As global leaders gather in New York City to discuss how to push forward the United Nations’ sustainable development agenda through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), Posts too have a role to play.
The UPU will also be present to underscore the growing role of postal services in providing innovative, integrated and inclusive electronic services.
The meeting marks ten years since an agenda for inclusive ICT development was drawn up in Tunis, Tunisia, at the second World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS). This week’s meeting - known as WSIS+10 - is being convened by the General Assembly to review progress on the Tunis Agenda so far and to address future challenges.
Crucial aspects include bridging the “digital divide” between households with internet access and those without. An estimated 46 per cent of households worldwide now have Internet access at home, compared to just 18 per cent in 2005.
The UPU is working closely with sister agencies, UNCTAD and ITC, as a co-facilitator of the WSIS's E-Business Action line.
On the ground, the postal sector, the UPU is working with designated postal operators to implement digital innovations, helping them to serve as instruments of sustainable development through the use of ICTs.
Examples include the case of Tanzania. By 2013, the Tanzania Posts Corporation had established a network of 36 internet cafés and 10 centres known as Community Information Centres that offer ICT training services.
In Paraguay, the Post is using mobile payment technology to help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty in rural areas lacking access to banks. As part of a social programme called TEKOPORA, cash transfers to families are provided through e-wallets linked to mobile phones.
As e-commerce continues to boom, Posts are also using ICTs to facilitate trade. In Côte d’Ivoire, the Post has created an online sales portal known as SanliShop.ci. Launched in 2012, the platform aims to put African products on the world market by allowing buyers and sellers to conduct business anywhere.
Sustainable development through the use of ICTs was underlined by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a speech this year in Seoul, Korea.
“I am calling for more than connectivity,” he said. “We need social networks that work for social inclusion.”
Indeed, the WSIS action lines, which are meant to translate the vision of an information society into concrete results, are closely connected to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This set of 17 goals, including the eradication of poverty and the fight against climate change, was adopted by the General Assembly in September.
For example, increased internet connectivity can reduce poverty through better transparency and efficiency in government and by encouraging job creation in the private sector, according to a WSIS-SDG matrix document.