Thursday, August 20, 2020

UN forges technological cooperation to tackle Covid-19 in Asia and the Pacific

 Collaboration at the regional level is a critical force for scaling up effective technologies and increasing innovation capacity in the fight against Covid-19, according to high-level officials and key stakeholders at the third session of the Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Science, Technology and Innovation.

Convened by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the two-day Committee meeting highlighted how digital inclusion and resilient digital networks across the entire region have become the foundation for government measures to effectively stem the worst impacts of the pandemic.

“Digital has taken on a compelling new meaning in the region; people, planet and prosperity are all increasingly dependent on access to digitally-driven technological innovations and seamless connectivity,” said UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana. 

“As we are planning to chart our future in the post-Covid-19 world, we need to address the digital and technology divide with urgency,” she said, adding that they cannot let this divide drive new forms of socio-economic inequalities. “More than half of the region’s 4.1 billion people remain offline and in least developed, landlocked developing and Pacific island countries, less than 5 per cent of the population has access to high-speed and affordable Internet.”

Women and girls, regardless of location, level of income or age, have lower access than men, she added.

“We need to accelerate the digital transformation that has happened before the Covid-19 pandemic,” minister for Research and Technology and Chairman of the National Agency for Research and Innovation of Indonesia Bambang Brodjonegoro sid, adding, “We need to make sure that quality telecommunications infrastructure is made available.”

The committee discussed a set of guidelines for inclusive technology and innovation policies for sustainable development, and committed to developing policies that promote inclusive technology and innovation to ensure that innovations are accessible, relevant and affordable for all, to leave no one behind.

The Committee also underscored the importance of harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector to focus on developing innovations to address social and environmental challenges as well as provide economic opportunities. Social innovators and entrepreneurs have stepped up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A regional launch of the 2020 United Nations E-Government Survey published by the United Nations (UN) Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) was held on the sidelines of the Committee. The survey finds that among the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) Bhutan, Bangladesh and Cambodia have become leaders in digital government development, advancing from the middle to the high E-Government Development Index group in 2020. At the launch, ESCAP further highlighted the challenges and opportunities of digital government in the Asia-Pacific region and emphasized the use of ICT during all phases of disaster risk management.

No comments: