This was the message of a high-level UNESCO delegation to the meeting of the G20 countries digital ministers in Trieste, Italy last week. The G20 is a forum of the world’s major economies, covering 60 percent of the global population and 80% of GDP.
Led by Tawfik Jelassi, Assistant Director-General for Communication & Information, the UNESCO team included Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences.
In his remarks, ADG Jelassi – himself a former minister of ICT – pointed to the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Digitalization offered many of us a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some digital divides were highlighted, such as the unequal access to connectivity; the unequal access to reliable information and knowledge; and the unequal capacities and competencies to create value through digital technology.”
Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information
The ADG explained how UNESCO is stepping up its actions to reduce, if not eliminate, these three divides based upon the framework for digital development agreed by UNESCO Member States. The framework, he said, consists of the ROAM principles: Human Rights, Openness, Accessibility, and Multi-stakeholder governance.
The ADG invited ministers to make use of the Internet Universality Indicators for assessing national digital ecosystems and guide policy decisions. He further highlighted the tools of the “ICT Competency Framework for Teachers”, and the Organization’s new curriculum on Media and Information Literacy.
The G20 Ministers were also invited by Mr Jelassi to join UNESCO’s “global consultations to improve the transparency of social media platforms, around the ways they share the information they receive, including through algorithms.”
Turning to the subject of AI, the ADG noted that UNESCO had just concluded an AI needs assessment of 32 countries in Africa and would soon offer to 23,000 judicial operators in 150 countries a training on AI and the rule of law.
“Also, we will soon deploy AI capacity-building platforms for youth and policymakers,” he added.
Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, who leads UNESCO’s work on the Ethics of AI, shared with the G20 ministers the potential of UNESCO’s draft Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.
“G20 countries, along with all UNESCO’s membership, delivered an ambitious global standard on AI Ethics,” she said of the process which will culminate at the General Conference of UNESCO in November.
“The Recommendation is a compass for international consensus on the ‘what’ as well as the ‘how’ of ethical governance of AI to protect and advance human rights, human dignity, inclusion, and non-discrimination,” she stated.
The UNESCO delegation held various bilateral discussions with present delegations present, including those from Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Rwanda, Turkey, Italy, Brazil, and OECD.