A United Nations panel co-chaired by US philanthropist Melinda Gates and Chinese businessman Jack Ma has lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India initiative that calls for the inclusive digital economy and the nationwide ecosystem it has created for empowerment of the marginalised.
“Multilateralism needs to be inclusive. Only cooperating together, we will be able to limit the threats that exist and to maximize the positive potential to make the digital era an era of progress and justice for the whole world, “ – @UN SG @antonioguterres. #DigitalCooperation pic.twitter.com/7N8g7WIDwd— UNITAR (@UNITAR) June 13, 2019
The report of the panel appointed by UN Secretary-General borrows heavily from the Indian push for universal digital inclusion and makes a strong case for international cooperation in digitisation, echoing the Indian government's focus on the wider use of digital technology for citizens, media reports say.
The high-level panel on digital cooperation makes five key recommendations, including the creation of an inclusive digital economy and society (with emphasis on affordable access to the internet and digital technology and empowerment of women and the marginalised), and human capacity building by generating greater awareness of the potential and downsides of digital technologies, a report in the Economic Times says.
"The report is a welcome acknowledgement of the importance of international cooperation in the emerging digital world, and impacts on the objectives of Digital India," the report quotes Asoke Mukherji, India's former envoy to the UN, as saying. "The 75th-anniversary summit of the UN in 2020 provides India with an opportunity to launch negotiations on an international convention on cyberspace," he said.
The report urges member nations to uphold human rights online through the participation of UN agencies and social media organisations, calls for a focus on the impact of artificial intelligence on humans (where it calls for human accountability for AI); the adoption of a Global Commitment to Digital Trust focusing on norms for digital technologies; and, setting an objective of using the 75th anniversary of the UN in September 2020 to adopt a Global Digital Cooperation document on the goals, principles and the priority areas.
The document will be piloted by a UN technology envoy to be appointed by the UN secretary-general. The report said citing a person familiar with UN and its functioning that the report is welcome for its forward-looking approach, though it prefers to use the UN Secretariat and UN agencies, rather than member states in the UN general assembly, to generate the proposed global digital cooperation document.
The document needs to be adopted by the general assembly to meet the goals of negotiating a legally binding International Convention on Cyberspace, which would include all areas of digital activity, the unidentified source said. Indian diplomat Amandeep Gill was the executive secretary of the panel that prepared the report.
India has its task cut out to become the global leader of inclusive digital transition and should spearhead the call for the Convention on Cyberspace, which will provide predictability and security to cyberspace in all its aspects. The report covers all these aspects and pitches international cooperation as an outcome of the September 2020 UN 75th anniversary summit.