In his message for World Telecommunication and Information Science Day, celebrated annually on 17 May, the UN chief called for action to conquer both the pandemic and the digital divide.
"Digital technologies sustain life, work, health and learning for billions of people. In the face of COVID-19, businesses, governments and the digital community have proven resilient and innovative, helping to protect lives and livelihoods. These challenging times have accelerated the transformation everywhere," he said.
However, the Secretary-General reported some 3.7 billion people, or nearly half the world’s population, remain unconnected to the Internet.
"They, too, must be included if we are to make the possibilities of 5G, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, digital health and other technologies truly transformative and sustainable," he said.
"We must also protect against the dangers of digital technologies, from the spread of hatred and misinformation to cyberattacks and the exploitation of our data," he added.
World Telecommunication and Information Science Day marks the signing in 1865 of an agreement to form the International Telegraph Union (ITU), making it the world’s first modern international organization.