broadcasting, including to provide new services for various environments.
- Question 4/1 on economic aspects of national telecommunications/ICTs.
- Question 5/1 on telecommunications/ICTs for rural and remote areas.
- Question 6/1 on consumer information, protection and rights.
ITU is the facilitator of WSIS Action Line С2 – Information and communication infrastructure.
ITU is heavily involved in capacity development activities, mainly aimed at assisting countries in developing their policy and regulatory frameworks in various digital policy areas, ranging from the deployment or expansion of broadband networks, to fighting cybercrime and enhancing cybersecurity. The ITU Academy provides a wide range of general and specialised courses on various aspects related to ICTs. Such courses are delivered online, face-to-face, or in a blended manner, and span a wide variety of topics, from technologies and services, to policies and regulations. ITU also develops digital skills at basic and intermediate level to citizens through its Digital Transformation Centre (DTC) Initiative.
The Digital Regulation Handbook and Platform is the result of ongoing collaboration between ITU and the World Bank, which started in 2000. Structured by thematic areas, the Digital Regulation Platform aims to provide practical guidance and best practice for policymakers and regulators across the globe concerned with harnessing the benefits of the digital economy and society for their citizens and firms. The content provides an update on the basics of ICT regulation in light of the digital transformation sweeping across sectors and also includes new regulatory aspects and tools for ICT regulators to consider when making regulatory decisions.
The inclusivity of the ITU standardisation platform is supported by ITU’s Bridging the Standardization Gap (BSG) programme as well as regional groups within ITU-T SGs. The BSG hands-on SG effectiveness training and updated guidelines for National Standardization Secretariats (NSS) assist developing countries in developing the practical skills and national procedures required to maximise the effectiveness of their participation in the ITU standardisation process.
Digital services and applications
The Digital Services and Applications programme offers member states the tools to leverage digital technology and ICT applications to address their most pressing needs and bring real impact to people, with an emphasis on increasing availability and extending services in areas such as digital health, digital agriculture, digital government, and digital learning, as well as cross-sectoral initiatives to accelerate sustainable development such as smart villages.
To effectively harness digital services and applications for socio-economic development, the programme facilitates:
- development of national sectoral digital strategy (including toolkits, guidelines, capacity building, action plans, and evaluations);
- deployment of innovative digital services and applications to improve the delivery of value-added services, leveraging strategic partnerships as catalysts;
- knowledge and best practice sharing through studies, research, and awareness raising, connecting stakeholders in converging ecosystems; and
- addressing emerging technology trends – such as big data and AI – by collecting and sharing best practices.
ITU works on helping member states create and mature their digital innovation ecosystems. The Digital Ecosystem Thematic Priority has developed a framework to help countries develop appropriate ICT-centric innovation policies, strategies, and programmes; share evidence- based best practices; and implement bankable projects to close the digital innovation gap. Countries are empowered to develop an environment that is conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship, where advances in new technologies become a key driver for the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Connect 2030 agenda.
ITU assists member states through its events, courses, publications, toolkits, and provision of technical advice. Its Ecosystem Development Projects initiative, for example, provides holistic advisory services including ecosystem diagnosis, risk assessment, good practice transfer, and capacity building. Events include its National and Regional Innovation Forums, which bring ecosystem stakeholders together to equip them with the skills to build their national innovation ecosystems; the ITU Innovation Challenges, which identify the best ICT innovators from around the world and equip them with skills to scale their ideas to truly impact their communities; courses on developing and maturing ecosystems (available at the ITU Academy); and Digital Innovation Profiles, which provide a snapshot of a country’s ecosystem status and allowing them to identify and fill the gaps using ITU tools and expertise.
ITU, as the UN specialised agency for ICTs, continues to support its membership and to contribute to the worldwide efforts to advance the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieve its SDGs.
The 17 SDGs and their 169 related targets offer a holistic vision for the UN system. The role and contribution of ICTs as essential catalysts to fast-forward achievement of the SDGs is clearly highlighted and has come into focus since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Infrastructure, connectivity, and ICTs have demonstrated their great contribution and potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divides, and to develop digital societies.
ITU has a key role to play, in realising its main goals of universal connectivity and sustainable digital transformation, in contributing to achieving the SDGs. ITU contributes to the achievement of the SDGs with four levels of involvement:
- ICTs as an enabler: ITU can be seen as a contributor to all SDGs through the benefits that ICTs bring to societies and economies.
- Focus: SDGs with no specific reference to ICTs but where ITU has demonstrated to have a clear impact through the benefits ICTs bring to specific sectors and activities (e.g. e-health, digital inclusion, smart cities, e-waste, climate change). These are SDGs 1, 3, 10, 11, 12, and 13.
