The COVID-19 global pandemic has made digital tools indispensable. We work, learn, socialize, celebrate, and grieve virtually, and it is access to these technologies that has made it possible for many aspects of life to continue remotely, if in new forms. But the pandemic has also made life online more dangerous as cyberattacks of all stripes surge, as hackers “bomb” Zoom rooms, and as hate speech and misinformation flourish.
COVID-19 has magnified the critical role for digital technologies but also their underlying risks, and in doing so, made it clear that urgent work is needed to ensure that we can realize a future where new technologies can be harnessed to realize good and that we can work together to manage their risks.
Recently, the UN Foundation partnered with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to host a virtual discussion, featuring Fabrizio Hochschild, special adviser to the UN Secretary-General, on how the United Nations is working with others to help foster a safer and more equitable digital future.
Under-Secretary-General Hochschild explained how the UN Secretary-General’s new Roadmap for Digital Cooperation can help advance a positive digital future. The Roadmap, which was launched last month, builds on the work of the UN’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, led by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, and which delivered its final report last year. Since then, the UN has been working in partnership with countries, the private sector, civil society, research community, and others to identify how to realize the panel’s recommendations for what they called “the age of digital interdependence.”
The result of these efforts, the Roadmap is a call to:
CONNECT those who are not yet connected;
RESPECT human rights and human agency online; and
PROTECT those who are vulnerable to harms online.
Four points emerged from the wide-ranging discussion…