Cape Town, July 14, 2023 – A regional review meeting was recently held in Cape Town to incorporate the African perspective into the United Nations Global Digital Compact (GDC) and promote a more inclusive digital future and equitable. The meeting reflected on key issues: infrastructure development in Africa, digital public goods, digital trust, data protection, human rights, regulation of emerging technologies such as AI. Experts, policymakers and stakeholders from 32 member states representing government, the private sector, civil society and academia attended the meeting to provide technical input.
The GDC aims to foster an open, free and secure digital environment, reflecting shared principles of trust, inclusion and sustainability. It was initiated in recognition of the transformative potential of digital technologies around the world, emphasizing the need for international cooperation to maximize benefits and mitigate risks. Rwanda and Sweden are co-facilitators leading the intergovernmental process to establish the GDC. As part of the consultative process to establish the GDC, the UN is actively seeking input from individuals, organizations and entities around the world to shape a comprehensive and inclusive agreement.
In his opening remarks, Fayaz King, representing the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, emphasized the need for Africa to take a central role in shaping the GDC. He stressed the importance of ensuring that Africa “is not just a data provider for a small group of entities” but should also be actively involved in shaping its digital future. He called for the “development of standards for data interoperability and effective regulation that go beyond self-regulation,” while stressing the importance of regulating AI and handling data in a way that informs decision makers and serves to the common good.
Antonio Pedro, ECA’s acting executive secretary, said via video message: “The shared prosperity benefits that emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain and intelligent autonomous systems can bring are unevenly distributed and dominated by actors outside of Africa”, noting the importance of providing “basic policy and regulatory guardrails to support a safe and equitable digital transformation”.
“The Digital Global Compact provides an opportunity to address these gaps through its multi-stakeholder consultation process and by setting clear goals and bringing stakeholders together,” he added.
Leon Juste Ibombo, Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and Digital Economy of the Republic of the Congo and President of the Council of ICT Ministers (CMICT), raised inclusion issues, noting the importance of “expanding the language dataset for training AI models beyond the predominant use of English and Chinese languages.” He highlighted the benefits of fostering initiatives that improve digital culture, including coding and machine learning.
Alfred Mamadou, representing South Africa’s Ministry of Communications and Digital Technologies, emphasized that both state and non-state actors must work together to develop Africa’s digital economy, and praised the GDC’s consultative and multi-stakeholder approach in delivering shape regulatory frameworks.
For his part, Nelson Muffuh, UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa, stressed the importance of approaching the negotiations “from a position of strength, rather than a position of disadvantage” and emphasized the need to prioritize capacity development to improve skills and knowledge needed to effectively adopt digital technologies. .
Allision Gillwald, Executive Director of Research ICT Africa (RIA), highlighted the need to address the ‘digital divide paradox’ whereby coverage exists but penetration is lagging behind. Low productive use of online services and weak governance of the digital space were some of the challenges she highlighted.
“There is a need for empirical data through research to inform policy and further development of the digital economy in Africa, as well as a need for a paradigm shift in the way economic data is collected and used. digital focusing on researching the African context for the digital economy and data disaggregation,” said Gillwald.
Participants highlighted the need to break down silos and the importance of sharing information, as well as engaging all stakeholders to build on the UN pillars of peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. Addressing digital infrastructure gaps, policy gaps in the governance of new technologies, and developing talent and capacity for a fair and equitable digital transformation were also highlighted.
According to Mactar Seck, Head of the Technology and Innovation Section, the Economic Commission for Africa’s Center of Digital Excellence will continue the consultative process to consolidate African voices within the GDC’s multi-stakeholder framework and collective efforts to address the global digital challenges. The GDC is expected to be agreed at the Future Summit in September 2024.
More about the Secretary General’s report here: ‘Our Common Agenda’. Click here for the Digital Global Compact and information on the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology.
About the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Established by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1958 as one of the five UN regional commissions, the mandate of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is to promote economic development and social of its members. States, promote intra-regional integration and promote international cooperation for the development of Africa. ECA is made up of 54 member states and plays a dual role as the regional arm of the UN and as a key component of the African institutional landscape.
For more information, visit: www.uneca.org
Economic Commission for Africa
post office box 3001
Telephone: +251 11 551 5826
Copyright United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com), source News Service English