- Key focus: SDGs where ITU has a particularly strong impact due to its initiatives, and is custodian of some indicators. These are SDG 4 (Quality Education), with its Target 4b to ‘… expand globally the number of scholarships, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and ICTs, technical, engineering and scientific programmes…’; and SDG 5 (Gender Equality), Target 5.b on ‘…the use of enabling technology, in particular ICTs, to promote the empowerment of women’. And Indicator 5b.1 on the ownership of mobile phones, by sex.
- Main key focus: SDGs where ITU maximises its contribution, such as SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals). Here ITUis also custodian of related Targets 9.c on ‘…. ICTs to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet…’; and its Indicator 9c.1 on coverage by a mobile network and by technology. As well as Target 17.8 to ‘….enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology’; and its Indicator 17.8.1 about individuals using the internet.
The ITU Connect 2030 Agenda is specifically dedicated to leveraging telecommunications/ICTs, including broadband, for sustainable development. The agenda is built around five goals: growth, inclusiveness, sustainability, innovation, and partnership. In addition, ITU-D works on fostering international cooperation on telecommunications and ICT development issues, and enhancing environmental protection, climate change adaptation, emergency telecommunications, and disaster mitigation and management efforts through telecommunications and ICTs. These and other related issues are explored in reports, guidelines, and recommendations produced by ITU-D SGs. Additionally, ITU-T SGs such as ITU-T SG5 on Environment, EMF, and the Circular Economy is the lead SG and develops standards on circular economy and e-waste management, ICTs related to the environment, energy efficiency, clean energy, and sustainable digitalisation for climate actions, which help to achieve the SDGs.
The ITU strategic plan is aligned to the WSIS Action Lines and SDGs. Since 2015, the WSIS process has been aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to ensure that ICTs play the enabling role in advancing the SDGs.
Inclusive finance (5)
ITU has built a substantial programme of work in support of digital financial inclusion. ITU standards for digital finance address the security of telecommunications infrastructure (Signalling System No. 7 (SS7)) vulnerabilities, SIM vulnerabilities and SIM fraud), process for managing risks, threats, and vulnerabilities for digital finance service providers, assessing the quality of service of mobile networks to improve reliability and user experience for digital financial services and methodology for auditing the security of mobile payment applications to assess their level of security assurance. They provide for a high quality service and user experience, and safeguard security to build trust in digital finance.
ITU’s work in this field has included the ITU Focus Group on Digital Financial Services (2014–2017), the ITU Focus Group on Digital Currency including Digital Fiat Currency (2017–2019), and the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (2017–2021), a four-year programme to advance research in digital finance and accelerate digital financial inclusion in developing countries co-led by ITU, the World Bank Group, and the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, and with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. ITU has also set up a Digital Financial Services (DFS) Security Lab to collaborate with regulators from both the telecom and financial services sectors in emerging economies as well as regional telecom bodies such as the Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (CRASA), The East African Communications Organization (EACO), and West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) to adopt the recommendations developed under the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative and assess the security of mobile payments applications. The methodology developed for the security audit of mobile payment applications would be developed into a digital public good standard in the future. Through the Security Lab, some 17 security clinics have been held in Africa, Latin America, and Asia regions, providing information and technical guidance to regulators, DFS providers and mobile network operators in those regions on how to adopt the security recommendations for digital finance.
ITU organised the Insights on Digital Financial Services webinar series in 2020 with the objective of providing insights on the innovative applications of telecommunications services, digital payments, and fintech in addressing COVID-triggered social distancing and lockdown and sharing lessons learned from governments and DFS stakeholders on the measures that they are implementing. Twelve webinars were held between May and December 2020 attracting over 1,000 unique participants from 105 countries. The webinars focused on topics such as digital identity, strong authentication technologies, security of digital financial transactions, handling fraud and scams, tracking digital financial crimes and fraud, digital credit technologies, mitigating telecom infrastructure vulnerabilities for digital finance and central bank digital currency.
ITU and Stanford University launched the Digital Currency Global Initiative (DCGI) in 2020 to continue the work of the ITU Focus Group on Digital Currency including Digital Fiat Currency. The DCGI provides an open and neutral platform for dialogue, knowledge sharing, and research on the applications of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and other digital currency implementations.
ITU works in developing policies, standards, frameworks, and guidelines for the efficient disposal of e-waste to achieve a circular economy. ITU has the mandate to promote awareness of the environmental issues associated with telecommunication/ICT equipment design and encourage energy efficiency and the use of materials in the design and fabrication of telecommunication/ICT equipment that contributes to a clean and safe environment throughout its lifecycle (Res.182 (Rev. Busan, 2014));
ITU works towards achieving the 2023 targets related to waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), or ‘e-waste’, established in 2018 by the Plenipotentiary Conference by: increasing the global e-waste recycling rate to 30%; and raising the percentage of countries with e-waste legislation to 50%.
