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This session, moderated by Mr Vincenzo Aquaro, chief of the e-Government Branch, Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), focused on how governments can better incorporate information and communication technologies (ICTs) and e-government strategies within their national development strategies to reap the benefits of these technologies in building resilience and sustainable development.
Mr Deniz Susar, governance and public administration officer, United Nations (UN), emphasised that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under-represented the significance which ICTs have in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He quoted the UN deputy secretary general’s remarks at WSIS that ‘ICTs have unprecedented potential for delivering equitable and inclusive growth, protecting the environment and improving the well-being of people around the world’. Susar indicated that the objective of the meeting was to explain better the linkage between national development strategies and ICT strategies to ensure that countries can build resilient and sustainable societies.
Mr Chris Ferguson, director at Cabinet Office, Government Digital Service, United Kingdom (UK), started his presentation by mentioning that the Government Digital Service was created in 2011 with the purpose of making government ‘simpler, clearer, faster, to work better for users’. Touching upon the challenges for digital government, he emphasised that the key is to be open. Open source, open standards and open platforms are vital components of the strategy.
Ferguson named 7 key components of the Digital Strategy of the UK:
- Connectivity, which means building digital infrastructure;
- Skills and inclusion to give everyone access to the digital skills they need;
- The digital sector to make the UK the place to start and grow a digital business;
- Cyberspace to make the UK the safest place to live and work online;
- Digital government, which is implemented to maintain the UK government as the world leader in serving its citizens online; and
- The data economy to unlock the power of data in the UK economy and to improve public confidence in its use.
Representing the private sector, Ms Carolyn Nguyen, director of technology policy at the Microsoft Corporation, gave examples of collaboration between private companies and governments to harness the potential of ICTs in implementation of the SDGs. In many countries Microsoft cooperates with local governments to build online services, for example, so that people can pay taxes using a web-platform, or people with disabilities can take educational courses and gain professional skills. These activities include not just building infrastructure, but also providing capacity building and engaging citizens to use online services.
Dr Haidar Fraihat, director of the Technology for Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), emphasised the importance of sharing knowledge and best practices. There is a need to promote regional corporation in e-governance, ICTs, technologies for development, innovations, and entrepreneurship. As an example of regional co-operation, he mentioned the creation of the ESCWA Technology Centre, which identifies member countries’ priorities and challenges in harnessing national capabilities in ICTs, technology, and innovation in the implementation of the SDGs.
Representing civil society, Ms Jutta Croll, chair of the board of the Foundation for Digital Opportunities, Germany talked about the digital divide. In Germany, 20% of population still does not have access to the Internet because of lack confidence in using ICTs due to their age, low socio-economic status, or low educational level. She emphasised the importance of education in bridging the digital divide.
Ms Yolanda Martinez Mancilla,national digital strategy director, Office of the President, Mexico, spoke about the priorities of the National Digital Strategy of Mexico. She emphasised that communication, services, and digital participation schemes should be based on the needs of users. The Digitisation Plan is also considered and designed based on the services most demanded by users.
In addition, she mentioned that in the framework of the national digital strategy, the artificial intelligence strategy occupies an important place to channel the advantages of its use in order to generate greater value for each citizen and to build co-operation mechanisms with industry, civil society, and academia to establish itself a point of adoption.
Addressing the challenges of integrating ICT strategies in Bangladesh, Mr Anir Chowdhury, policy advisor to the Prime Minister’s Office of Bangladesh, said that they needed to start from a process of simplification of services, and then come up with digitisation. He also touched upon the key components of the Access to Information (a2i) Pro-Poor Service Innovation Strategy 2021 of Bangladesh, which includes infrastructure, service processing, innovation training and engagement, incentives, and recognising and rewarding innovation.
In conclusion Aquaro, the moderator, expressed gratitude to the speakers for the discussion on the challenges and practices of integration of ICT strategies into their national strategies.
By Nazgul Kurmanalieva