Address: Place des Nations, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations
The Broadband Commission is a public-private partnership fostering digital cooperation and developing actionable recommendations for achieving universal connectivity.
Established in 2010 by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Mr Carlos Slim Helú of Mexico, its mission is to boost the importance of broadband on the international policy agenda and expand broadband access to every country. Today, the Commission is composed of more than 50 Commissioners who represent a cross-cutting group of top CEOs and industry leaders; senior policymakers and government representatives; and experts from international agencies, academia, and organisations concerned with development.
The Commission acts as a UN advocacy engine for the implementation of the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, leveraging the strength of its membership and collective expertise to advocate for meaningful, safe, secure, and sustainable broadband communications services that reflect human and children’s rights.
The Commission focuses on closing the digital divide and promoting broadband development in developing countries and underserved communities, ensuring that all countries reap the benefits of digital technologies. Its efforts are detailed in its flagship annual State of Broadband Report and take the form of thematic Working Groups, regular meetings, and advocacy activities at the margins of other flagship events such as the World Economic Forum (Davos), GSMA’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
In 2018, the Commission set seven objectives in its 2025 Advocacy Targets to guide efforts to ‘connect the other half’ of the world’s population by expanding broadband infrastructure and access to the internet. They reflect ambitious and aspirational goals and function as a policy and programmatic guide for national and international action in broadband development.
The Commission hosts between two and four Working Groups annually to dive deeper into prominent issues affecting broadband access, affordability, and use. Working Groups are proposed, chaired, funded, and led by Commissioners, with the support of external experts. The culmination of the discussion and research of these groups is a consensus-based report, which provides actionable recommendations for achieving the Commission’s targets and thereby elements of the UN 2030 Agenda.
Digital policy issues
The Commission promotes the adoption of best practices and policies that enable the deployment of broadband networks at the national level, especially among developing countries. It engages in advocacy activities aimed at demonstrating that broadband networks are fundamental to modern societies and the achievement of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). It publishes an annual State of Broadband Report, providing a global overview of the current state of broadband network access and affordability, an update of the Commission’s seven Advocacy Targets, and insights from Commissioners on impactful actions for accelerating progress.
The Commission has launched a number of Working Groups focused on information and communications technology (ICT) connectivity, including the World Bank led Digital Infrastructure Moonshot for Africa and the Working Group on 21st Century Financing Models for Sustainable Broadband Development in 2019. These initiatives aim to provide governments and policymakers with a set of holistic policy recommendations to foster innovative financing and investment strategies to achieve the Commission’s targets for broadband connectivity and adoption. The Working Group on School Connectivity identified a set of core principles to help governments and other interested stakeholders to develop more holistic school connectivity plans.
The ongoing global pandemic has shined a light on the critical role broadband networks and services play in making economies and societies work and thrive. In response to the effects of the pandemic, the Commission adopted the Agenda for Action: For Faster and Better Recovery to accelerate the world’s response. This initiative includes immediate and long-term efforts that governments, global industry, civil society, and international organisations can undertake to support the development and strengthening of digital networks that remain so integral to our economy and society. The three pillars of resilient connectivity, affordable access, and safe use of online services provide a framework for all Commissioners to mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19 and lay the foundation for a better and faster recovery.
When advocating for the rollout of broadband infrastructure and bridging the digital divide, the Commission underlines the increasing importance of internet access and adoption as an enabler of inclusive sustainable growth and development. It pays particular attention to aspects related to the deployment of infrastructure in developing countries, hybrid education and capacity development, and online safety (particularly for children and youth), in addition to the digital gender divide and the empowerment of women in the digital space.
Recent broadband reports covering these topics include the Commission’s Working Group on Digital Learning, Vulnerable Countries, and the Gender Digital Divide. These Working Groups aim to advance progress on the Commission’s 2025 Advocacy Targets on Broadband Policy, Connectivity, Digital Skills Development, and Gender Equality.
The Commission advocates for actions to be taken by all relevant stakeholders with the aim of closing the digital divide, a crucial step towards the achievement of the SDGs. The Commission’s annual State of Broadband Report looks at the progress made in implementing broadband networks in various countries around the world, which it regards as an essential element in addressing the digital divide.
