Remarks
Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda
Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Intercessional Panel Meeting U. N. Commission on Science and Technology for Development; U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC
December 2, 2013


Introduction

Let me join my colleagues in welcoming you all to the State Department for this Intercessional meeting of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD). Your work over these next three days comes at a critical time in our collective efforts to support the Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations early last decade. We are honored to have you here and hope you enjoy your time in Washington.

CSTD as Champion for S&T and Innovation – Theme One

The UN system has come to see the Commission as a champion for science, technology and innovation in the development sphere. This is a critical responsibility because it is those forces that are driving the world’s development at a pace and in ways that are unprecedented. And the enabler of those forces is the Information, Communications, and Technology sector and infrastructure. Your first panel this morning will examine science and technology and ICT “megatrends” driving progress through and beyond 2015 to the 2030 event horizon. We cannot predict the future with much certainty, of course, but many megatrends already well underway will carry forward, changing the world in ways that are enormous and even in some cases disruptive. I have in mind here, for example, the long-term trends of global urbanization, the changing demographics of young and old in our communities, the impacts of advanced forms of manufacturing and the growing stress on our food, water and energy resources as population continues to grow.

You will begin this discussion in the context of the “Issues Paper on S&T and Innovation for the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, in which the Secretariat has provided excellent food for thought. This Commission should be applauded for examining these important themes and trends in greater detail. I encourage you to continue to provide insights about future trends in these fields to the UN Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly as they move through 2014 and prepare for the MGD deliberations in 2015 to chart a course for a post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

ICTs for Development – Theme Two

Because ICTs and the Internet have changed the dynamic of global development so profoundly, it is also incumbent upon this Commission to continue to examine and analyze these assets as one of its core responsibilities and ensure that they are available everywhere.

Your session tomorrow will continue its solid tradition over the past several years to focus on existing and new technologies and services that are helping to close the digital divide. Again, the Secretariat has prepared an excellent paper to foster discussion on the theme of “ICTs for Inclusive Social and Economic Development” in which datafication, digitization, open data, cloud computing and the new generation of portable devices and applications are powering a new phase of rapid connectivity, including for broadband access where little or none exists today. Equally important in this new phase is the opportunity these new technologies afford for people in developing countries to not only connect to the Internet, but to provide local content that is relevant to their needs and aspirations.

The line-up of experts to address this topic is remarkable and I regret that I cannot be here to participate throughout. I will be leaving tonight to attend the African Union ICT Week, so rest assured, I will carry my advocacy and enthusiasm for your work with me to that important event.

Day Three – WSIS Follow-Up

On Wednesday you will address a range of activities supporting the World Summit on the Information Society and related matters from the Geneva Plan of Action. It is worth repeating that the entire process of following up WSIS is directed at achieving the eleven indicative targets, or “action lines”, set out in the WSIS Outcome Documents “…to improve connectivity and universal, equitable, non-discriminatory and affordable access to, and use of, ICTs, considering different national circumstances, to be achieved by 2015, and to using ICTs, as a tool to achieve the internationally agreed development goals and objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals.”

Among other topics, you will discuss the Internet Governance Forum. We believe that the IGF reflects the call from the Tunis to foster enhanced cooperation in the deployment of information and communications technologies and the Internet they have made possible. As the epitome of the multi-stakeholder processes that have made the Internet an engine of economic growth, innovation, and empowerment of individual citizens around the world, the IGF provides the premier and regular opportunity for governments, industry, civil society, and the technical community to address Internet issues in a broad, creative, and collaborative manner. The United States continues as a strong advocate of this view in all relevant fora, including UNESCO, ITU and UNCTAD, and most recently in the CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation. We welcome the efforts by the working group under the able chairmanship of Peter Major, who will report on its progress on Wednesday.

A question for us now is how do we embrace the accomplishments of the IGF and continue to advance it and strengthen it? Two years ago, another CSTD working group provided a valuable set of recommendations to improve the IGF through greater involvement of developing countries in planning its annual meetings, making its work more accessible for all stakeholders, and increasing transparency of its outcomes. And again, to Peter Major, our thanks for chairing this CSTD working group to its successful conclusion and to the many of those continuing work on implementing the recommendations. I know all participants here will look forward to hearing about progress on that front as well.

As a general matter, the United States believes the correct modalities for a WSIS review are:

  • For organizations with WSIS action line implementation responsibilities, to foster appropriate capacity-building, hold review events and processes, and to solicit input from all stakeholders about their contributions to implementation of the action lines.
  • For governments, organizations, and all relevant stakeholders to ensure they are providing inputs in a timely manner to support the overall WSIS review process.
  • For the CSTD, following its WSIS assignment in 2005 and subsequent ECOSOC and UNGA resolutions since that assignment to provide an annual report to the ECOSOC and UNGA on the progress made in the implementation of the action lines.
  • In addition, we welcome the CSTD responsibility to prepare a 10-year summary report for the decade of activities after Tunis for submission to ECOSOC and UNGA and for deliberations for the post-2015 development agenda. Just as the excellent CSTD 5-year report did, this 10-year report will capture inputs from all UN organizations with action line responsibilities, including the input of stakeholders, as well as inputs from the aforementioned CSTD working groups on “Improvements to the Internet Governance Forum”, completed in 2012, and “Enhanced Cooperation”, which is currently in progress.

