Leaders TalkX: ICT Applications Unlocking the Full Potential of Digital – Part I

28 May 2024 10:30h - 11:00h

Table of contents

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Full session report

Experts Discuss the Role of ICT in Sustainability and Digital Transformation at Global Panel

In a panel discussion titled “ICT applications unlocking the full potential of digital,” experts from the United Nations, Bangladesh, Qatar, Iraq, academia, and Turkey convened to explore the multifaceted role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in driving sustainability and digital transformation globally.

Sally Radwan from the United Nations Environmental Programme highlighted the dual impact of ICT applications on the environment. She acknowledged their potential in environmental monitoring and disaster prediction while cautioning against their ecological footprint. Radwan proposed establishing global data-sharing standards, involving the private sector in AI governance, and fostering global cooperation for technology transfer and capacity building, particularly in the global south.

Zunaid Ahmed Palak of Bangladesh detailed the country’s digital initiatives that have transformed millions of lives. He highlighted the establishment of digital service delivery centres and the introduction of educational platforms like Muktopaath. Palak also mentioned the use of AI, data analytics, and machine learning in delivering services, leading to significant economic benefits and job creation.

Hassan Al-Sayed from Qatar shared the nation’s journey towards digital transformation, beginning with e-government and evolving into digital government services. He spoke of investments in robust ICT infrastructure, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, and supporting quality education. Al-Sayed also touched upon the regulatory challenges in adopting AI and emerging technologies, emphasising the need for a friendly governance regime to allow innovation.

Bassam Salem Hussein from Iraq discussed efforts to foster collaboration between the public and private sectors in AI research and development. He mentioned initiatives supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in ICT and the establishment of information centres to facilitate interaction and innovation. Hussein also outlined the government’s vision to leverage AI across sectors to positively impact the national economy and enhance digital skills within society.

Anna Matamala, representing academia, highlighted the challenges in ICT applications concerning accessibility. She stressed the importance of ensuring access to information and communication for persons with disabilities, language barriers, and low digital literacy. Matamala discussed academia’s crucial role in education, research, and knowledge transfer, and mentioned projects such as the Athena Project, which aims to integrate accessibility and universal design in higher education curricula.

Lastly, Mr. Mehmet from Turkey provided insights into Turkey’s national mobile alert system, which is integral to the country’s disaster management strategy. He described the system’s features, including multilingual alerts, geo-targeting, and user personalisation, which enable the rapid dissemination of critical information during emergencies.

The session was moderated by Syed Mohammad Shaharyar Jawaid, who summarised the panellists’ insights and expressed gratitude for their contributions. Jawaid emphasised the importance of sharing knowledge and learning from each other within the given timeframe, promoting equitable dialogue and active participation.

The discussion underscored the importance of ICT in achieving sustainable development goals, the emphasis on global standards and cooperation, and the recognition of the need for inclusive and accessible ICT applications. The panellists’ diverse perspectives provided a holistic view of the opportunities and challenges in leveraging ICT for a sustainable and digitally inclusive future.

Session transcript

Syed Mohammad Shaharyar Jawaid:
Good morning, everyone. Thank you very much for remaining seated for this excellent session that we are going to have in the next 30 minutes. I would like to start with the title of our session, which is ICT applications unlocking the full potential of digital. And I’m very honored and privileged to have to sharing this stage with very esteemed guests, with highly knowledgeable leaders in their respective domains. And to set the context, I would like to invite the UN representative, Miss Sally Radwan, who is the Chief Digital Officer from United Nations Environmental Program, to set the context of the session. And the floor is yours.