The Commission also addresses the impact of digital technologies on specific issues covered by the SDGs. One example is the recent Working Group on VirtualHealth & Care, whose final report outlines practical recommendations for the future of digital health services presented in a framework of six key policy pillars. In 2021, the Working Group on Smartphone Access was launched to examine the smartphone access gap and provide strategies for achieving universal smartphone ownership so that all communities may benefit from access to digital services.
Also active in environmental and climate change issues, the Commission’s activities (ranging from publications and events to advocacy actions) cover the link between climate change and ICTs.
Interdisciplinary approaches: Digital cooperate
The work of the Commission contributes to the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, which lays out how all stakeholders can play a role in advancing a safer and more equitable digital world. Through its various Working Group initiatives and the advocacy of its Commissioners, the Broadband Commission is a prime example of SDG 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development) in action. The Commission makes policy recommendations and advocates implicitly for global digital cooperation, providing considerations for all sectors to work in tandem to reach the goal of universal connectivity.
Digital tools and initiatives
The Broadband Commission’s website, social media, and various online channels feature landmark reports, which are available for free:
- Broadband Commission 2020 Universal Connectivity
- The Future of Virtual Health and Care
- 21st Century Financing Models for Bridging Connectivity Gaps
- Connecting Learning Spaces: Possibilities for Hybrid Learning
- Importance of ICT and Global Cooperation for Future Epidemic Management
- Reimagining Global Health through Artificial Intelligence: The Roadmap to AI Maturity
- Balancing Act: Countering Digital Disinformation While Respecting Freedom of Expression
- The Digital Transformation of Education: Connecting Schools, Empowering Learners
- Connecting Africa Through Broadband: A Strategy for Doubling Connectivity by 2021 and Reaching Universal Access by 2030
- Epidemic Preparedness: Preventing the Spread of Epidemics Using ICTs
- Digital Health: A Call for Government Leadership and Cooperation between ICT and Health
- The Promise of Digital Health: Addressing Non-communicable Diseases to Accelerate Universal Health Coverage in LMICs
- Child Online Safety: Minimising the Risk of Violence, Abuse and Exploitation Online
- Digital Gender Divide: Bridging the Gender Gap in Internet and Broadband Access and Use
- Education: Digital Skills for Life and Work
- Digital Entrepreneurship
- Broadband for the Most Vulnerable Countries
- Digitalization Scorecard: Which Policies and Regulations can Help Advance Digitalization
- Linking ICT with Climate Action for a Low Carbon Economy
- Creating a Favourable Environment for Attracting
- Finance and Investment in Broadband Infrastructure
The Broadband Commission has also been instrumental in launching the following global initiatives:
- EQUALS: The ITU/ITC/GSMA/UN Women Global
- Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age
- GIGA: The ITU/UNICEF Global Initiative to Connect
- Every School to the Internet by 2030The Child Online Safety Universal Declaration
Social media channels
Flickr @Broadband Commission
YouTube @Broadband Commission
Address: Chemin du Pommier 5, Case postale 330 , 1218 Le Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations
The IPU is a global organisation of national parliaments. It was founded more than 130 years ago as the first multilateral political organisation in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 178 national member parliaments and 14 regional parliamentary bodies.
It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, gender-balanced, and more representative. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of members of parliament (MPs) from around the world.
The IPU’s digital activities have significantly increased over the past few years with the creation of the dedicated IPU Centre for Innovation in Parliament. The Centre researches the impact of digital technologies on parliaments and coordinates a network of parliamentary hubs on innovation in parliaments. It also publishes the landmark World e-Parliament Report and hosts a biennial World e-Parliament Conference.
The IPU holds many of its inter-parliamentary meetings either in a virtual or hybrid format as part of its strategy to bring together as many parliamentarians from around the world as possible while reducing the carbon footprint of international meetings.
Digital policy issues
In line with its objective to build strong and democratic parliaments, the IPU assists parliaments in building their capacity to use information and communications technologies (ICTs) effectively, both in parliamentary proceedings and in communication with citizens. The IPU has also been mandated by its member parliaments to carry out capacity development programmes for parliamentary bodies tasked with overseeing the observance of the right to privacy and individual freedoms in the digital environment.
