On the margins of the ITU-WTDC 2022, the high-level meeting took place on Wednesday 8th June 2022 at the first-ever Digital Transformation Center launched in Rwanda in 2019.
It was held under the theme “The EU Digital Global Gateway: An Internet Open to All” with a view to discuss and share a global overview of the EU Digital Global Gateway and the rationale behind the initiative.
The Global Gateway launched in December 2021 is a strategy of the EU to boost smart, clean, and secure links in digital, energy, and transport and strengthen health, education, and research systems across the world.
It stands for sustainable and trusted connections that work for people and the planet, to tackle the most pressing global challenges, from climate change and protecting the environment, to improving health security and boosting competitiveness and global supply chains.
The Global Gateway also promotes sustainable approaches to development and infrastructure needs and comes with guiding principles revolving around democratic values and high standards, good governance, and transparency, equal partnerships, promoting circular economy, focusing on security, and catalyzing private sector investment.
According to Peter Mariën in charge of Digital Governance at EU’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships, the EU Global Gateway seeks to mobilize up to €300 billion in investments between 2021 and 2027 to underpin a lasting global recovery by considering partners’ needs and EU’s own interests. Of the €300 billion to be mobilized, €150 billion will be allocated to Africa.
"The European Union identifies the deployment of digital networks and infrastructure as a key international investment priority in the Global Gateway, mobilizing up to €300 billion by 2027 for developing the infrastructure," said Peter Mariën.
The Global Gateway strategy constitutes an offer to partner with countries around the world to accelerate their twin green and digital transitions and a sustainable offer to meet infrastructure needs, anchored in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
Digitalization, with a view to promoting human-centric digital transformation, is raised as key pillar of this strategy, to safeguard digital sovereignty in tackling the global digital divide, ensure free internet access, promote EU assets and services across the globe, foster cooperation on research and digital innovation, and minimize risks while using artificial intelligence.
Under this theme, the Global Gateway also offers digital economy packages by establishing physical infrastructures like submarine cables, terrestrial backbones, last-mile access, and data centers coupled with soft elements such as data governance, digital businesses, digital skills, and regulatory environment.
Speaking at the event, Wim Degezelle, Stantec Expert of the EU-funded project “Promotion and Development of the Open Internet in Africa” emphasized that “the Open Internet is not and should not be taken for granted“.
“We need to invest in the right opportunities to increase internet penetration. It is much needed to make people use the potential and possibilities of the Open Internet,” he noted.
"The Open Internet drives growth and development. Key to its success is the decentralized architecture, built on stable, open standards and protocols developed in consensus-driven processes and underpinned by a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance," added Wim Degezelle.
Dr. Thomas Zielke, the Head of Division for the National and International Standardization Policy in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action in Germany and Candidate for the position of ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau director, has also stressed that digital transformation needs cross-border and cross-sector coordination to provide full benefits to society.
“The Open Internet provides the condition for responding to all kinds of challenges" he noted.
Tomas Lamanauskas, the Managing Partner of Envision Associates and candidate to the position of the Deputy Secretary General of the ITU stressed the need to create digital opportunities observing that the Open Internet is a key driver to tackling challenges and achieving growth and socio-economic transformation.
“Great to see that Europe is living up to the spirit of global solidarity by helping to develop digital infrastructure everywhere," he noted.