Sally Radwan:
Thank you very much. Good morning, everyone. And since I do work for the Environment Program, I’ll talk a little bit about the environment. So when we talk about unlocking the potential of ICT applications for sustainability, we need to look at both sides of the coin. One side being the potential that ICT applications afford us in monitoring, in reporting, in tracking pollution, minimizing it, in predicting floods and natural disasters, and so on and so forth. But we also can’t neglect the adverse effects on the environment that ICT applications have. So let me offer maybe three proposals for action points that we can discuss today and in the days to come. The first is we need to converge around global standards for the sharing of data in all sustainability domains, so that we can actually extract meaningful insights and be able to report and maximize the potential of using those ICT applications. The second one is governance. And as you know, there are lots of conversations going on in AI governance at the moment. And it’s really important that we involve the private sector in those and bind them by them, so that we ensure the responsible deployment of these technologies. And then finally, I think global cooperation is badly needed to transfer technologies, to build capacity in the global south, and to search for common solutions to our common problems instead of working in silos. So my message for today to conclude is, let’s look at both sides of the coin, and let’s quantify the benefits, but also the potential risks that ICT applications can pose to our sustainability goals. Thank you very much.

Syed Mohammad Shaharyar Jawaid:
Thank you very much for this excellent introductory remarking, setting the context. My name is Shahira Jawed. I’m the Senior ICT Specialist at the Islamic Development Bank, and I’ll be moderating the rest of the session. And I would like to remind our panelists, fellow panelists, on we equally promote equivalence at WSIS, and we would like you to share your knowledge, and of course, at the same time, learn from each other at the given time frame that we have. So I would like to remind everyone that you’ll have three minutes for each participant to share, and then if you have enough time remaining at the end of the session, we will open the floor for more interventions as well. So with that, my first panelist is, I will move to Bangladesh on my right, and I would like to invite you to share some experience and ex-applications that Bangladesh as part of the Digital Architecture Bangladesh Agenda have used, and how these applications have been impacting lives, works, or incomes of the citizens of Bangladesh. So over to you, His Excellency Mr. Zunaid.

Zunaid Ahmed Palak:
Thank you. Thank you very much, Shahira, for having me here, and giving me the opportunity to share some of our best practices and applications, by using those applications, how we have changed the lives of millions in Bangladesh by utilizing digital technologies. Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina started digitizing our country in a bottom-up approach. In 2009, when we started digitizing our services by introducing different type of applications, Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina decided to set up digital service delivery centers at the village level, then municipalities, then city corporations. And by introducing educational platforms like Muktopad, hosted by Access to Information Project, one of our successful projects under Digital Bangladesh Vision, and also introducing our helpline, Triple3, by using AI, data analytics, and machine learning tools, we have been able to provide 92 million services to the people. And also, we tried to utilize technologies to reduce the gap between urban and rural areas, and we reduced the gap and bridge gap between men and women. And also, we consider youth with disabilities, including NDD, how to provide employments in digital field by providing proper trainings, by providing digital literacy, cybersecurity awareness. At the same time, in e-commerce, IT freelancing, we have created 2 million jobs in this ICT sector, providing digital services to the doorsteps of the citizens. Every month, we are providing 10 million services to the villagers. And over the period of time of 15 years, we have been able to save near about 20 billion dollars in terms of the savings of the money, and also we saved time visits of the citizens. And under post and telecom division, we have partnered with different startups in fintech, health tech, edutech, logistics, and we introduced so many platforms like ActShop, ActPay, and some other initiatives in partnership with public, private, and academia. So, this is the way we are transforming Bangladesh from digital to knowledge-based, and we have a target to be smart Bangladesh by 2041 by utilizing and harnessing the power of frontier technologies. Thank you.

Syed Mohammad Shaharyar Jawaid:
Thank you. Thank you much for this excellent intervention, and maybe right on time, so I really appreciate that. So, moving on, now we move to Qatar, and my question to you, Mr. Hassan, who is the Minister’s Advisor and Chairman of the AI Committee of Qatar. What efforts the state of Qatar is making towards a digital transformation, and how you’re tackling the regulatory challenges in adopting AI and emerging technologies? Please, the floor is yours. Thank you.