The IPU also encourages parliaments to make use of ICTs as essential tools in their legislative activities. To this aim, the IPU launched the Centre for Innovation in Parliament in 2018 to provide a platform for parliaments to develop and share good practices in digital transformation strategies, as well as practical methods for capacity building. The IPU holds the World e-Parliament Conference, a biannual forum that addresses, from both policy and technical perspectives, how ICTs can help improve representation, law-making, and oversight. Every two years it publishes the World E-Parliament Report, providing insights into innovation strategies and good practices, based on survey data from around 120–140 national parliaments.
As of August 2020, eight regional and thematic parliamentary hubs were operating under the Centre for Innovation in Parliament, covering IT governance, open data and transparency, Spanish-speaking countries, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Each hub is co-ordinated by a national parliament and brings together parliaments to work on subjects of common interest, such as remote working methods during COVID-19.
The IPU works to raise awareness about the sustainable development goals (SDGs) among parliaments, and provides them with a platform to assist them in taking action and sharing experiences and good practices in achieving the goals.
Privacy and data protection
One of the IPU’s objectives is to promote and protect human rights. Its Committee on Democracy and Human Rights is involved in activities aimed at contributing to ensuring privacy in the digital era and the use of social media as effective tools to promote democracy. A 2015 resolution – Democracy in the Digital Era and the Threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms – calls on parliaments to create adequate mechanisms for the protection of privacy in the online space, and to ensure that legislation in the field of surveillance, privacy, and data protection is based on democratic principles.
Freedom of expression
The IPU’s Committee on Democracy and Human Rights works on promoting the protection of freedom of expression in the digital era and the use of social media as an effective tool to promote democracy. In 2015, the IPU adopted a Resolution on Democracy in the Digital Era and the Threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms encouraging parliaments to remove all legal limitations on freedom of expression and the flow of information, and urging them to enable the protection of information in cyberspace, so as to safeguard the privacy and individual freedom of citizens.
It offers virtual training sessions for parliamentarians. Its IPU Parline database is an open data platform on national parliaments, which includes data on the age of people in parliament as well as a monthly ranking of women in national parliaments.
Address: Maison de la Paix, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2D, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
DCAF is dedicated to making states and people safer through more effective and accountable security and justice. Since 2000, DCAF has facilitated, driven, and shaped security sector reform (SSR) policy and programming worldwide.
Cyberspace and cybersecurity have numerous implications for security provision, management, and oversight, which is why DCAF is engaged in these topics within its work. DCAF has implemented a cycle of policy projects to develop new norms and good practices in cyberspace. At the operational level, cybersecurity governance has become a prominent part of SSR programming.
Digital policy issues
DCAF supported the drafting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF) Zurich-London Recommendations on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) and Terrorism Online. Subsequently, it co-developed the Policy Toolkit, which transforms these recommendations into practical tools for states. DCAF applies the Policy Toolkit in its work in the Western Balkans. Several UN bodies – as well as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – are planning to incorporate it into their activities. DCAF has also developed a French language guide on good practices concerning cyberspace governance for the Ecole nationale à vocation régionale (ENVR) de la cybersécurité in Senegal, which is mainly targeted at cybersecurity practitioners in Francophone Africa.
DCAF contributes to effective and accountable cybersecurity in Europe and Central Asia by providing practical guidance and support for the governance of the cybersecurity sector; supporting the development of national and international legal and policy frameworks to promote good cybersecurity governance, and facilitating multistakeholder engagement in cybersecurity. This work is organised in several service lines: providing national cybersecurity assessments; developing policy advice; enhancing regional and transnational cooperation between cybersecurity authorities; building the capacity of computer emergency response teams (CERTs); promoting dialogue and coordination between state and non-state cybersecurity actors; and publishing policy research on good governance in cybersecurity. DCAF regularly works with partners, including the (International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the OSCE, and DiploFoundation.
To increase the transparency and accountability of the security sector in the Middle East and North Africa, DCAF supports the automation of internal processes, information sharing, document management systems, and data visualisation and analysis in parliaments, ministries, public administrations, and oversight institutions. Furthermore, four online Sector Observatories (Marsads) provide centralised information and analyses on the Tunisian, Libyan, Palestinian, and Egyptian security sectors and their actors, and three legal databases provide searchable online access to legislation governing the security sectors in Libya, Tunisia, and Palestine. Finally, DCAF has provided legal expertise to national oversight institutions in regard to possible privacy violations through and misuse of COVID-19 apps developed by national governments.
