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Prof. Shahbaz Khan, Director of UNESCO Office in Beijing,Congratulatory video message


Opening Ceremony of the 2021 WIOTC

“Creating the New Pattern of IoT Era, Building the New Economy of IoT World”

Congratulatory video message

13 January 2022

By Prof. Shahbaz Khan


Distinguished Mr. He Xuming, chairman of the World Internet of Things Convention

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen


On behalf of UNESCO, it is my honor and pleasure to speak at the opening ceremony of the 2021 World Internet of Things Convention. I am currently outside of China, though the internet makes it possible for us to connect with each other from many parts around the world.

Indeed, digital technologies and innovation are increasingly critical to the advancement of human development, and to the creation of inclusive knowledge societies. New technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and the Internet of Things hold huge promise for societies.

China’s ambitious “Internet of Things New Infrastructure Development Three-Year Action Plan (2021 – 2023)” sets the targets of pushing IoT connections in China above the two billion threshold by 2023, as well as the creation of 10 IoT enterprises with output in excess of 10 billion yuan during the same time period.

I am pleased to note that - according to an industry report - China's Internet of Things (IoT) market is expected to surpass 300 billion U.S. dollars in 2025. The figure will account for about 26.1 percent of the total global IoT market volume. Also according to the report, in the next five years, China's spending on software, hardware and service will maintain a steady growth. Internet of vehicles, smart metering, intelligent home and wearable terminal will see a rapid increase thanks to the construction of infrastructures including 5G.

These project some remarkable advancement.

In the past few years, in China and many parts of the world, digital technologies offered many of us a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the rapid progress and huge potential offered by digital technologies, digital divides, such as the unequal access to connectivity; the unequal access to information and services, including accessibility for persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups, as well as the unequal capacities and competencies to create value through digital technology, both within and between countries, are reinforcing existing social, economic and gender inequalities.   

While around 51% of the global population uses the Internet, an estimated 3.7 billion do not have Internet access. In least developed countries, only 19% of the population uses the Internet. 

In addition, issues such as increased surveillance, data mining and profiling, as well as algorithmic bias and automated decision-making, represent new risks to the rights to privacy and non-discrimination. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Indeed, we need to work together to “Create new Pattern of IoT Era, and Build New Economy of IoT World.” To build a better future, we need to raise our level of ambition and digital co-operation.

This is especially important for new technologies such as AI and the Internet of Things. We need international and national policies and regulatory frameworks to ensure that these emerging technologies benefit humanity as a whole.

UNESCO is addressing these challenges by promoting a truly multi-stakeholder approach to technological development that is aligned with the principles of respect for human rights, openness and accessibility.

UNESCO is stepping up its actions to reduce the digital divides based upon the framework for digital development – the Internet Universality Indicators. The framework consists of the ROAM principles: Human Rights, Openness, Accessibility, and Multi-stakeholder governance.  

The framework is a unique and powerful resource which is relevant to all countries to gain a holistic diagnosis of its Internet policies, digital environment and thereby the structural causes of digital inequalities.

The UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI is another major answer. Adopted by UNESCO Member States at the General Conference in November last year, it sets the first global normative framework, aiming to ensures that digital transformations promote human rights and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing issues around transparency, accountability and privacy, with action-oriented policy chapters on data governance, education, culture, labour, healthcare and the economy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

On this occasion, I invite stakeholders to cooperate with UNESCO in the following areas:

First, make use of the UNESCO Internet Universality Indicators for assessing national digital ecosystems and guide policy decisions;

Second, apply the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI at the national level or industry level.

UNESCO stands ready to support in these areas.

To conclude, on behalf of UNESCO, please accept our sincere congratulations to the 2021 World Internet of Things Convention. I wish the Convention a great success.