ITU-D has been mandated to assist developing countries in undertaking a proper assessment of the size of e-waste and in initiating pilot projects to achieve environmentally sound management of e-waste through e-waste collection, dismantling, refurbishing, and recycling. To this end, the organisation supports countries in developing national policies on e-waste, and works together with industry partners from the public and private sectors to stimulate coordinated actions towards a circular economy model. ITU-D and ITU-T SGs also explore issues related to ICTs and the environment.
ITU-T has been mandated to pursue and strengthen the development of ITU activities in regard to handling and controlling e-waste from telecommunication and information technology equipment and methods of treating it; and to develop recommendations, methodologies, and other publications relating to sustainable management of e-waste resulting from telecommunications/ICT equipment and products, and appropriate guidelines on the implementation of these recommendations. ITU-T SG5 on Environment, EMF, and the Circular Economy is the lead ITU-T SG on the circular economy and e-waste management.
ITU-T SG5 has a dedicated Question (Q7/5) on ‘E-waste, circular economy, and sustainable supply chain management’. This Question seeks to address the e-waste challenge by identifying the environmental requirements of digital technologies including IoT, end-user equipment, and ICT infrastructures or installations, based on the circular economy principles and improving the supply chain management in line with SDG 12, target 12.5 by 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.
A case study on the Implementation of ITU-T Standards on Sustainable Management of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment: The Path to a Circular Economy in Costa Rica was published in 2021.
In 2021, ITU with the World Economic Forum released a toolkit on extended producer responsibility for e-waste management, with a focus on African countries.
Rights of persons with disabilities (6)
Globally, ITU has continued conducting technical work in ITU-R, ITU-T, and ITU-D SGs advancing the use of telecommunications and ICTs for persons with disabilities; and developing resources to support member states in establishing environments that ensure accessible telecommunications/ICTs – work conducted with the participation of persons with disabilities and aligned with the Connect 2030 Agenda. ITU-D advanced regional initiatives linked to ICT accessibility, with projects, training, and events, and provided support to ITU administrations in almost every region, including organising Accessible Americas and Accessible events. More information is available here.
ITU-D Study Question 7/1 continues to focus on telecommunication/ICT accessibility to enable inclusive communication, especially for persons with disabilities for 2022–2025 as has been agreed at WTDC–22.
The 2021 released SG Question 7/1 report (available free of charge in all UN official languages) with its accompanying video and the focused workshop and webinar confirm the careful attention given to this topic.
ITU’s work on accessibility includes regional events, ICT accessibility assessment, and the publication of new resources and handbooks. ITU has developed capacity-building materials to promote the adoption of accessible solutions, including 15 video tutorials on development and remediation of accessible digital content.
A range of activities is detailed below.
- ITU Regional Knowledge Development Platforms/Forums
- ITU has organised regional events that allow ITU members and stakeholders to share good practices and challenges, and to help develop digitally inclusive societies in these regions. Further regional events are set out below.
- Accessible Asia-Pacific (ASP): Regional Dialogue on Digital Transformation: Gearing Up for Inclusive and Sustainable Development, virtual event, 2021.
- Accessible Arab Region: ICT for ALL, Egypt, 2021, in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA). Participants identified ways forward to implement and mainstream digital accessibility, showing how technology can ensure inclusiveness and empowerment of all.
- Accessible Americas: ICT for ALL, Cuba 2021, featured discussions with policymakers and stakeholders on ICT/digital accessibility in the context of COVID-19.
- Accessible Africa, virtual, 2021. Five online, interactive workshops sought to strengthen the capacity of 175 regional Focal Points from 42 African countries on ICT/digital accessibility.
- Accessible Europe: ICT for ALL 2021, virtual, 2021. Over 240 participants from more than 40 countries discussed how to remove barriers to enable the social inclusion of persons with disabilities, through cooperation, programmes, and training.
- Accessible the Commonwealth of independent states (CIS): In 2021 the CIS Region has shown increased interest in ICT accessibility implementation to ensure equal digital empowerment through ICT.
Assessing and monitoring the implementation of ICT accessibility
- ITU Self-Assessment and Toolkit for ICT AccessibilityImplementation: Towards building InclusiveDigital Communities. This resource supports all ITU members, policymakers, and stakeholders in building inclusive digital communities. It also enables countries and organisations to assess themselves, obtaining an immediate overview of the level of their ICT accessibility implementation.