In 2016, DCAF developed a social media guide for ombuds institutions and the armed forces under its jurisdiction to support the use of social media as a safe and effective communication tool.
DCAF uses social media platforms to inform stakeholders and the public about its activities, including in relation to cybersecurity.
Social media channels
YouTube @DCAF Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance
Address: Route de la Capite 91-93, 1223 Cologny/Geneva, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations
WEF is a not-for-profit foundation whose membership is composed of large corporations from around the world. The Forum engages political, business, academic, and other leaders of society in collaborative efforts to shape global, regional, and industry agendas. Together with other stakeholders, it works to define challenges, solutions, and actions in the spirit of global citizenship. It also serves and builds sustained communities through an integrated concept of high-level meetings, research networks, task forces, and digital collaboration.
The fourth industrial revolution is one of the Forum’s key areas of work. Under this focus, it carries out a wide range of activities covering digital policy issues, from telecom infrastructure and cybersecurity to the digital economy and the future of work. It has set up multiple platforms, and global forums focused on bringing together various stakeholders and initiatives to advance debates and foster cooperation on the issues explored. It also publishes reports, studies, and white papers on its focus areas, and features discussions on the policy implications of digital technologies in the framework of its annual meeting in Davos and other events organized around the world.
Digital policy issues
The Forum’s work in the area of telecom infrastructure is broadly dedicated to shedding light on the need to advance connectivity and evolve towards new network technologies as a way to support the transition to the fourth industrial revolution. For instance, the Global Future Council of New Network Technologies, active between 2018 and 2020, explored, among others, incentives for network development and the role of new network systems in driving value and innovation A specific focus area for the Forum is 5G: It has identified 5G as an issue of global importance and works on analyzing the impacts of 5G on industry and society. In its report titled The Impact of 5G: Creating New Value across Industries and Society, the Forum notes that 5G will be critical because it will enable unprecedented levels of connectivity, allowing for superfast broadband, ultra-reliable low latency communication, massive machine- type communications, and high reliability/availability and efficient energy usage, all of which will transform many sectors, such as manufacturing, transportation, public services, and health. In another example, the 5G Outlook Series: Enabling Inclusive Long-term Opportunities looks at what can be done to ensure that 5G is a technology that benefits people, businesses, and society.
The Forum is carrying out multiple activities in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The platform on Shaping the Future of Technology Governance: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning brings together actors from public and private sector co-design, test, and implement policy frameworks that accelerate the benefits and mitigate the risks of AI. Project areas include AI uses in the public sector, the responsible use of technology, AI standards for protecting children, and addressing the challenges of facial recognition technology. In addition, the Forum created a Global Future Council on AI for Humanity to work on policy and governance solutions to promote the inclusion of underserved communities in the development and governance of AI. In an example of outputs, the Council published a Blueprint for equity and inclusion in AI. The Forum also explores issues related to AI safety, security, and standards; AI ethics and values; and machine learning (ML) and predictive systems in relation to global risks and international security. It publishes articles on the need to build a new social contract to ensure that technological innovation, in particular AI, is deployed safely and aligned with the ethical needs of a globalizing world. It is also assisting policymakers in devising appropriate AI-related policies. For instance, it published a Framework for Developing a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy to guide governments in their efforts to elaborate strategies for the development and deployment of AI. In recent years, AI and its impact on national and international policy spaces have featured highly on the agenda of the Forum’s annual meetings in Davos.
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
The platform on Shaping the Future of Technology Governance: Blockchain and Digital Assets works to advance a systemic and inclusive approach to governing distributed ledger technologies (DLT), to ensure that everyone can benefit from these technologies. The Forum works on governance issues related to the equity, interoperability, security, transparency, and trust of DLT. It also analyses the relationship between blockchain and cybersecurity and international security, as well as the future of computing. It publishes papers on issues such as the challenges blockchain faces and its role in security, as well as guides such as the Blockchain Development Toolkit to guide organizations through the development and deployment of blockchain solutions.
