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UNCTAD eWeek 2023 to mobilize global support

GENEVA, Switzerland – Adapting to a fast-evolving digital landscape, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will debut its eWeek from 4 to 8 December, in a major revamp of its annual eCommerce Week series which began in 2016.

Themed “Shaping the future of the digital economy”, the UNCTAD eWeek will feature over 150 sessions focused on tackling pressing issues related to digitalization.

Key topics will range from platform governance, the development impact of artificial intelligence (AI), eco-friendly digital practices, to empowering women through digital entrepreneurship and accelerating digital readiness in developing countries. See the full programme.

UNCTAD secretary-general Rebeca Grynspan said: “The digital economy plays a critical role in advancing development goals at all levels. Through inclusive and multi-stakeholder discussions, we can together build a global digital future that works for all.”

The weeklong event will gather governments, CEOs, heads of international organizations, civil society representatives and other stakeholders.

High-level speakers will include Amandeep Singh Gill, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology; Deemah AlYahya, secretary-general of the Digital Cooperation Organization; Nizar Ben Neji, Tunisa’s minister of communication and technologies; Henry Puna, secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum; as well as top executives from the global investment and IT community.

The event will take place in Geneva, with a virtual conference centre accessible for online sessions. Register to attend.

Tapping AI potential

Time is of the essence as the world navigates uncertainties surrounding emerging technologies, including the rapid uptake of AI, which is increasingly revolutionizing the digital economy.

Against this backdrop, eWeek will host a series of high-level sessions to examine the opportunities and risks of these technologies, particularly for developing countries.

Two dedicated sessions on 6 December will focus on the safety of AI, and how global governance efforts can keep pace with its advancement to ensure equity and accountability in the digital economy.

The discussions will feed into wider efforts driven by the newly launched UN AI Advisory Body, tasked with analyzing and advancing recommendations on the ethical development and application of AI for the common good.

Leveling the digital playing field

Massive data flows from the digital economy call for global governance responses to market concentration and unequal distribution of benefits.

The world’s largest digital platforms control most stages of the data value chain, from the collection and transmission of data to its storage and analysis. Over 70 percent of the global digital advertising revenue goes to just five digital platforms.

To help navigate these challenges, the UNCTAD eWeek will examine competition law and regulation for digital markets and identify policy options for developing countries to unlock their innovation potential while levelling the playing field.

Harnessing the digital promise

With digitalization gaining pace worldwide, the data-driven digital economy holds vast potential for countries to spur economic growth, foster innovation and reduce geographic and physical barriers to inclusive development.

But doing so requires greater national and global efforts to bridge existing divides in digital readiness. Developing countries that lack the necessary infrastructure and capabilities to fully harness digitalization risk falling further behind.

Additionally, the adoption of emerging technologies, such as large, energy-consuming language models for AI, is expanding the environmental footprint of the digital economy.

Against this backdrop, the UNCTAD eWeek will explore ways to boost the digital economy in developing countries, balance it with environmental sustainability and boost digital entrepreneurship by women by bridging the gender financing gap.

Digitalization for development

The UNCTAD eWeek is a platform for constructive and inclusive dialogue to generate insights and actions that can feed into global efforts, particularly the ongoing UN Global Digital Compact process aimed at catalysing an open, free and secure digital future for all, leading up to the UN’s 2024 Summit of the Future.

It’s organized with the support of the Swiss government and other donors, as well as partners of the UNCTAD-led eTrade for all initiative, and will culminate in a joint declaration.

Stronger partnerships vital

With multiple global crises unfolding on geopolitical, economic and climate fronts, countries must make critical decisions to chart digitalization paths for equitable and sustainable development.

Enhancing cooperation and partnerships will be crucial to building a safe, trusted and inclusive digital economy that helps countries recover any lost ground in pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals.

At eWeek, UNCTAD will through the eTrade for all initiative foster comprehensive, cross-cutting and multistakeholder discussions aimed at finding smarter ways of building an inclusive and sustainable digital economy.

The initiative will hold leadership round-table discussions on unlocking digital trade and inclusive development and on the role of partnerships for a more inclusive and sustainable digital future.

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