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In her introduction, chair Dr Eun-Ju KIM (Chief, Innovation and Partnership Department (IP) & Administrator for ICT Development Fund (ICT-DF), ITU) set the stage by reminding the panel of the inequalities and the digital divide between developed and developing countries and within countries between urban and rural areas. She pointed out that ICT is a tool and an enabler to narrow the gap and bridge the digital divide. ICT can contribute to inclusive and sustainable development, sharing knowledge, and tackling inequalities.
The panel as a whole emphasised the importance of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the crucial role of ICT in supporting the 2030 Development Agenda.
Mr Mosharraf Hossein (Director of Global Policy, Influencing & Research, ADD International) outlined the importance of the SDGs in detail, emphasising especially SDG 10 on reducing inequalities. He emphasised the role of ICT to support social and economic empowerment of marginalised people, tackle inequalities, provide access to persons with disabilities, and create jobs as well increase access to them.
Dr Cae-One Kim (Chairman and CEO, World Economy Research Institute) argued that ICT has contributed to enhanced productivity and improved economic and social welfare. He stressed that the ability of ICTs to bridge inequalities within and between countries needs to be reviewed in an international context. And in doing so, it is important to look at the negative and unintended consequences of ICT in order to avoid widening the digital divide. He warned that ICTs should not be viewed as an end in themselves but as key enabler.
Several panellists shared practical examples and project results. Mr Sherif El Tokali (Innovation for Development Team Leader, UNDP Egypt) shared best practices from the UNDP Egypt Innovation for Development programme and especially the Social Innovation Lab. He explained that the lab explores new ways of development and seeks to promote innovation and entrepreneurship by working with civil society, academia, and the private sectors. For example, to tackle the high rate of youth unemployment, social innovation camps are run to encourage start-ups and entrepreneurship.
Mr Anthony David (co-founder of Impact Hub Kuala Lumpur, Director of Impact Projects & Intrapreneurship at Scope Group) shared examples and achievements from the Impact Hub Kuala Lumpur, which is a network of centres of social innovation and entrepreneurship. He emphasised the importance of multistakeholder approaches and knowledge sharing and cooperation. He also stressed that ICT is an enabler even for projects that are not specifically about ICT.
Mr Hani Eskandar (ICT Applications Coordinator at the ICT Applications and Cybersecurity Division, ITU) gave various examples of projects that use ICT to collect data and to create access. He argued that many good innovations already exist but more needs to be done to make them accessible to remote and marginalised communities. In order to support community empowerment, issues of mainstreaming and up-scaling need to be tackled. Therefore, he argued, some innovations need to focus on business models, change management and training opportunities.
by Katherina Hoene