Internet of things
The platform on Shaping the Future of Urban Transformation explores various issues related to the implications of connected devices and smart technologies. For example, the Future of the Connected World initiative focuses on activities intended to help realize the potential of the internet of things (IoT) in a way that benefits all.
The platform on Shaping the Future of Mobility focuses on exploring opportunities and challenges related to technologies such as autonomous vehicles and drones.
The Forum is expanding and streamlining its work on virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) by creating the Global Future Council on Virtual and Augmented Reality, which focuses on raising awareness of the positive and negative aspects of the widespread adoption of VR/AR technologies. It carries out policy research and analysis related to the impact of VR/AR on society and its security implications in publications on issues such as immersive media technologies, AR innovation in manufacturing, and privacy in the context of VR use’.
The Forum has created the Global Future Council on Quantum Computing, through which it intends to explore computing-related trends, including new foundational technologies and techniques for centralized
and distributed processing. It also publishes regularly on the relationship between quantum computing and cybersecurity. Moreover, the Quantum Security initiative brings together stakeholders from governments, the private sector, academia, and non-profit organizations to exchange ideas and cooperate on issues related to promoting the secure adoption of quantum technologies.
Under its Centre for Cybersecurity, the Forum runs the Partnership against Cybercrime project, focused on advancing public-private partnerships (e.g. between law enforcement agencies, international organizations, cybersecurity companies, and other actors) to combat cybercrime. Cybercrime also constitutes the focus of various studies and articles published by the Forum, which delve into issues such as emerging threats and ways to tackle them. In one example, the 2020 Cybercrime Prevention Principles for Internet Service Providers outlines actionable principles to prevent malicious activities from reaching consumers.
Network security/critical infrastructure/cybersecurity
The Forum has launched a Centre for Cybersecurity dedicated to ‘fostering international dialogues and collaboration between the global cybersecurity community both in the public and private sectors’. Multiple projects are run under this platform, such as the Cybersecurity Learning Hub, the Global Coalition to Fight Financial Crime, and the Digital Trust initiative. The cyber resilience of critical sectors, such as electricity and the oil and gas industry, is also a focus area for the Forum.
The Forum’s platform for Data Policy is dedicated to developing innovative approaches to enable the responsible use of data. Within this platform, the Data for Common Purpose Initiative aims to support the creation of flexible data governance models, oriented around common purposes. It regularly publishes reports and papers on data governance issues such as restoring trust in data, cross-border data flows, data protection and security, among others.
E-commerce and trade and digital business models
Several activities and projects run by the Forum focus on e-commerce and broader digital-economy-related issues. Under its Digital Trade initiative (part of its Shaping the Future of Trade and Investment platform), the Forum has been exploring opportunities and challenges associated with digital trade, while also engaging in the shaping of global, regional, and industry agendas on digital trade. Projects run within the initiative include, among others, the Digital Economy Agreement Leadership Group – which aims to contribute to the growth of inclusive and sustainable digital economies, and the TradeTech project– which facilitates dialogue on public policy and regulatory practices related to digital trade. E-commerce is also tackled in studies, white papers, and events produced by the Forum, which address issues such as e-commerce in emerging markets, the impact of e-commerce on prices, and digital currencies.
The Forum has also established a platform for Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation, to ‘help companies leverage technology to be agile in the face of disruption and to create the new digitally enabled business models’. Under the Centre for the New Economy and Society, it brings together various stakeholders to promote new approaches to competitiveness in the digital economy, with a focus on issues such as education and skills, equality and inclusion, and improved economic opportunities for people.
Future of work
Future of work is a topic that spans multiple Forum activities. For instance, under the Centre for the New Economy and Society, several projects are run that focus on issues such as education, skills, upskilling and reskilling, and equality and inclusion in the world of work. The Forum has also launched a Reskilling Revolution Initiative, aimed to contribute to providing better jobs, education, and skills to one billion people by 2030. Initiatives under this platform include Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators, Preparing for the Future of Work Industry Accelerators, Education 4.0, and the Skills Consortium.
The Forum is also active on issues related to digital currencies and their policy implications. For instance, its Digital Currency Governance Consortium focuses on exploring the macroeconomic impacts of digital currencies and informing approaches to regulating digital currencies. The Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Policy-Makers Toolkit, published in 2020, is intended to serve as a possible framework to ensure that the deployment of CBDCs takes into account potential costs and benefits. Various publications have been issued that explore topics such as the macroeconomic impact of cryptocurrency and stablecoins, cryptocurrency regulation, and the links between stablecoins and financial inclusion.