We are happy that these CSTD responsibilities were embodied in the most recent ECOSOC resolution approved in July and would welcome their inclusion in the UNGA resolution currently being drafted in the Second Committee in New York.

The seventieth session of the UN General Assembly will consider the CSTD report and all other inputs from UN organizations and stakeholders across the spectrum of MDGs and the economic, social and environmental pillars that are framing the post-2015 development agenda to follow. The United States looks forward to working with all Member States to determine the next steps for all appropriate actions following this deliberative process.

This is an important two years of transition for the entire United Nations community, and the CSTD has a central role in helping to make it successful.

Internet – The Force Multiplier for Development

Before I conclude, allow me to make a few final observations about the Internet. The architects of the Internet conceived of and launched it as an open, inclusive platform built, operated, maintained, used, and governed by all its stakeholders – governments, the private sector, civil society, technical community, academia and the users themselves.

Who could ever imagine the impact of the Internet when it was launched just two decades ago? The speed of growth of its infrastructure, diffusion and utilization of this technology has been unprecedented. The Internet has become a springboard for human development worldwide, growing economies, enabling social and democratic discourse, increasing collaboration between people in all nations, and catalyzing innovation. How can anyone imagine the remarkable progress made toward the Millennium Development Goals over the last decade absent the Internet and the contributions it is making to increase food security, develop natural resources, manage infrastructure and improve health services for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The United States welcomes all discussion of enhanced multistakeholder cooperation and increasing access to the Internet for all people. We support an open dialogue on the modernization and evolution of the multi-stakeholder system that enables the operation of the global Internet. Bottom-up, inclusive, cooperative efforts to empower users and further enable innovation free from arbitrary intergovernmental control has been our consistent message. And we believe that the proper response to concerns related to the Internet’s development, from bridging the remaining digital divide to protecting children online to developing best practices for securing networks, lies in the cooperative work between and within the multi-stakeholder institutions that its founders empowered.

The Internet’s universal deployment will depend on us encouraging and enabling private investment in technology and infrastructure that will drive down the cost of access. This Commission has regularly identified this issue in its past work and should continue to do so in the future.

To demonstrate our commitment to affordable Internet access for everyone, the United States government proposed and worked with a variety of stakeholders to launch the creation of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, a coalition of nearly 30 partners from private sector, public sector, and civil society organizations. This multinational, multi-stakeholder coalition stands together in its aim to provide affordable Internet access for everyone, particularly in developing countries.

We also operate the Global Broadband Initiative through the US Agency for International Development, which is working with countries to develop universal service programs and national broadband plans and to foster ICT capacity-building on the ground. As you are all aware, the private sector is investing heavily in wireless solutions to bridge the world’s remaining digital divide. There is always more to be done, and collectively, we should. But we think these efforts are positive contributions to these very real challenges. Our USAID colleague Darrell Owen, who has been so deeply involved with CSTD over the last two years, is together with other experts tomorrow to address these activities in greater depth.

All stakeholders – governments, business, academia, the technical community, civil society – continue to grapple with the challenge of making broadband available to the communities who need it most. We know that mobile telephony has diffused around the world with incredible speed and subscriptions have now exceeded 6.8 billion in our world of 7.1 billion people, based on ITU information. Moreover, 2.7 billion people are connected to the Internet and fixed broadband costs have dropped over 80 percent since 2008. We should celebrate these accomplishments and recognize them. However, a “digital divide” persists in many regions of the world and we must redouble our collective efforts to close it.

The US Government intends to make broadband expansion a topic of international conversation wherever possible. We believe the Internet community should continue to discuss and coalesce around the topic, and we intend to do all in our ability to focus attention on the needs and possibilities.

The CSTD should continue to do its part to support this proposition. And I can assure you the United States remains committed to providing our own resources to help expand the accessibility of broadband and supporting the CSTD. and other fora devoted to this important task.

Closing

The CSTD brings more developing country stakeholders to the tables of our multi-stakeholder process as a forum where best practices for the fusion of S&T and ICTs can be shared and advocated. This Intercessional affords yet another opportunity to engage in robust and candid discussion, to document and share findings and best practices in useful ways for all stakeholders and to ensure we prepare for the next cycle of Commission deliberations and contributions to the MGD process throughout 2014 and into 2015.

I encourage you to take advantage of this compelling opportunity and wish you the very best for a successful Intercessional meeting.