Hassan Al-Sayed:
Thank you for the question. Well, we’re not doing so much different, I think, than Bangladesh and every other country. We’re not at the same scale though, but definitely we’re working towards a transformation. AI is the story everybody knows. So, we have started the transformation in the late 1990s, beginning of 2000 with the e-government program, and then we started focusing on digital government, digital services. We have invested at the beginning in the infrastructure, the infrastructure, so talking about modern and robust ICT infrastructure, we’re one of the highest rates of fiber-to-the-home penetration and 5G mobile coverage in the region. We’re hosting also two global hyperscalers in the country, which we thought this will boost. I mean, these are the main components that were required for any transformation. We have also fostered the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. We have announced lately a $2 billion incentive package to boost the investment for Qatar’s digital economy. We also supported quality education, so all of this is supported by quality education. We have many universities and colleges hosted in Qatar, so that was also produced cutting-edge research and development. We have some of the research around the genome program, and two weeks back we also announced the Arabic language model that we are developing. We also leveraged the ICT capabilities to cope with the challenges posed by the COVID-19. That was for us, I think, a mean to boost the transformation, so we have implemented digital learning platforms, we facilitated remote working, and also provided online health services, among others. With the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we are building on the legacy of the success of the event with investment in the latest technology, implementation of some IoT services like smart crowd management solution and command control centers, among many other services that we use in the event that we are still using as a legacy. Governance and regulatory framework, we are trying to have a friendly governance regime and policies to allow innovation, so this is what maybe we’re trying to be different. We are pushing for cloud use, so we put some AI guidelines, but definitely it’s not a stiff guideline or a policy. We recently launched our digital agenda, the digital agenda for the country, with a focus on economic impact, and this is the theme of the agenda. On the digital government transformation, this is ongoing, so now the difference is that we’re trying to include AI as part of the design of the services, so it’s no longer the typical e-government services that we need to. On the emerging technology, definitely the AI is one of the main pillars that we’re looking at in the agenda, so we have launched our first AI strategy in 2019, and the government formed an AI steering committee to oversee the implementation of AI, but soon we had to refresh the strategy with the fast pace of the AI and with the generative AI, so we will soon launch the new AI strategy as well. And we are looking at the quantum computing research to reinforce countries’ commitments, supporting and fostering the use of emerging technology. Well, just as a side note, I think we believe that AI promises a revolution to the world. There are possibilities for AI in everything, from tackling climate change and other challenges as well. Thank you very much.

Syed Mohammad Shaharyar Jawaid:
Thank you. Thank you very much for sharing this excellent journey that Qatar has gone through in achieving what you have achieved today. Moving on, my next esteemed guest is from Iraq, and Mr. Engineer Bassam, who is the Head of Communications and Media Commission of Iraq. Can you please elaborate on Iraq’s effort to foster collaboration between public and private sectors, particularly in AI research and development? The floor is yours. Thank you.

Bassam Salem Hussein:
Thank you. Thank you for the question. I speak in Arabic language. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and express our appreciation for Mrs. Bogdan Martin. I would also like to thank all the directors of all the sectors of the ITU. I wish to thank them for convening this very important meeting with us. In Iraq, we are deploying efforts to bolster interaction and cooperation between the private and public sectors. In the field of informational technologies, we are doing this through a number of initiatives. And and of course public-private partnerships. This is an essential element to move forward in terms of innovation and creativity in this very important field. Currently the government is trying to enhance the implementation of these partnerships between the two sectors. They play a very important role. One of these is an initiative that was launched at the end of 2023. His Excellency the Prime Minister spearheaded this partnership initiative with the aim of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in the field of ICTs. We have established information centers which enhance the interaction between those two sectors in terms of innovation. We have created a joint environment to achieve progress in this key sector. The government of Iraq has a vision which aims to draw all the advantages from AI in different sectors, and this so that all sectors can benefit from this progress. The aim is to have a positive impact on the national economy. Digital skill enhancement within Iraqi society is also key, and it is important to bolster initiatives for citizens to be able to enhance their digital skills and to be able to enjoy modern digital economy. The aim is that digital skill enhancement can feed into the improvement of the digital economy in Iraq. We are trying to bridge the digital divide and enhance our techniques. We have a number of important projects in place. We have set up 40 laboratories and 20 institutes and 20 schools. We also have youth centers which are optimally equipped, and those exist in cities and villages. We have 45 operational centers with laboratories. We have three laboratories per university in all regions of Iraq. We have fiber optic technology. We also have advanced technology systems. We wish to increase the number of centers, including in the Arab region, and in particular in Iraq. Thank you.