- ICT Accessibility Assessment for the Europe Region provides ICT accessibility assessment for the Europe region. See also the ITU Assessment of Digital Accessibility Policies in Serbia.
WSIS Forum 2021: ICTs and Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities and Specific Needs
- WSIS Forum 2021 featured ICTs and Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities and Specific Needs, with virtual workshops on innovative technologies, bringing together experts and stakeholders to discuss how to leverage ICTs to help people with blindness and vision impairment and how to provide inclusive education for all – showcasing emerging assistive technologies.
Self-paced online training courses
- In 2021, two self-paced online training courses in ICT accessibility were developed, available in Arabic, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Both ICT Accessibility: The key to inclusive communication and Web Accessibility – The Cornerstone of an Inclusive Digital Society are delivered through ITU Academy in three modules.
Other accessibility resources
- Additional ICT accessibility training and resources are available here. The update to the Handbook on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) Broadcasting networks and systems implementation outlining Accessibility to broadcasting services for persons with disabilities is also part of ITU’s accessibility work.
Events and opportunities to support the global implementation of ICT accessibility
- ITU contributed to the development of the Disability Inclusion Practice Note on ICT & Digital Accessibility and its Additional Resources. ITU participated in the Digital Inclusion Summit – Leaving No One Behind, organised by the International Training Centre in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) (July 2021). In 2019, the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy (UN DIS) was adopted, including significant inputs from ITU. In 2020, ITU prepared its report on the strategy implementation and reviewed its Accessibility Policy accordingly
- ITU contributed to the first-ever celebration of Universal Design Day in 2021.
- ITU shared its expertise on ICT accessibility and disability inclusion with 131 UN Country Teams’ representatives during two webinars on ICT and Digital Accessibility, held virtually in 2021.
Making ITU a more accessible organisation for persons with disabilities
- ITU continues to ensure accessibility to persons with disabilities, including staff, delegates, and the general public.
- To ensure the structure and content of ITU websites, videos, publications, digital documents, and digital information are all digitally accessible, training events are under preparation (will take place in February 2022).
- To provide fully accessible ITU events, an invitation to bid for the provision of real-time captioning was completed in November 2021. Proposals for captioning in French, Spanish, and Chinese have been submitted.
- In 2019, ITU provided captioning across ITU events and major conferences, sign language interpretation in selected ITU-T accessibility meetings and in making ITU websites accessible. ITU has also modified internal production to generate accessible publications in the six official languages.
COVID-19: Ensuring digital information is accessible to all
- In March 2020, ITU issued COVID guidelines on how to develop inclusive digital information products and services through different digital platforms, in all six official UN languages. The guidelines contain messages and concrete actions to support policymakers and communicators in ensuring that COVID- related messages and vital digital information are accessible to all people, including persons with disabilities. These ITU guidelines were globally disseminated and translated into 22 other languages within the framework of the UN joint COVID-19 response and recovery emergency working group on the health workstream.
- To ensure that deaf and hard of hearing persons were not excluded, ITU produced a Guideline on web-based remote sign language interpretation or video remote interpretation.
Gender rights online (7)
ITU is involved in activities aimed at promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through ICTs.
ITU is custodian of three gender-related SDG indicators: the proportion of individuals who (1) own a mobile phone; (2) use the internet; and (3) have ICT skills. ITU’s Measuring Digital Development: Facts and Figures 2021 shows that, in all regions, the gender Internet divide has been narrowing in recent years, and calls for more action on cultural, financial, and skills-related barriers that impede Internet uptake among women. ITU has launched several targeted efforts to bridge the gender digital divide and advance the Connect 2030 Agenda. Below are some highlights of ITU’s work on gender.
Together with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations University (UNU), GSMA, and the International Trade Centre (ITC), ITU launched the EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age with over 100 partners working together to ensure that women are given access, are equipped with skills, and develop the leadership potential to work in the ICT industry. Under this initiative, ITU contributes with the annual flagship event the EQUALS in Tech Awards. The awards are given every year to organisations and individuals working to help girls and women gain equal internet access, learn digital skills, and find opportunities in the tech industry. The initiative is dedicated to encouraging girls and young women to consider studies and careers in ICTs.
The African Girls Can Code Initiative (AGCCI) was started in Africa in collaboration with UN Women and the African Union Commission (AUC) with the aim to train and empower girls and young women aged 17 to 20 across Africa to become computer programmers, creators, and designers. The initiative has also been launched in the Americas region with a focus on equipping girls with coding skills and generating interest in the pursuit of ICT careers.
ITU WRC-19 also adopted a declaration that promotes gender equality, equity, and parity in the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector.
ITU is also the facilitator of WSIS Action Line C4 – Capacity building.
Network of Women (NoW): Encouraging gender balance
Encouraging and tracking gender-balanced representation and nominations of women for key roles strengthens women’s participation in ITU meetings. The aim is to build a community where female delegates can network, share their experience, and promote the participation of women – increasing their visibility, empowering them, and encouraging experienced female delegates to mentor ICT professionals in the digital space.
In 2021, BDT launched the Network of Women (NoW) at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) to increase the number of women participating in ITU-D meetings and taking up leadership roles in preparing the WTDC itself. Within this framework, ITU launched the global mentorship programme and fireside discussions.
At the World Radiocommunication Seminar Online 2020, ITU-R launched the NoW for WRC-23 to promote gender equality, equity and parity within the ITU Radiocommunication Sector. The NoW for WRC-19 (#NOW4WRC19) efforts culminated in a Declaration on Promoting Gender Equality, Equity and Parity in the ITU Radiocommunication Sector, adopted at WRC-19 in Sharm El-Sheikh.
Capacity-building that empowers indigenous communities through technology
Capacity-building training for indigenous communities has empowered indigenous people and communities through technology. The training is tailored to needs and interests and has taken into account self-sustainability aspects and cultural legacy.
The programme has reached 70 indigenous participants throughout the Americas, 21 of whom have completed the full programme – from Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, and Peru. Thirty per cent of participants were indigenous women.
The course Technical Promoters in Telecommunications and Broadcasting in Indigenous Communities requires one year of study and trains indigenous professionals in maintaining indigenous networks from infrastructure to communication delivery. The module boosts the professional development of professionals and ability to contribute to their communities’ socio-economic development and self-sustainability.
A further course in 2021, on Innovative Communication Tools on How to Develop, Manage and Operate an Indigenous Radio Network was offered to 141 indigenous participants over two editions. Countries represented included Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. Thirty per cent of participants completed all five units of the course, 40.5% of whom were indigenous women.
ITU and UNESCO are developing activities for rollout at the WSIS Forum 2022 as contributions to the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032).
Working for digital inclusion for older people-raising awareness and building resources
For the first time, ITU has addressed digital inclusion for older people by raising awareness on the topic, leveraging the capacity of ITU members and stakeholders, providing policy and strategy guidelines, and developing resources to support global efforts to overcome this socio-economic challenge.
Resources supporting older persons in the digital world.
- A video tutorial covering ageing in a digital world, with captions in all UN languages.
- Ageing in a Digital World – From Vulnerable to Valuable.
- Self-paced online training: ICTs for Better Ageing and Livelihood in the Digital Landscape. This ITU Academy training is available in English, French, and Spanish and addresses local digital inclusion policies, strategies and good practices.
The World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2022 (WTISD 2022) was dedicated to the theme: Digital technologies for older persons and healthy ageing.
ITU contributing to UN work
- Social Isolation and Loneliness Among Older People: Advocacy Brief – highlights the growing public health and policy concern about these issues, made more salient by the COVID-19 pandemic. ITU contributed to the development of this WHO/UN Women brief.
- ITU contributed to the celebration of the UN International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP) in 2021 in the Digital Inclusion For All Ages event jointly organised with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the Office of the Secretary’s-General Envoy on Technology, and the NGO Committee on Ageing.
Working for increased youth engagement
The ITU Youth Strategy ensures the participation of youth in ITU in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The strategy is built on three pillars: creating a community of young leaders, bringing young people together to engage with ITU and members, and fostering participation in ITU activities. More than 40 Youth Task Force members across ITU are coordinating efforts to implement the ITU Youth Strategy.
The initiatives detailed below have been implemented as part of the ITU Youth Strategy.
Generation Connect Initiative
Generation Connect Visionaries Board
The Generation Connect Visionaries Board offers guidance to ITU on its youth-related work. The Board, composed of ITU representatives, eight young leaders, and eight high- level appointees, advises on the Youth Summit and the Youth Strategy.
Road to Addis Series – Digital Inclusion and Youth Events
The ITU Road to Addis series of events has a strong youth component. An event on International Youth Day 2021 saw participation of youth as equal partners alongside the leaders of today’s digital change, while the Partner2Connect Meeting 2021 launched the Partner2Connect Coalition.
Implementation of the I-CoDI Youth Challenge
In 2020, ITU organised the International Centre of Digital Innovation (I-CoDI) Youth Challenge on connecting the unconnected. Winning pitches focused on technology and network development, cybersecurity, digital inclusion, climate change and environment, and capacity building.
Generation Connect Virtual Communities
In 2021, ITU launched on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram the new Generation Connect Virtual communities, inviting youth from the regions to join.
