Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin (Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union) provided the initial remarks by stating that ITU believes that innovative application of ICTs can greatly accelerate progress towards vital goals by allowing projects and Government programmes to achieve greater effectiveness and scale. She stated that despite significant efforts, there have not been much ubiquitous scaling or major software vendors tailoring new products and platforms with the SDGs in mind. She explained that ’A whole of Government approach’ means taking a cross-sectoral and cross-organisational view of the individuals’ ICT needs.
Mr Hisazumi Shirae (Director for Technology Cooperation, Japan) was invited to talk about the efforts Japan is making to implement the concept of Society 5.0 as a means to scale digital transformation. He explained that the concept of Society 5.0 revolves around creating a sustainable community and nationally scaled information that will lead to the vitality of the whole country. The country has been trying to extend the use of the Internet of Things to all fields to achieve economic growth and aforementioned of healthy society of social reform. According to Hisazumi, to strengthen business development and to improve the quality of services, Japan has instituted science and technology in all areas.
Mr Zunaid Ahmed Palak (State Minister for Information and Communication Technology, Bangladesh) began his contribution by speaking about how to achieve a digital Bangladesh. The first vision of the project originated ten years ago when the country had only 5 million Internet users and few digital services. In order to change that, the project established three main pillars, enhancing human development, developing a digital government and establishing connectivity for all. They identified three models of services for three categories of citizens, digital natives, middle-age users, called adaptors, and older users who struggled to adapt or wanted to stay away from the Internet. For the first group, which relies more on mobile phones for connectivity, 500 mobile apps were developed. For the adapters, who prefer browsing websites, 43000 websites were created by the Bangladeshi government. For the last group, which often lacked the means to connect, more than 5000 digital centres for villages were deployed. Palak finished by pointing out that, in order to really transform digital services, the country would need to successfully implement a digital ID. This could be achieved through 5 means, national enterprise architecture, an interoperable network, national data centres, strong data protection rules and finally, capacity building.
Mr Juri Seilenthal (Director General of the Foreign Economic Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Estonia) stressed that lack of money was an original issue for his country on the way to achieve digital transformation. He then explained how Estonia managed to circumvent the lack of resources, through strong support from the government since the 90’s and the option not to try to build a central national database and instead to seek decentralisation. He explained how some government institutions were already building databases by themselves. He cited tax collectors and land registry as examples. These institutions pushed digital transformation forward, causing Estonia to be one of the more efficient tax collectors and to have a modern land registry system. Seilenthal pointed out that big international IT companies were also strongly responsible for the process. He stressed the importance of having the support of the wider public in order to successfully achieve digital transformation. Some of the means of gaining that support were through the deployment of public access points and of the Internet access in public libraries. Seilenthal briefly talked about the fears of fraud but pointed out that it was not a great issue as nowadays everything is instantly verifiable, which deters fraud.
One panellist answered questions from the audience on two different subjects, related to gender and small enterprises, as well as accessibility for deaf people.
Palak argued that Bangladesh has been striving to empower women in ICT through projects such as the She Power Project. He argued, however, that one of the problems any small IT company will face is competition with technology giants such as Google and Facebook, which benefit from network effects. On the matter of accessibility, he stated that the government has been trying to fill accessibility gaps through digitisation and technology.
By Pedro Vilela