- Strategic Intelligence: The platform provides access to ‘transformation maps’ – mappings of ‘hundreds of global issues and their interdependencies’.
Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
The CSTD is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Commission met for the first time in April 1993 in New York, USA. Since July 1993, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has been hosting the CSTD secretariat, which holds an annual intergovernmental session for the discussion of timely and pertinent issues affecting science, technology, and development. CSTD members are national governments, but debates also involve representatives from academia, the private sector, and civil society. Strong links exist with other UN bodies (including the Commission on the Status of Women, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Regional Commissions, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United National Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)). Outcomes of the CSTD include providing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and ECOSOC with high-level advice on relevant science and technology issues.
The CSTD reviews progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the WSIS outcomes at the regional and international levels. It also discusses frontier technologies, which are largely linked with digitalisation. Based on reviews and discussions, the CSTD prepares draft resolutions for ECOSOC. These draft resolutions tackle issues ranging from access to the internet, information and communications technologies (ICTs), and frontier technologies to the use of these technologies in achieving sustainable development, particularly under the 2030 Agenda, including mitigating and adapting to climate change. At each of its annual sessions and intersessional panels, the CSTD addresses two priority themes regarding the use of STI including digital technologies, in different areas, for example, sustainable cities and communities; inclusive social and economic development; good health and well-being; opportunities and challenges associated with blockchain technology; capacity development; Industry 4.0 for inclusive development; and access to safe water and sanitation.
Digital policy issues
Artificial intelligence (1)
As part of its work on assessing the impact of technological change on inclusive and sustainable development, the CSTD is also exploring the role of frontier technologies including AI. At its 22nd session, the CSTD pointed out that AI and other frontier technologies offer significant opportunities to accelerate progress in the SDGs, while also posing new challenges (e.g. disrupting labour markets, exacerbating or creating new inequalities, and raising ethical questions). The CSTD focused its 2019–2020 intersessional work on digital frontier technologies, such as AI, big data, and robotics. For 2021, the CSTD chose another digital technology – blockchain for sustainable development – as a priority theme for its work. In 2022, the CSTD deliberated on Industry 4.0 technologies (such as AI, big data, IoT, and robotics) for inclusive development.
- Harnessing Rapid Technological Change for Inclusive and Sustainable Development (2020) (report for the 23rd CSTD session)
- Harnessing Blockchain for Sustainable Development: Prospects and Challenges (2021) (report for the 24th CSTD session)
- Industry 0 for Inclusive Development (2022) (report for the 25th CSTD session)
- CSTD Dialogue brings together leaders and experts to address the question: What must be done to ensure that the potential offered by STI towards achieving the SDGs is ultimately realised? This dialogue also aims to contribute to ‘rigorous thinking on the opportunities and challenges of STI in several crucial areas including gender equality, food security and poverty reduction.’
- Articles on the webpage explore AI-related issues, such as the role of AI in health, a principled approach to AI (written by actors from different stakeholder groups) and investing in AI-driven innovation for social good.
- A hybrid of physical and online side-event on AI strategies organised during the 25th CSTD.
During its annual sessions and intersessional panels, as well as in its draft resolutions for ECOSOC, the CSTD tackles aspects related to the digital divide, and outlines the need for further progress in addressing the impediments that developing countries face in accessing new technologies. It often underlines the need for coordinated efforts among all stakeholders to bridge the digital divide in its various dimensions: access to infrastructure, affordability, quality of access, digital skills, gender gap, and others. To this aim, the CSTD recommends policies and actions to improve connectivity and access to infrastructure, affordability, multilingualism and cultural preservation, digital skills and digital literacy, capacity development, and appropriate financing mechanisms.
As the UN focal point for STI for development, the CSTD analyses the impact of digital technologies on sustainable development (assessing opportunities, risks, and challenges), including from the perspective of the ‘leaving no one behind’ principle. The CSTD also works to identify strategies, policies, and actions to foster the use of technology to empower people (especially vulnerable individuals and groups) and ensure inclusiveness and equality. In addition, it acts as a forum for strategic planning, sharing of good practices, and providing foresight about emerging and disruptive technologies.