Syed Mohammad Shaharyar Jawaid:
Thank you very much for this excellent insight. A lot of efforts and initiatives are being undertaken in Iraq, and we really appreciate that you have been sharing with us. Coming to my right, I will be speaking to Professor Anna, who is the Director of Access CAT Network. Welcome to our panel here. From your perspective as an academia representative and accessibility expert, can you highlight some challenges in ICT applications, and how academia can contribute to overcome these challenges? Over to you.

Anna Matamala:
Thank you. Thank you very much for having us here. It’s really an honor. I think ICT applications can provide multiple benefits, but there is one thing that’s sometimes worth forgetting, which is accessibility. Access to information and communication, which is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, is a key element, but it’s limited for persons with disabilities, for persons with language barriers, for persons with low digital literacy. So I think that in this context, academia plays a key role, and I’m really grateful to have academia represented in this panel. I represent Access CAT, which is a knowledge transfer network on accessible communication, and I also represent Transmedia Catalonia, which is a research group at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, a high-ranking university with a very strong social commitment. From an academic perspective, I would like to highlight three aspects which, from my perspective, are central. First of all, education. It’s been mentioned again and again, but we need digital education, we need education and accessibility, and academia is central in this aspect. A remarkable effort I would like to mention is the Athena Project, led by EDF, in which we are researching how to integrate accessibility and universal design in higher education curriculum. The second aspect is research. Research is core at the universities, and for instance, Transmedia Catalonia, we’ve been researching accessibility following the technological developments, from analog television to digital television, to connected television, to immersive television, we are there seeing what are the needs of the people. We are researching subtitles, audio description, audio subtitling, easy-to-understand language, and so on. And we also try to mix fields which are apparently apart, such as accessibility and sustainability in the clear climate and the green sand projects. But this research needs to go beyond academia, and this is why knowledge transfer is fundamental. Our network, AccessCats, supports 15 research groups working on accessibility, and we provide funding, we provide training, we provide support, and we are also very, very active in standardization at ITU, where we’ve been working on the metaverse. So I think that overall, academia can contribute through, as I said, education, through research, through knowledge transfer, to build what, for me, is very important, a people-centered and inclusive society. Thank you very much.

Syed Mohammad Shaharyar Jawaid:
Thank you. Thank you very much, Professor Ayana, for sharing the academia perspective, and especially highlighting the importance of accessibility. Last but not least, we have a remote participant from Turkey, Mr. Mehmet, who is the head of the Information Technology Department, Information and Communication Technology Authority of Turkey. In our world, characterized by rapid environmental changes and the increasing frequency of natural disasters, the importance of information and communication technology in early alarm systems is very critical. And national mobile alert systems are emerging as critical tools for the safety of communities, and overall protection of the ecosystems. By rapidly disseminating alerts and critical information, these systems empower individuals to take precautionary measures so that they could be safe and protect the environment as well. Mr. Mehmet, can you please give us an overview of how Turkey’s national mobile alert system is operating, and what are the key features? Mr. Mehmet, the floor is yours. You’re muted. If you can unmute yourself. Yes, we can see you. Yes, thank you.

