Mr Hakob Arshakyan (Minister, Ministry of Transport, Communication and Information Technologies) mentioned that Armenia has been contributing to hi-tech since the Soviet Union, producing 20% of devices for the region. He shared some initiatives like no taxes for innovations and heavy investments into the ecosystem, which allow hi-tech to grow. Armenia has also been the key in piloting new technologies like 3G, which is at almost 100%, 4G and now 5G.
Mr Ali Alwaleed Al-Thani (Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister, Qatar) highlighted the vibrant civil society and government policies as being the key to Qatar’s ability to bridge the digital divide and achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs). He shared some examples like using technology for better rain management, controlling traffic lights and downloading semantics for buildings. He mentioned that for the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the audience can get in-field experience using virtual reality. He concluded that the fourth industrial revolution could use technology to develop policies to support the ecosystem.
Ms Claudette Irere (Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT and Innovation, Rwanda) gave an anecdote about building a highway and realising that only few cars use it, adding that Rwanda had invested in infrastructure but there are few users. She added that Rwanda had gone back to the drawing board and designed a digital ambassador’s program targeting 5 million citizens who would then train citizens on how to use ICTs. The programme has 50% male/female representation and 10% are persons with disabilities. She noted that people will not use the technologies if the cost of connectivity is high, there is no content in local languages and devices are not affordable.
Mr Julian Braithwaite (Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to United Nations Office at Geneva [UNOG]) highlighted the United Kingdom’s position as one of the most digitalised countries, exporting USD$65 billion worth of digital goods and being supporters of global economic development. He added that the United Kingdom will continue to offer technical assistance and logistical support to developing countries to support infrastructure development. He noted that investment, competition, and regulation will help achieve the digital economy.
Prof. Konstantinos Masselos (President, Hellenic Telecommunications & Post Commission, Greece) highlighted that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and some instances like machine learning and deep learning are dominating public interest and are hot topics. He noted ethical issues around AI like algorithmic bias, data and privacy like access to data, General Data Protection and Regulation (GDPR) and European Electronic Communications Code, as challenges when regulating competition in the field. He mentioned that energy efficiency cannot be ignored as many servers running AI consume high energy.
Mr Marcin Cichy (President, Office of Electronic Communications, Poland) noted that even with 80% of the Internet penetration, the 20% is hard to cover with fibre to the home (FTTH). Success in penetration has been achieved by the good quality of service and policies like the ability to change operators in 24 hours. He added that apart from interconnection relations, countries should be aware of human expectations and organise them in terms of market developments. He highlighted some initiatives like training over 70000 pupils and the elderly in preparation for the fourth industrial revolution.
Dr Kwaku Ofosu Adarkwa (Chairman of the Board, Subah Infosolutions Ghana Limited) gave a private sector perspective, noting the idea of digital solidarity which was developed in 2002 in Bamako, Mali and finally accepted and reframed by the global community in 2005. He advised governments to pay attention to the private sector after investing in infrastructure. He also advised the ITU rethink the digital solidarity.
Mr Jüri Seilenthal (Director General, Foreign Economic Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Estonia) mentioned that the term divide is controversial, but he preferred to say people who have used the Internet and those who have not. He noted that Estonia did not have a flourishing startup scene, as most people with skills go to Silicon Valley and other cities like London. He encouraged the private sector to be creative and develop new products. He highlighted that their model was successful based on open source software to deploy solutions. He added that there was resistance but Estonia had opted to provide digital and paper-based options, like in the tax office where 98% use online solutions while 2% prefer paper options.
By Sarah Kiden