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Bridging Digital Divides: A Conversation With Doreen Bogdan-Martin

16 May 2024

ICANN’s SVP of Global Communications Sally Newell Cohen interviews ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin.
ICANN’s SVP of Global Communications Sally Newell Cohen, left, speaks with ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin.

Late last year, I had the privilege of engaging in a thought-provoking conversation with Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Set against the dynamic backdrop of the upcoming 20-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and explosive growth in Internet adoption across emerging economies, our conversation focused on the importance of digital inclusivity, closing the digital gender gap, and the collaborative efforts of ICANN and the ITU to advance the multistakeholder model in Internet governance.

Bogdan-Martin's insights highlighted the importance of addressing digital exclusion, which affects 2.6 billion people worldwide who do not have access to the Internet. As she aptly put it, "My greatest priority is to connect the people who have never, ever been connected to the Internet, that are digitally excluded, that are being left behind."

Reflecting on her historic election as the ITU's first female Secretary-General, Bogdan-Martin emphasized the importance of gender inclusivity in the information and communications technology sector. "We have to do much more to engage women and girls in our sector," she said. "We have to close the digital gender gap and ensure access to digital technologies."

Our discussion also included the U.N. General Assembly's 2025 review of the WSIS outcomes, which will evaluate the effectiveness of the multistakeholder model of Internet governance. Bogdan-Martin endorsed this inclusive approach, saying, "The multistakeholder approach is fundamental. We need all of those voices at the table."

Throughout our conversation, I highlighted ICANN and ITU collaborations, such as the Partner2Connect initiative and the Coalition for Digital Africa. Bogdan-Martin praised these efforts, stating, "The Partner2Connect initiative is all about getting to the hardest to reach, vulnerable groups. That requires all hands on deck."

As our conversation came to a close, it became clear that the partnership between ICANN and the ITU is more than just a transaction; it is based on a shared vision of an inclusive digital future. "We believe in a trustworthy, secure, and unified Internet that can benefit everyone everywhere," Bogdan-Martin said.

Our conversation served as a poignant reminder of the transformative power of working together toward a shared goal. As we navigate the complexities of today's digital world, the need to collaborate, close gaps, and build bridges is ever more evident. The full interview is available here.


Sally Newell Cohen

Sally Newell Cohen

SVP, Global Communications