ITU: Current co-chair of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development
Since March 2021, ITU has been the co-chair of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) with a one-year mandate. The Network increases the effectiveness of UN work in youth development by strengthening collaboration and exchange across UN entities.
Capacity Building on Meaningful Youth Engagement
Training on Meaningful Youth Engagement for UN staff was delivered to ITU staff in 2020; 174 ITU staff attended, including top management, members of the ITU Youth Task Force, and professional and administrative staff. This training was followed in 2020 by two Pitch for Youth workshops, where teams proposed ideas to an ITU jury on youth engagement initiatives.
Collaboration with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth
ITU works with the Office of the Envoy on Youth to align the ITU Youth Strategy with the United Nations Youth Strategy: Youth 2030. ITU has engaged with the UN Youth Envoy in various ways including the co-creation of the Digital Technology session of the #YouthLead Innovation Festival and collaboration on how online efforts are helping improve children’s online safety.
- In 2020, ITU mounted a Youth Engagement Survey to consult on how ITU can best engage. The results of this survey informed the ITU Youth Strategy.
- Kaleidoscope 2018: Machine Learning for a 5G Future was hosted by Universidad Tecnológica Nacional, Santa Fe, Argentina. Young authors, up to 30 years of age, presenting papers received Young Author Recognition certificates.
The WSIS process was initiated by ITU in 1998 and it led the organisation of the Summits in 2003 and 2005 in coordination with the UN system. In line with its mandate and the WSIS outcome documents, ITU continues playing a key lead coordination role in WSIS implementation and follow-up.
The WSIS Forum represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ICT for development community. Co-organised by ITU, UNESCO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and in close collaboration with all WSIS Action Line Facilitators/Co-Facilitator, the forum has proven to be an efficient mechanism for coordinating multistakeholder implementation activities, exchanging information, creating knowledge, and sharing best practices. It continues to provide assistance in developing multistakeholder and public/private partnerships to advance development goals. The forum provides structured opportunities to network, learn, and participate in multistakeholder discussions and consultations on WSIS implementation.
The ITU Contribution to the Implementation of the WSIS Outcomes is an annual comprehensive report on ITU activities in the WSIS context from all the three sectors of the organisation (radiocommunication, standardisation, and development sectors) and the General Secretariat on the activities implemented during the respective year. The report provides updates on the tasks carried out by ITU at the operational and policy levels, covering all assigned mandates with reference to the WSIS process.
ITU plays a leading facilitating role in the WSIS implementation process, in collaboration with more than 30 UN agencies in creating an environment for just and equal information and knowledge societies. As per Resolution 1332 (modified 2019) ITU membership resolved to use the WSIS framework as the foundation through which it helps the world to leverage ICTs in achieving the 2030 Agenda, within its mandate and within the allocated resources in the financial plan and biennial budget, noting the WSIS- SDG Matrix developed by UN agencies, This close interlink between the WSIS Action Lines and the SDGs and targets can serve as an important basis for work on relevant areas outlined in relevant ongoing processes, for example UN SGs Our Common Agenda and so on.
ITU’s role in the WSIS process, highlighting the varying role along the WSIS Action Lines:
- ITU is the sole facilitator for three different WSIS Action Lines: C2 (Information and communication infrastructure), C5 (Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs), and C6 (Enabling environment).
- ITU has also been taking the lead role in facilitating WSIS Action Line C4 (Capacity building)
- ITU contributes to all the remaining WSIS Action Lines that are facilitated by other WSIS stakeholders.
The WSIS-SDG Matrix developed by UN WSIS Action Line Facilitators serves as the mechanism to map, analyse, and coordinate the implementation of WSIS Action Lines, and more specifically, ICTs as enablers and accelerators of the SDGs. This mapping exercise draws direct links between the WSIS Action Lines and the proposed SDGs to continue strengthening the impact of ICTs for sustainable development. Building on the Matrix, the Agenda and outcomes of the WSIS Forum are clearly linked to WSIS Action lines and the SDGs highlighting the impact and importance of ICTs on sustainable development.
The WSIS Stocktaking Process provides a register of activities – including projects, programmes, training initiatives, conferences, websites, guidelines, and toolkits – carried out by governments, international organisations, the private sector, civil society, and other entities. To that end, in accordance with paragraph 120 of the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society adopted by WSIS, ITU has been maintaining the WSIS Stocktaking Database since 2004 as a publicly accessible system providing information on ICT-related initiatives and projects with reference to the 11 WSIS action lines (Geneva Plan of Action). The principal role of the WSIS Stocktaking exercise is to leverage the activities of stakeholders working on the implementation of WSIS outcomes and share knowledge and experience of projects by replicating successful models designed to achieve the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The WSIS Prizes contest was developed in response to requests from WSIS stakeholders to create an effective mechanism to evaluate projects and activities that leverage the power of ICTs to advance sustainable development. Since its inception, WSIS Prizes has attracted more than 350,000 stakeholders. Following the outcomes of the UN General Assembly Overall Review on WSIS (Res. A/70/125) that called for a close alignment between the WSIS process and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Res. A/70/1), WSIS Prizes continues to serve as the unique global platform to identify and showcase success stories in the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines and the SDGs.