Mr. Mehmet – Turkey:
Thank you, Mr. Cevrit, and good morning and good afternoon to all colleagues. Our chairman, Mr. Ömer Abdullah Karagüzoglu, was planning to attend this session. Unfortunately, he is unable to do so, since he is obliged to participate in a meeting at Parliament that same period with this session. He sent his best wishes for a fruitful session. I am the head of the Department of Information and Communication Authority of Turkey, and I will address this session on his behalf. First of all, I would like to thank all the stakeholders, especially ITU and the Swiss government for this wonderful event, and also I would like to express our sincere congratulations for the 20th anniversary of WSIS. Regarding to your question, Mr. Cevrit, Turkey’s national mobile alert system is an important part of the country’s disaster management strategy during emergencies. The system covers urban, rural, and remote areas nationwide, and offers multilingual alerts to address various population groups. Authorized users send geo-targeted alerts to mobile devices over the mobile operator in process of using methods such as the commercial mobile alert system, which is CMS, and SMS and CBS, cell broadcasting, and the pre-call announcement. Real-time alert distribution provides immediate warnings in emergencies and continuous updates as situations evolve. The system integrates data from government agencies and the real-time sources to ensure accuracy and relevance. Alerts are sent based on the user’s location and personalization options, allowing individuals to adjust alert preferences, increasing the personal relevance of notifications. Users can set the types of alerts they want to receive and their priority level, making notifications more meaningful and personally relevant. Geo-targeting ensures that users receive the most relevant information based on their location. This comprehensive approach enables citizens to act quickly and effectively during emergencies, increasing the resilience and safety of communications. By combining modern technology with disaster management practices, the Turkey’s national mobile alert system offers an effective method to protect public safety and provide timely responses to various threats. The wide coverage of the system makes it possible to reach people in every corner of the country. This allows citizens to better understand what to do during an emergency. In conclusion, Turkey’s national mobile alert system is a comprehensive and effective tool designed to ensure the safety of citizens and provide rapid responses to emergencies. Utilizing modern technology enhances the public’s safety and makes society more resilient to various threats. Thank you so much.

Syed Mohammad Shaharyar Jawaid:
Thank you, thank you very much for this excellent intervention and amazing technology services Turkey is providing to its local citizens. And thank you for sharing that with us and with a wider audience. I think to be all done with these speakers, I’m not sure if we have sufficient time to maybe add another aspect. Just looking at the time, I think maybe I’ll just summarize in terms of, of course, first of all, thanking to all the guests and participants, starting with Bangladesh, that, you know, thank you for sharing your journey from how digital Bangladesh is going towards smart Bangladesh. Thank you, Professor Anna, for sharing your insights on how accessibility is key and what academia can play an important role in order to facilitate that. And on my left, thank you to Qatar to sharing their insightful journey and how they’re promoting AI internally in the country. And thank you for Iraq to share how cooperation is being done at the private and public sector, especially in the AI and research and development. And last but not least, thank you, Sally, for facilitating and setting the context. With that, my name is Sheria Jawed, and I’m sure we’re all available even after the panel. If you have any more questions, please reach out to us individually as well. So with that, I’ll be signing off from this session. Thank you very much, everyone, for your participation and your attention. And we look forward to having this conversation in the near future as well. Thank you.


Anna Matamala

Speech speed

144 words per minute

Speech length

417 words

Speech time

174 secs


Bassam Salem Hussein

Speech speed

105 words per minute

Speech length

436 words

Speech time

248 secs


Hassan Al-Sayed

Speech speed

132 words per minute

Speech length

603 words

Speech time

275 secs


Mr. Mehmet – Turkey

Speech speed

123 words per minute

Speech length

445 words

Speech time

217 secs


Sally Radwan

Speech speed

157 words per minute

Speech length

296 words

Speech time

113 secs


Syed Mohammad Shaharyar Jawaid

Speech speed

143 words per minute

Speech length

1045 words

Speech time

439 secs


Zunaid Ahmed Palak

Speech speed

121 words per minute

Speech length

367 words

Speech time

181 secs