As the UN prepares for a global cyber policy by the end of the year, India has said that the ambitious ‘Digital India’ programme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to address the digital divide and focus on affordability for inclusive development.
The stark gap in the digital divide between the developed and developing world needs to receive global attention, said Santosh Jha, Director General, Ministry of External Affairs.
He said that despite significant advances, half of the world’s population, mostly from developing and least developed countries, continues to be denied access to Information and Communications Technology.
Speaking at the the First Session of the Review by the UN General Assembly on the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), he noted that the growing gender digital divide, which has become even more sharp and acute, is a related area of concern and needs to be specially factored into the review agenda.
“There is also a need to go beyond access issues and focus on affordability and multilingualism for inclusive growth and development. The formal launch of the ‘Digital India’ programme by the Prime Minister of India seeks to address these and other issues related to digital empowerment of all its citizens,” Jha said.
Flagging key issues in areas for incorporation in the WSIS + 10 review process, Jha said there is need to recognise the importance of building a common understanding on the applicability of international rights and norms, particularly the freedom of expression to activities in cyberspace.
He stressed that there is also need to ensure better protection of all citizens in the online environment and strike an ideal balance between national security and internationally recognized human rights; and to create frameworks so that internet surveillance practices motivated by security concerns are conducted within a truly transparent and accountable framework.
He further expressed the Indian government’s strong affirmation of the principles of net neutrality.
The official underscored that the overarching focus of the review must be to utilise it for development and for the benefit of developing countries.
On the issue of internet governance, Jha said it is imperative to acknowledge the platform of the internet as a global public good, where all stakeholders have an equal stake in its functioning and efficiency.
“India would like to reaffirm and renew its commitment to the multi-stakeholder processes,” he said.
“Our engagement at the WSIS + 10 process stems from our deep and substantive understanding of the wherewithal needed to make ICTs truly relevant for the benefit of the entire planet and not just the privileged few,” he said.