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Leave No One Behind: A People-Centered Approach to Achieve Meaningful Connectivity

Web Foundation · April 26, 2021

In light of the importance of addressing the digital divide in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Sustainable Development Goals, the President of the General Assembly has convened a one-day High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity on 27 April 2021.

In this letter, we call on governments, industry, multilateral institutions, civil society, and international financial institutions to close the digital divide by putting people at the centre of our approach to achieving meaningful connectivity for everyone. 

In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to accelerate concerted action at all levels to close the digital divide, especially the gender digital gap. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the deep disparities in access to affordable and meaningful connectivity.  

At the 2021 High-Level Digital Debate of the General Assembly on Connectivity and Digital Cooperation, we encourage the international community to put people at the center of our approach to ensure no one is left behind without affordable access, skilling, and basic public services.  

Governments, industry, multilateral institutions, civil society and international financial institutions must work together and lead the way for concerted action to:  

  1. Close the digital divide by 2030. We must overcome the disparities between those who can enjoy the benefits of the digital age and those who cannot. It is critical to measure progress of internet access and usage across regions and population groups, e.g., by gender, age, race, abilities. 
  2. Invest in affordable technology solutions. We must enable affordable and meaningful connectivity for everyone, everywhere by deploying a range of innovative technologies and investing in targeted approaches to deliver broadband internet.  
  3. Empower people everywhere. We must ensure all people have access to affordable internet-enabled devices, the necessary digital skills, literacy, and tools needed to access a safe, secure and empowering internet, one which provides access to information, basic public services (e.g., education, health), economic development opportunities and the ability to participate in civic life without disruptions.  
  4. Mobilize new financing models to reach the unconnected. We must foster innovative and sustainable financing including blended finance models and multistakeholder partnerships. Financing efforts must address all aspects of human connectivity including skills, utility, affordability and target key groups including women and Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs). 
  5. Protect the most vulnerable online. We must keep human rights at the forefront of our efforts to close the digital divide. The international community must come together to ensure human rights online—and offline—apply equally for everyone in the digital age.  

Aarti Holla Maini, Secretary-General, EMEA Satellite Operators Association (ESOA)
Achim Steiner, Administrator, UNDP
Adrian Lovett, President & CEO, World Wide Web Foundation
Alicia Bárcena, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
Anriette Esterhuysen, Chair, United Nations Internet Governance Forum Multistakeholder Advisory Group
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Bernadette Lewis, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organizations (CTO)
Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director-General, Digital Europe
Chat Garcia Ramilo, Executive Director, Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Christy Ogidi, Director, Foundlings Foundation
Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda
Eleanor Sarpong, Deputy Director, A4AI
ElsaMarie D’Silva, Founder & President, Red Dot Foundation Global
Eric Loeb, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, Salesforce
Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative
Godha Bapuji, Director, Women in Crisis
John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs, Microsoft
John W.H. Denton AO, Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
Jorge Gomes, Chief Operations Officer, VOST Europe
Joshua Setipa, Managing Director, UN Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries
Kevin Martin, Vice President, Public Policy, Mobile and Global Access and Broadband Commissioner, Facebook
Kim Mallalieu, Deputy Chair, Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT)
Lacina Kone, Director General & CEO, SmartAfrica
Lance Pierce, CEO, NetHope
Martha Suarez, President, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance
Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA
Moses Owiny, CEO, Centre for Multilateral Affairs
Nompilo Simanje, Legal and ICT Policy Lead, Media Institute of Southern Africa – Zimbabwe (MISA-Zimbabwe)
Oyebisi B. Oluseyi, Executive Director, Nigerian Network of NGOs
Pamela Coke Hamilton, Executive Director, International Trade Centre
Peter Robinson, President and CEO, USCIB
Rajeev Badyal, Vice President, Project Kuiper, Amazon
Rima Kupryte, Director, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL)
Rocio Lorenzo, Managing Director and Partner, Global Leader Telecoms Sector, Boston Consulting Group
Rodney Taylor, Secretary-General, Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU)
Salma Jalife, President, Centro México Digital, former Undersecretary for Telecommunications in Mexico, former Commissioner for the Mexican telecommunications regulator and international consultant to ITU
Sonia Jorge, Executive Director, A4AI
Stephane Duguin, CEO, CyberPeace Institute
Trésor Tshilumba, Digital Transformation Specialist, Digital Cooperation Unit, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)
Victoria Espinel, President,

To add your endorsement to this joint statement, please email 

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