WSIS Forum 2015: Ethical dimensions of the information society linked to sustainable development

The facilitation meeting “Making the link – C10 for Sustainable Development”, which was organized yesterday by UNESCO in the context of the WSIS forum 2015 focused on identifying and raising awareness around the contributions that the C10 Action Line: Ethical dimensions of the information society can provide with regard to the attainment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). In a constructive and fruitful dialogue panelists and participants exchanged experiences and knowledge and discussed future activities under this Action Line in view of the post-2015 agenda.

The positive contribution of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to the attainment of the SDGs and the realization of human rights worldwide will depend on the creation of enabling environments for the meaningful participation and full representation of all persons in the information society. In this regard specific attention to the needs of vulnerable groups, women and girls and persons with disabilities are needed. Diversity of content, informed, capable ICT users and creators are a prerequisite for the shift to truly participative governance and decision-making processes. According to Dr. Leyla Bartet, Chair of the Working Group on Information Ethics of UNESCO’s intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP) Bureau, “Addressing the hard and soft dimensions related to the challenge of equitable access to information through ICTs can serve to unlock their potential as vehicles for positive social transformation”.

Yesterday’s meeting focused on the diverse challenges related to this topic and on recommendations for the way forward. It brought together actors from a wide range of relevant sectors, namely educators, policy-makers and representatives from academia, civil society and the private sector from around the world.

In his opening statement, Mr Paul Hector, Programme Specialist for UNESCO, with responsibility for managing the day to day operations of IFAP underlined the importance of “raising awareness amongst policy-makers to appreciate the ethical content as well as the impacts both intended and unintended of policy choices. By making greater use of multi-stakeholder approaches could enhance positive outcomes and create an enabling environment for better managing potential risks”. He further emphasized the role of education, in developing skills for self-expression, critical analysis and content use and production, as well as contributing to more harmonious interactions.

Mr Amouzou Bedi, CEO of the NGO Knowledge for Development without Borders (KfDWB) demonstrated how “by pairing global ICT networks with low-tech devices like pen and paper, we can overcome last-mile challenges and barriers. We are of course seeking to create enabling conditions for the use of ICT, but by working closely with civil society and local communities we are able through these hybrid networks to meet urgent local needs”.

Professor Roni Aviram of the Ben Gurion University in Israel presented the outcomes of the international conference organized under the patronage of UNESCO and IFAP on “Well-being in Digital Media”, the full conference report will shortly be published. Professor Aviram underlined the need to consider the concept of well-being, as, “in the context of new media this contributed to expanding the horizons of ethical discussions and supplying them with an integrative framework that could support analysis and policy action”.

Finally, the growing challenge of ethical behavior by ICT users and also, increasingly, by the providers of technical devices was addressed by the Mr. Pavan Duggal, an international cyber-law specialist. While pointing to the challenges that existing regulatory and legal systems faced in addressing ethical issues he nevertheless pointed out that: “Failing to address the ethical issues of the information society will potentially expose societies to risks and losses that will delay attainment of the sustainable development goals”.

The panel was composed of:

  • Professor Roni Aviram, Ben Gurion University of the Nagev
  • Ms Leyla Bartet, Permanent Delegation of Peru to UNESCO
  • Mr Amouzou Bedi, Knowledge for Development without Borders
  • Mr Pavan Dugall, Pavan Duggal Associates
  • Mr Rachid Jankari, Jankari Consulting

The session was moderated by Paul Hector, UNESCO Programme Specialist.

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