Infrastructure, investment, innovation and inclusion, or the “4 I’s”, are the pillars for the information and telecommunication sector to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next decade, the UN IT and telecom agency chief said on Monday.
At a press conference at the UN Office in Geneva, Zhao Houlin, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), recapped the four principles.
First, infrastructure is a backbone for the digital economy. Building the next generation of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure will power the evolution of smart, sustainable cities and communities all around the world, as well as connecting not just all people but things.
Second, investment is a key enabler for sustainable development. ICTs are enablers that fast-forward progress on the SDGs, a better environment is needed for investment, which calls for innovative financing mechanisms and creative public-private partnerships that cut across industries and sectors.
Third, innovation is a creator for opportunity. At the forefront of both industry disruption and economic growth, in developed and developing markets alike, entrepreneurs and SMEs are critical in this new ecosystem. They are an important source of economic growth, job creation and innovation.
Finally, inclusion is a foundation for prosperity and peace. More than two billion adults worldwide still don’t have a formal bank account, but 1.6 billion of these unbanked people have access to a mobile phone and potentially empowering digital financial services. Digital financial inclusion can act as a multiplier for poverty eradication, job creation, gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Zhao hailed the achievement that today nearly half of the world’s population are using smart phones, a clear example of how ICT has been pushing forward the UN SDGs. But he has also seen it as a huge challenge that the other half still don’t sharing the benefits of modern ICT miracles.