Photo: UNDP Azerbaijan

As prepared for delivery

HORMETLI Elmir MUELLIM (Deputy Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies)  

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to join you today at the opening of the first ever Youth Internet Governance Forum in Azerbaijan.

I would like to begin by thanking the Government of Azerbaijan, particularly our long-term partner, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies for its continuous support in advancing the ICT agenda in the country and for co-hosting this Forum together with UNDP. On a special note, our gratitude goes to Deputy Minister Valizada for his personal engagement in these issues.

It is wonderful the first Youth IGF is part of another major event, which also takes place in Azerbaijan for the first time ever –the country’s first Innovation Festival (InnoFest) brought to you by a great collaboration of a number of key ministries and government agencies, innovators, youth foundation, a prominent mobile operator and the Heydar Aliyev Centre, of course with UNDP on board as well.

We at the United Nations Development Programme see youth as one of the primary force for successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying 17 Sustainable Development Goals –the global blueprint for people and the planet to live in peace and prosperity.

Today, our world is home to the largest youth population ever in history –and you are among this critical cohort! There are currently 1.2 billion people around the globe between the ages of 15 and 24 and this number is expected to grow. By 2030, almost 2 billion young people will become part of the world’s youth cohort. In Azerbaijan, young people between the age of 14-29, make up one third of the population.

The power of youth is immense. Young people are fearless, brave, dynamic and self-confident. They have ideas, creativity and energy to shape a better world. They are full of hope and through innovation and imagination, they are problem solvers and have a great potential to generate a positive social change in the world. They are the critical agents of change – and UNDP needs them on board to build a better world together.

It is believed that many young people age 18-25 are the first generation of adults to grow up not knowing the world without the Internet. I find it fascinating! This is where the power of youth meets the power of Internet, both expanding rapidly and without limit.

By UN estimates, an important milestone was achieved last year with more than half world population using internet –for the first time in history!

Today, ICT and specifically Internet means access to information and educational resources, health care, timely public service delivery as well as improved food production and distribution. Digital development carries many opportunities, but it also carries risks.

One of the risk we noticed is that most opportunities offered by the Internet manifest themselves first in cities. At the same time, the majority of youth in low- and middle-income countries live in rural areas.  In Azerbaijan, half of them live in rural settings.

Over 40 percent of the world population still do not have access to the Internet today, while 90 percent of them actually come from developing countries. Bridging this digital divide is crucial to ensure equal access to information and knowledge, as well as to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.  Issues surrounding digital divide are development issues – be it governance, accountability, human rights or (in)equality of opportunity. This is why UNDP is a key partner in ensuring that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is inclusive.

Ladies and gentlemen, today, young people are the driving force behind digital progress, they are the ones who shape online culture leading the way to a more connected and sustainable world.

 They use the Internet to meet people around the world, create art that moves us, and start and stand behind online social movements that make us think. They are building their dream Internet. And yet, when it comes to policy discussions, often times they are not at the table, their voices are not heard and concerns remain unattended.

UNDP in Azerbaijan, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies, decided to change exactly that. And here we are today - gathered at the first Youth IGF, with close to 30 young delegates who have come to Baku from all across the world.

Together, here at the Youth IGF we are drawing solutions to create an enabling policy environment. We need to enhance international and multi-stakeholder cooperation to improve accessibility and affordability of internet resources to all, and to the young people in the first place. Only by empowering young people and marginalised populations will we create an information society which truly enables inclusive growth Leaving No One Behind.

Our joint project with the Ministry on the modernisation and improved sustainability and efficiency of the ICT infrastructure and ICT services in Azerbaijan is one way of tackling this ambitious plan. We want to offer a unique platform for many key players, including youth –from big innovators to 8-grade schoolchildren mastering peculiarities of robotics science –to come together to share, learn and innovate for development.

Educated, digitally-savvy and engaged youth means people who create local online solutions to global challenges, it also means people who help governments improve efficiency, good governance and transparency through e-services, for example.  

I trust that this first edition of Youth Internet Governance Forum in Azerbaijan will be a useful and beneficial platform for all to share ideas and involve in key discussions on the role of youth in internet governance and I would like to wish you all a fruitful day ahead filled with networking and debates but also filled with fun.

Thank you very much! TESHEKKURLER!

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