INTERVIEW: The United Nations (UN) challenged European leaders to up their game by closing the gap to technology leaders China and US, to help ensure all regions of the world reap the benefits of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Deputy secretary-general Amina Mohammed (pictured) said Europe must “step up and forward” to ensure balanced development of technology and so enable regions currently “totally out of reach” to reap the rewards of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which comprises 17 SDGs.

“It’s phenomenal that we’re all alive at this time in our history, because there’s so much technology and therefore the opportunities to use it for good to serve humanity are there,” she explained.

To fully reap the benefits, global leaders must have the courage of their convictions, she said: “This really is about people and it is about putting them at the centre of what we do.”

Mohammed acknowledged there are many challenges to achieving the UN’s goal of a harmonised world, not least of which is the sheer scale of her organisation. With 193 members, achieving anything other than token consensus on the humanitarian role of technology is a tough task, for example.

Other challenges are more tangible: an ongoing digital divide not just between countries, but also urban and rural populations; enabling children to enjoy the benefits of remote education while protecting them from the “dark side” of the internet or health-risks associated with overdoing screen time; and creating new jobs and opportunities for young adults.

Mohammed also discussed the role of, and benefits for, the private-sector; the need for governments to place digital inclusion at the heart of policy; and how to achieve all this without adding to the problem of climate change.

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