UNESCO Dialogues with G20 Digital Ministers on Digital Cooperation for Better Future

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Audrey Azoulay
Director-General of UNESCO

A high-level delegation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) led by Mr. Tawfik Jelassi, its Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, including Mr. Gabriel Ramos, the Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, has met with the digital ministers of G20 countries in Trieste, Italy, to discuss how to eliminate or reduce digital divides based on a framework for digital development consisting of the ROAM principles of Human Rights, Openness, Accessibility, and Multi-stakeholder governance.

Together, they agreed that “to build a better future, we need to raise our level of ambition and digital co-operation. This is especially important for new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum computing, blockchain, Internet of Things, among others.”

Tawfik, himself a former minister of ICT, pointed to the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic, and explained how UNESCO is stepping up its actions to reduce, if not eliminate, the 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.

He invited the ministers to make use of the Internet Universality Indicators for assessing national digital ecosystems and guide policy decisions and further highlighted the tools of the “ICT Competency Framework for Teachers”, and the Organization’s new curriculum on Media and Information Literacy.

Tawfik also invited the G20 Ministers 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.”

On 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 a training on AI and the rule of law to 23,000 judicial operators in 150 countries.

“Also, we will soon deploy AI capacity-building platforms for youth and policymakers,” he added.

Gabriela Ramos 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.

She said of the process which will culminate at the General Conference of UNESCO in November: “G20 countries, along with all UNESCO’s membership, delivered an ambitious global standard on AI Ethics”.

She stated that: “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.”

The UNESCO delegation held various bilateral discussions with delegations present, including those from Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Rwanda, Turkey, Italy, Brazil, and OECD.

The G20 is a forum of the world’s major economies, covering 60 percent of the global population and 80% of GDP.