- UNGA Resolution: Impact of Rapid Technological Change on the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals
- UNGA Resolutions on STI for Development
- The Impact of Rapid Technological Change on Sustainable Development (2019). The paper was prepared by UNCTAD – which services the CSTD – in response to UNGA Resolution 72/242, which requests the CSTD to give due consideration to the impacts of key rapid technological changes on the achievement of the SDGs.
- CSTD Intersessional Panel Meeting – November 2021
Capacity development is one of the recurring themes that appear in draft resolutions prepared by the CSTD on the implementation of and follow-up to the WSIS outcomes. The CSTD often emphasises the need for countries and other stakeholders to focus on capacity development policies and actions to further enhance the role of the internet as a catalyst for growth and development. Strengthening the capacity of stakeholders to participate in internet governance processes is another objective the CSTD has been calling for, especially in regard to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).
- Articles on the webpage explore issues related to capacity development, such as enhancing the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers (written by actors from different stakeholder groups).
- Project on using digital technologies: CropWatch Innovative Cooperation Programme
Interdisciplinary approaches: Internet governance
The CSTD was mandated to review the IGF process and suggest improvements. To this aim, the Working Group on Improvements to the IGF was established and a report recommending several action items regarding the IGF was delivered in 2012. The CSTD was also entrusted with the mandate to initiate discussions about enhanced cooperation in internet governance. It convened two working groups on enhanced cooperation (2013–2014 and 2016–2018); although consensus seemed to emerge on some issues, a divergence of views persisted on others and the Working Group could not find consensus on recommendations on how to further implement enhanced cooperation as envisioned in the Tunis Agenda.
- Report of the Chair of the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (2018)
- CSTD Working Group to Examine the Mandate of WSIS Regarding Enhanced Cooperation as Contained in the Tunis Agenda (2014)
- Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (2016–2018)
- Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (2013–2014)
UNCTAD is in charge of servicing the CSTD. As such, digital tools used by UNCTAD, for example, platform for online meetings, and social media for communications purposes are also employed for CSTD-related purposes. For instance, the 23rd and 24th CSTD annual sessions as well as the intersessional panel of the 24th CSTD were purely virtual, using the Interprefy platform. The intersessional panel and the annual session of the 25th CSTD were hybrid, combining online and in-person participation. The online platforms used were Interprefy and Zoom, respectively.
1-Within the work of the CSTD, AI is placed under the term ‘frontier technologies’, which also includes big data analytics, biotech and genome editing, and IoT, https://unctad.org/en/Pages/CSTD/CSTDAbout.aspx
2-In the CSTD’s work, disparities related to access to the internet are referred to as the ‘digital divide’.
Address: 1211 Geneva 23, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations
CERN is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading laboratories for particle physics. At CERN, physicists and engineers probe the fundamental structure of the universe. To do this, they use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments – particle accelerators and detectors. Technologies developed at CERN go on to have a significant impact through their applications in wider society.
CERN has had an important role in the history of computing and networks. The World Wide Web (WWW) was invented at CERN by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automated information-sharing between scientists at universities and institutes around the world.
Grid computing was also developed at CERN with partners and thanks to funding from the European Commission. The organisation also carries out activities in the areas of cybersecurity, big data, machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), data preservation, and quantum technology.
Digital policy issues
Artificial intelligence (1)
Through CERN openlab, CERN collaborates with leading information and communications technology (ICT) companies and research institutes. The R&D projects carried out through CERN openlab address topics related to data acquisition, computing platforms, data storage architectures, computer provisioning and management, networks and communication, ML and data analytics, and quantum technologies. CERN researchers use ML techniques as part of their efforts to maximise the potential for discovery and optimise resource usage. ML is used, for instance, to improve the performance of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments in areas such as particle detection and managing computing resources. Going one step further, at the intersection of AI and quantum computing, CERN openlab is exploring the feasibility of using quantum algorithms to track the particles produced by collisions in the LHC, and is working on developing quantum algorithms to help optimise how data is distributed for storage in the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG). This research is part of the CERN Quantum Technology Initiative (QTI) activities, launched in 2020 to shape CERN’s role in the next quantum revolution.
– CERN openlab: a public-private partnership in which CERN collaborates with ICT companies and other research organisations to accelerate the development of cutting-edge solutions for the research community, including ML.
– CERN QTI: a comprehensive R&D, academic, and knowledge-sharing initiative to exploit quantum advantage for high-energy physics and beyond. Given CERN’s increasing ITC and computing demands, as well as the significant national and international interests in quantum-technology activities, it aims to provide dedicated mechanisms for the exchange of both knowledge and innovation.
Cloud computing (2)
The scale and complexity of data from the LHC, the world’s largest particle accelerator, is unprecedented. This data needs to be stored, easily retrieved, and analysed by physicists worldwide. This requires massive storage facilities, global networking, immense computing power, and funding. CERN did not initially have the computing or financial resources to crunch all of the data on-site, so in 2002 it turned to grid computing to share the burden with computer centres around the world. The WLCG builds on the ideas of grid technology initially proposed in 1999 by Ian Foster and Carl Kesselman. The WLCG relies on a distributed computing infrastructure, as data from the collisions of protons or heavy ions are distributed via the internet for processing at data centres worldwide. This approach of using virtual machines is based on the same paradigm as cloud computing. It is expected that further CERN developments in the field of data processing will continue to influence digital technologies.
Telecommunication infrastructure (3)
In the 1970s, CERN developed CERNET, a lab-wide network to access mainframe computers in its data centre. This pioneering network eventually led CERN to become an early European adopter of Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) for use in connecting systems on site. In 1989, CERN opened its first external TCP/IP connections and by 1990, CERN had become the largest internet site in Europe and was ready to host the first WWW server. Nowadays, in addition to the WLCG and its distributed computing infrastructure, CERN is also the host of the CERN Internet eXchange Point (CIXP), which optimises CERN’s internet connectivity and is also open to interested internet service providers (ISPs).
Digital standards (4)
Ever since releasing the World Wide Web software under an open-source model in 1994, CERN has been a pioneer in the open-source field, supporting open-source hardware (with the CERN Open Hardware Licence), open access (with the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics SCOAP3) and open data (with the CERN Open Data Portal). Several CERN technologies are being developed with open science in mind, such as Indico, InvenioRDM, REANA, and Zenodo. Open-source software, such as CERNBox, CERN Tape Archive (CTA), EOS, File Transfer Service (FTS), GeantIV, ROOT, RUCIO, and service for web-based analysis (SWAN), has been developed to handle, distribute, and analyse the huge volumes of data generated by the LHC experiments and are also made available to the wider society.
Data governance (5)
CERN manages vast amounts of data; not only scientific data, but also data in more common formats such as webpages, images and videos, documents, and more. For instance, the CERN Data Centre processes on average one petabyte (one million gigabytes) of data per day. As such, the organisation notes that it faces the challenge of preserving its digital memory. CERN also points to the fact that many of the tools that are used to preserve data generated by the LHC and other scientific projects are also suitable for preserving other types of data and are made available to wider society.
The CERN Open Data Policy for scientific experiments at the LHC is essential to make scientific research more reproducible, accessible, and collaborative. It reflects values that have been enshrined in the CERN Convention for more than 60 years that were reaffirmed in the European Strategy for Particle Physics (2020), and aims to empower the LHC experiments to adopt a consistent approach towards the openness and preservation of experimental data (applying FAIR standards to better share and reuse data).
EOSC Future is an EU-funded H2020 project that is implementing the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) that started in 2016. EOSC will give European researchers access to a wide web of FAIR data and related services.
- DPHEP (Data Preservation in High Energy Physics) (CERN is a founding member)
- The CERN Open Data Policy
- EOSC (European Open Science Cloud) (CERN is a mandated organisation and a member of the EOSC Association)
- Online learning opportunities – through CERN academic training
Future of meetings
More information about ongoing and upcoming events, you can find on the events page.
Social media channels
2-Within its work, CERN refers to ‘cloud computing’ as ‘distributed computing.
3-Within its work, CERN refers to ‘telecommunication infrastructure’ as ‘network infrastructure’.
4-Within its work, CERN addresses ‘web standards’ as ‘open science’.
5-Within its work, CERN refers to ‘data governance’ as ‘data preservation’.