The United Nations Group on Information Society (UNGIS) is the UN system’s inter-agency mechanism for advancing policy coherence and programme co-ordination on matters related to ICTs in support of internationally agreed development goals. Established in 2006 after WSIS, its mandate includes promoting collaboration and partnerships among the members of the Chief Executives Board (CEB) to contribute to the achievement of the WSIS goals, providing guidance on issues related to inclusive information and knowledge societies, helping maintain issues related to science and technology at the top of the UN Agenda, and mainstreaming ICT for Development in the mandate of CEB members.
UNGIS remains committed and contributed to the alignment of the WSIS Action Lines and the SDGs.
Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development is an international, multistakeholder initiative to improve the availability and quality of ICT data and indicators.
ITU also works in close collaboration with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology and in 2022 announced a first-ever set of targets for universal and meaningful digital connectivity to be achieved by 2030.
The universal meaningful connectivity targets were developed as part of the implementation of the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and aim to provide concrete benchmarks for sustainable, inclusive global progress in specified action areas, such as (1) Universality, (2) Technology, and (3) Affordability. These 15 aspirational targets are meant to help countries and stakeholders prioritise interventions, monitor progress, evaluate policy effectiveness, and galvanise efforts around achieving universal and meaningful connectivity by 2030. They are also meant as a contribution towards the forthcoming Global Digital Compact, as proposed in the UN Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report. A first assessment of how the world currently stands in relation to the targets is available on ITU’s website here.
Digital tools and initiatives
- Various platforms used for online meetings: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and ITU’s MyMeetings platform.
- The value of ITU-T’s advanced electronic working environment was highlighted in 2020. Virtual meetings and electronic working methods have come to form the principal platform for ITU standardisation work as part of the global response to COVID-19. ITU members engaged in standard development are making optimal use of ITU’s personalised MyWorkspace platform and associated services and tools (e.g. MyMeetings).
Giga: UNICEF-ITU global initiative
Giga is a UNICEF-ITU global initiative to connect every school to the internet and every young person to information, opportunity, and choice.
Access to broadband internet and digital learning is critical to global efforts to transform education to make it more inclusive, equitable, and effective. Yet right now, the ability to leverage digital resources is far from equitably distributed: 1.3 billion children have no access to the internet at home and only around half of the world’s schools are online. This digital exclusion particularly affects the poorest children, girls, and those with disabilities.
These learners miss out on the resources online, the option to learn remotely, and the opportunity to develop digital skills. In 2019, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and ITU joined forces to address this new form of inequality by creating Giga, a unique global partnership with the bold ambition to connect every school in the world to the internet by 2030.
What Giga does
- Giga maps schools and their internet access. No one knows how many schools there are in the world (approximately 6-7 million). Giga’s Project Connect map provides a real-time display of access and gaps to guide funders and governments, and to enable accountability. Gigahasmappedover1.1millionschoolsin50countries.
- It creates models for innovative financing. It could cost over $400 billion to connect every unconnected school. Gigaisworking withadiverse array ofpartners to develop solutions for affordable, sustainable connectivity and aims to mobilise $5 billion to catalyse investment in vital connectivity infrastructure.
- Giga supports governments contracting for connectivity. It helps governments to design the regulatory frameworks, technology solutions, and competitive procurement processes needed to get schools online. Giga and its partners have connected over 2.1 million students in over 5,500 schools.
1 – In the work of ITU the issues related to critical internet resources are dealt with as ‘internet public-policy related work’.
2 – In the work of ITU the issue of digital standards is addressed as ‘International standards’.
3 – Within the work of ITU, the work related to the IoT also includes ‘Smart cities’.
4 – Within the work of ITU, child safety online is addressed as ‘Child online protection’.
5 – Within the work of ITU, the issues related to inclusive finance are addressed as ‘Digital Financial Services (DFS)’.
6 – Within the work of ITU the rights of persons with disabilities are addressed as ‘ICT /digital accessibility for all including persons with disabilities’.
7 – Within the work of ITU, gender rights online is addressed as ‘Gender digital divide‘.
Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations
The IGF provides the most comprehensive coverage of digital policy issues on the global level. The IGF Secretariat in Geneva coordinates both the planning of IGF annual meetings (working together with the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) and the wider IGF community) and a series of intersessional activities (run all year long). These activities could be summarised in three ‘multi’ initiatives:
- Multistakeholder participation: It involves governments, business, civil society, the technical community, academia, and other actors who affect or are affected by digital policy This diversity is reflected in IGF processes, events, and consultations.
- Multidisciplinary coverage: It relates to addressing policy issues from technological, legal, security, human rights, economic, development, and sociocultural perspectives. For example, data, as a governance issue, is addressed from standardisation, e-commerce, privacy, and security perspectives.
- Multilevel approach: It spans IGF deliberations from the local level to the global level, through a network of over 150 national, subregional, and regional IGF They provide context for discussions on digital policy like the real-life impact of digitalisation on policy, economic, social, and cultural fabric of local communities. The IGF Secretariat supports such initiatives (which are independent) and coordinates the participation of the overall network.
The IGF ecosystem converges around the annual IGF, which is attended by thousands of participants. The last few IGFs include Paris (2018), Berlin (2019), online edition due to the pandemic (2020), and Katowice (2021), involving over 10,000 participants, more than 1,000 speakers in over 300 sessions.
The intersessional work includes best practice forums (on issues such as cybersecurity, local content, data and new technologies, and gender and access); dynamic coalitions (on issues such as community connectivity, network neutrality, accessibility and disability, and child safety online etc.); policy networks (on environment, meaningful access and Internet fragmentation); and other projects such as Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion(s) (which ran between 2015 and 2018) as well as a number of capacity development activities.
The IGF mandate was outlined in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS, November 2005). It was renewed for another 10 years by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 16 December 2015, (70/125).
The main functions of the IGF are specified in Article 72 of the Tunis Agenda. The mandate of the Forum is to:
- Discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability, and development of the internet.
- Facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body.
- Interface with appropriate inter-governmental organisations and other institutions on matters under their purview.
- Facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and in this regard, make full use of the expertise of the academic, scientific, and technical communities.
- Advise all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world.
- Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries.
- Identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and where appropriate, make recommendations.
- Contribute to capacity building for internet governance in developing countries, drawing on local sources of knowledge and expertise.
- Promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in internet governance processes.
- Discuss, inter alia, issues relating to critical internet resources.
- Help to find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the internet, of particular concern to everyday users.
- Publish its proceedings.
In fulfilling its mandate, the Forum is institutionally supported by the UN Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum placed with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Its working modalities also include MAG and most recently the Leadership Panel, both appointed by the UN Secretary-General.
Digital policy issues
Until 2019, IGF annual meetings used to host sessions tackling a wide range of digital policy issues (for instance, IGF 2018 had eight themes: cybersecurity, trust, and privacy; development, innovation, and economic issues; digital inclusion and accessibility; human rights, gender, and youth; emerging technologies; evolution of internet governance; media and content; and technical and operational issues). In 2019, in an effort to bring more focus within the IGF, the MAG decided (considering community input) to structure the IGF programme around a limited number of tracks: security, safety, stability, and resilience; data governance; and digital inclusion. This approach was kept for IGF 2020, which saw four thematic tracks: data, environment, inclusion, and trust. The thematic approach did not mean that the IGF saw some digital policy issues as being less relevant than others, but rather that it encouraged discussions at the intersection of multiple issues. The Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) Digital Watch reporting for IGF 2020 and IGF 2019 illustrates this trend, showing that the IGF discussed a wide range of policy issues (across all seven internet governance baskets of issues) within the limited number of thematic tracks.
The leadership panel
In line with the IGF mandate and as recommended in the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, the UN Secretary-General established the IGF Leadership Panel as a strategic, empowered, multistakeholder body, to address urgent, strategic issues, and highlight Forum discussions and possible follow-up actions to promote greater impact and dissemination of IGF discussions.
More specifically, the Panel provides strategic inputs and advice on the IGF; promotes the IGF and its outputs; supports both high-level and at-large stakeholder engagement in the IGF and IGF fundraising efforts; exchanges IGF outputs with other stakeholders and relevant forums; and feeds input from these decision-makers and forums to the IGF’s agenda-setting process, leveraging relevant MAG expertise.
The 10-member Panel meets at least three times a year.
Future of meetings
Since its first meeting in Athens (2006), the IGF has been a pioneer in online deliberation and hybrid meetings. In addition to individual online participation, the IGF has encouraged the development of a network of remote hubs where participants meet locally while following online deliberations from the global IGF. In this way the IGF has created a unique interplay between local and global deliberations through the use of technology. For hybrid meetings delivered in situ and online, the IGF developed the function of remote moderator, who ensures that there is smooth interplay between online and in situ discussions.