Tech

Jack Ma, Melinda Gates call for global digital cooperation at UN

UN Secretary-General António Guterres formed a 20-member high-level panel, co-chaired by Jack Ma and Melinda Gates. This independent expert group, calls on governments, private sector and civil society, to work together to maximise the benefits and minimise the harms of digital technology.

Sampath Putrevu
11th Jun 2019
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In a live conversation on Monday, United Nations’ Secretary-General António Guterres formed a 20-member high-level panel, co-chaired by Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma and philanthropist Melinda Gates. This independent expert group called on governments, the private sector and civil society to urgently work together to maximise the benefits and minimise the harms of digital technologies.


The conversation also formulated a report, ‘The Age of Digital Interdependence’.


The report, as stated by Ma, makes a strong call for reinvigorating multilateral cooperation, complemented by a multi-stakeholder approach. The aim is to involve a far more diverse spectrum of stakeholders, such as civil society, academics, technologists, and the private sector.


“The future is being created literally everyday, and it’s changing so fast that we can’t predict it at one particular moment. My 16-year-old daughter says that I am digitally literate but not as much as I think I am, which is true,” said Melinda Gates, Co-founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at the panel discussion with Jack Ma Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group and António Guterres, at the UN Headquarters.


Melinda Gates and Jack Ma

Melinda Gates, Antonio Guterres and Jack Ma




The UN Secretary-General called this high-level panel the most diverse, competent and committed group of individuals they ever had. The secretary also expressed his enthusiasm over the enormous potential of the digital era.


Melinda Gates recalled her days at Microsoft when having a supercomputer was absolutely out of predictions. She added that we cannot really predict the future possibilities of the technological revolution. Adding to what Gates said, Jack Ma asked us to embrace and enjoy the current movement, and look at all the positive possibilities of where maximum leverage needs to be taken.


He metaphorically calls all of us just the beginners at the digital era, and that this is just the dawn of it. “Being with the internet industry for over 25 years now, the only thing I can now do digitally is send or receive emails,” he admits.


Here are the five priority actions the panel has recommended to the United Nations and the world:


1) An inclusive digital economy and society, to envision substantial contribution to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This, by ensuring that every adult has affordable access to digital networks and digitally-enabled financial and health services.


2) Human and institutional capacity, for recommending the establishment of regional and global digital help desks to help governments, civil society and the private sector to understand digital issues and develop the capacity to steer cooperation related to social and economic impacts of the digital technologies.


3) Human rights and human agency, urging the UN Secretary-General to institute an agencies-wide review of how existing international human rights accords and standards apply to new and emerging digital technologies.


4) Trust, security and stability, to recommend the development of a global commitment on digital trust and security to shape a shared vision, identify attributes of digital stability, elucidate and strengthen the implementation of norms for responsible uses of technology, and propose priorities for action.


5) Global digital cooperation, as a matter of urgency and recommending the UN Secretary-General to facilitate an agile and open consultation process, to develop updated mechanisms for global digital cooperation.


You can find the whole report here.




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