General Assembly: Virtual High-level Thematic Debate on Impact of Rapid Technological Change on Sustainable Development Goals and Targets

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11-Jun-2020 03:14:04
COVID-19 highlights ‘life and death’ stakes for greater digital cooperation.

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Managing the digital divide better, has become “a matter of life and death” for people unable to access essential healthcare information during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN chief has told a virtual high-level meeting on rapid technological change.

“Far from distracting us from the urgency of digital cooperation, COVID-19 is making it more important than ever, and demonstrating the interconnected nature of the challenges we face”, Secretary-General António Guterres informed Thursday’s “High-level Thematic Debate on the Impact of Rapid Technological Change on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Targets”, taking place in the UN General Assembly.

Noting that digital technology is central to almost every aspect of effective pandemic response – including vaccine research, online learning models, e-commerce, and work-from-home tools – he pointed out that the digital divide between those on and offline, is threatening to become “the new face of inequality”, reinforcing the social and economic disadvantages suffered by women and girls, people with disabilities and “minorities of all kinds”.

Mr. Guterres told the meeting that we are only beginning to understand the social implications of a post-COVID world.

“But one thing is certain”, he stated, “as we recover and rebuild, digital technology will be more prominent and important than ever”.

Opening the General Assembly meeting, President of the world body, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to “change the way we work, teach and learn; even the way we mourn and heal”.

According to Mr. Muhammad-Bande, the digital divide is not only about how inequalities to access exist, but also about how rapid technological change may actually widen those disparities.

“Educational opportunities may be lost by lack of awareness and high cost of connectivity”, he elaborated, adding that digital literacy, “already a defining feature of this century”, will determine how societies deal with future challenges, from human rights to the climate crisis (SDG13) – encompassing a sweeping range of SDGs.

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