UN chief calls for increasing digital connectivity in pandemic response, recovery

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged governments worldwide to increase digital connectivity in their COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery plans, Xinhua reports. 

"I urge all governments to make sure that your response and recovery plans include increasing digital connectivity in a way that is affordable, safe and inclusive," the UN chief said in his video message to the closing of the 2020 Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of digital technologies and transformation, he said.

"This year has brought new evidence of the benefits of connectivity. Internet access is protecting health care, jobs and lives," the UN chief added.

"But, the pandemic is exacerbating inequalities of all kinds, including the digital divide. Those without access to digital technology -- almost half the world -- are denied opportunities to study, communicate, trade, shop, work and participate in much of modern life," the top UN official noted.

The forum's focus on "digital inclusion" is essential to building a strong recovery, the secretary-general said. "We urgently need to address the growing digital gender gap and put digital technology to work for those who need it most: the vulnerable, the marginalized, those living in poverty and people suffering from discrimination of all kinds."

"The pursuit of inclusion must determine not just our approach to expanding connectivity, but also how we manage data," he said.

The 15th annual meeting of the IGF, themed "internet for human resilience and solidarity" was hosted online by the UN, with official meetings starting Nov. 9 for nine days.


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