The panel, which comprises 20 members from the public and private sectors, academia and civil society, has been tasked with ensuring “a safe and inclusive digital future for all” by identifying policy, research and information gaps in the current state of technology and making proposals to address them.
“The scale, spread and speed of change made possible by digital technologies is unprecedented, but the current means and levels of international cooperation are unequal to the challenge,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement.
WATCH: A message from UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the new High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation.
Guterres also noted that technology plays an important role in helping reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include everything from supporting small and micro-businesses to empowering women and young people in developing countries.
“Therefore, cooperation across domains and across borders is critical to realizing the full social and economic potential of digital technologies as well as mitigating the risks that they pose and curtailing any unintended consequences,” he said.
The panel’s first in-person meeting will take place in September, with its final report submitted to the Secretary-General within nine months. The panel is expected to undertake a wide range of public consultations, including at least two public events and an open process inviting global input. Some of that input will be made through online channels, the UN said.
The panel will be supported by a small Secretariat funded by donor resources and based in New York and Geneva.
“Soon, every industry will be digitized, and this will have a tremendous impact on every aspect of life,” Ma said in the statement. “In this digital era, data and technology are more broadly available, enabling entrepreneurialism, economic growth and improved quality of life for those who have the access and training to leverage it. Global, cross-sector collaboration is critical to ensure the benefits of the digital era are possible for all.”
Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, echoed those sentiments, saying, “if all people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, have equal access to digital technology, they will use it to improve life for themselves and their families and raise their voices in conversations about what the future holds. Enabling this widescale empowerment is what this panel is about.”
The full list of panel members is below: