The United Nations Secretary General has announced the establishment of a high level panel on Digital Cooperation.

The high-profile group of tech experts is tasked with putting the benefits of digital technology to more effective use, and will also be advising on measures for greater protection against unwanted or unexpected negative impacts of technological advancements.

The high level panel is the first of its kind – led by US philanthropist Melinda Gates and Chinese-based Alibaba founder Jack Ma and will report back with its recommendations in nine months.

UN Chief Antonio Guterres says: “The reason for such panel is clear. Digital technology is changing economies and societies at warp speed. The scale and pace of change is unprecedented but the current means and levels of international cooperation are unequal to the challenge.”

“Technology now fuels so many aspects of our lives, from personal relationships to business and politics. We all depend on the Internet from startup entrepreneurs to refugees for whom smart phones are a lifeline to grandparents such as myself chatting online with their grandchildren across continents,” says Guterres.

The panel will map trends in digital technologies, identify gaps and opportunities while outlining proposals for strengthening international cooperation.

Guterres says: “Technology is not standing still; developments are accelerating. New tech developments in artificial intelligence, blockchain and robotics are emerging everyday. At the same time, the world is only beginning to address the dark side of innovation such as cybersecurity threats, the risks of cyberwarfare, the magnification of hate speech and violations of privacy.”

“As a global community, we face questions about security, equity, ethics and human rights in a digital age. We need to seize the potential of technology while safeguarding against risks and unintended consequences.”

Guterres then affirmed his full confidence in the international rules based multilateral system despite attacks that seek to undermine it and argued that international trade disputes be handled by the World Trade Organisation – a reference to a looming trade war between the United States and China.

He also welcomed an agreement reached by the General Assembly that’s expected to adopt a Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration Friday. He called migrants a remarkable engine for growth.

“If migration is inevitable, it needs to be better organized through effective international cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination so that we do not leave control of movements of people in the hands of smugglers. Countries have the right and even the responsibility to determine their own migration policies and to responsibly manage their borders but they must do so in full respect for human rights,” he adds.