LIVE FROM WORLD INTERNET CONFERENCE, WUZHEN, CHINA: ITU deputy secretary-general Tomas Lamanauskas (pictured) asserted research had found a connection between the adoption of digital technologies and progress on many of the agency’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), as he discussed the importance of closing a connectivity gap which continues to affect billions of people.

Lamanauskas said key global challenges include a lack of internet connectivity for 2.6 billion people, along with huge deficits in sustainable development investment funding in developing nations.

“It’s not surprising digital still is dominating global policy discussions.”

“We’re living in a time when technology is moving increasingly fast, with huge potential. But the challenges that are mounting [are] also moving that fast. It’s up to us to determine how this digital future will unfold.”

He argued infrastructure is now a foundation of everyday life and highlighted a need for development finance to make deploying critical networks more affordable.

Lamanauskas added the industry and governments must ensure developments including AI are inclusive and do not create new digital divides because digital skills are the cornerstone of sustainable growth.

He noted much of the work conducted at the Chinese conference aims to address challenges around digital cooperation for development and AI, which align with the ITU’s top priorities of universal connectivity and sustainable digital transformation. 

Lamanauskas warned the world is “running against the clock” in terms of the SDGs, with the ITU’s “sustainable development agenda” reaching “the midpoint this year, and we are only 15 per cent on track”.