Young Rwandan joins high level UN panel alongside Melinda Gates, Jack Ma

Akaliza is one of the few young Rwandan women who have made significant strides in changing the face of technology in the country.
L-R: Melinda Gates, Akaliza Keza Ntwari, and Jack Ma. / Internet photo

Rwanda’s young ICT advocate and entrepreneur, Akaliza Keza Ntwari, has been selected to join a High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation.

The development was announced Thursday by The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

The Panel, which also features Nanjira Sambuli, a Kenyan Digital Equality Advocacy Manager, World Wide Web Foundation, comprises 20 members representing a cross-section of expertise from government, private industry, civil society, academia and the technical community.

“The scale, spread and speed of change made possible by digital technologies is unprecedented, but the current means and levels of international cooperation are unequal to the challenge,” Mr. Guterres said.

“Digital technologies make a significant contribution to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals and they cut uniquely across international boundaries. Therefore, cooperation across domains and across borders is critical to realizing the full social and economic potential of digital technologies as well as mitigating the risks that they pose and curtailing any unintended consequences,” he added.

Akaliza is one of the few young Rwandan women who have made significant strides in changing the face of technology in the country.

She has been active in promoting the field to girls and has been recognised for her activism by awards from the Rwandan government and the International Telecommunication Union.

Prior to her appointment, Ms Akaliza has been described as "one of the few young Rwandan women who have made significant strides in changing the face of technology in the country" and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community.

Ms. Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mr. Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, have been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as Co-Chairs of the Panel.

The Panel was tasked to contribute to the broader public debate on the importance of cooperative and interdisciplinary approaches to ensure a safe and inclusive digital future for all taking into account relevant human rights norms.

The panel is expected to identify policy, research and information gaps, and make proposals to strengthen international cooperation in the digital space.

“Technology is neither good nor bad. It’s just a tool—a very powerful tool—and what matters is how the world uses it. If all people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, have equal access to digital technology, they will use it to improve life for themselves and their families and raise their voices in conversations about what the future holds. Enabling this widescale empowerment is what this panel is about,” said Melinda Gates.

The Panel will hold its first in-person meeting in late September 2018 and is expected to submit its final report to the Secretary-General within 9 months.

In carrying out its work, the Panel will undertake a wide range of public consultations, including at least two public events and an open process inviting global inputs including through online engagement activities starting in September. It will be supported by a small Secretariat funded by donor resources, and based in New York and Geneva.

“Soon, every industry will be digitized, and this will have a tremendous impact on every aspect of life. In this digital era, data and technology are more broadly available, enabling entrepreneurialism, economic growth, and improved quality of life for those who have the access and training to leverage it. Global, cross-sector collaboration is critical to ensure the benefits of the digital era are possible for all,” said Jack Ma.

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