The session was moderated by Mr Ismail S. Shah (ITU Area Representative and Head of ITU Office for the South East Asia and Timor-Leste). He started by explaining that the region is very dynamic, with diversity in digital policies. He spoke about using blockchain, IT infrastructure, and other digital tools in supporting the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Ms Atsuko Okuda [Chief, ICT and Development Section, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)] explained the work of ESCAP and noted that they cover 62 countries. She highlighted the challenge of the fixed-broadband digital divide widening for ESCAP countries in terms of income and access to fixed-broadband services by ESCAP subregions. She also said that the countries have launched the Asia-Pacific information Superhighway which is focusing on connectivity, Internet traffic, etc.
Okuda mentioned the ITU-ESCAP Transmission Map to identify and tackle the digital issues. She further mentioned the scope and type of co-deployment among telecom operators within the transport and energy sectors. She talked about the role of policymakers, women entrepreneurs, and Future Leaders (students and youth). In conclusion, she spoke about the utilisation of the academy programme every year and noted its implementation in each subregion. Answering a question from the audience, Okuda said that financing ICT infrastructure is important to support the digital agenda and to achieve the SDGs in the Asia-Pacific region.
Mr Masanori Kondo [Deputy Secretary General, Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT)] talked about APT’s initiatives and said that they are focusing on ICT in Asia and the Pacific. He gave an overview of APT as a partnership in the field of co-operation, noting the types and processes of co-operation. He said that APT facilitates coordination within the region with regard to major issues pertaining to telecommunication services and information infrastructure with a view to strengthening the region’s international position.
Kondo further noted the Strategic Plan for 2018-2020 for capacity building, innovation, partnership, connectivity, and trust. He talked about research work, pilot projects, and workshops. Furthermore, he highlighted that APT coordinates the needs of member countries in providing support, organising collaborative activities, and welcoming contributions. He further explained the process of co-operation involving open opportunities and being demand driven (listening to members’ requests). In conclusion, he underlined the collaboration with World Food Programme (WFP) and promoted the APT Policy and Regulatory Forum back to back with the ITU Regulators Roundtable and symposium on spectrum management.
Mr Vincenzo Aquaro [Chief of Digital Government, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)] introduced the work of department as the part of the UN in intergovernmental support, capacity development, and research and analytical programmes. He explained the mandates of the Division for Public Institutions and Digital Government (DPIDG)/UNDESA. He also said that they are building strong institutions for equal and inclusive societies. He further mentioned the UN e-Government Survey: Continuous Improvement which is providing case studies and recommendations. He highlighted the scope and quality of online services, the development status of telecommunication infrastructure, and inherent human resources.
In addition, Aquaro talked about the collaboration between UNDESA and ESCAP in e-Resilience and added the UN e-Government Survey 2020. He pointed out the Global Trends in e-Government from 2003 to 2018 and showed the percentage of countries grouped by the E-Government Development Index (EGDI) level in each region, emphasising the high digital divide in Africa. He concluded by saying that South-South co-operation is very important in order to tackle digital challenges. He finally noted the UN Secretary-General’s Strategy On New Technologies as a tool of digital co-operation.
Mr Angel Gonzalez Sanz (Chief, Science, Technology and ICT Branch, ITU) explained UNCTAD’s work in the ESCAP region in the context of the WSIS follow-up. He noted the key trend: global connectivity gap. He also said that 49% remain offline. The gap is more pronounced in developing countries and he emphasised the continued challenge of access and use.
Furthermore, he highlighted the changing world of work with increasingly digital, lifelong occupations, and the displacement and creation of jobs. He said that we need to change the academic system in the digital era with lifelong learning. In addition, he mentioned the opportunities (digitalisation of economic production and commerce) and challenges (reduced autonomy, cybersecurity, and reinforcement of structural inequalities) faced by frontier technologies.
Gonzalez Sanz further noted the important of UNCTAD’s E-commerce Week 2019 in supporting the policies and projects of the digital economy. He noted that they are working on rapid trade readiness assessments for the ESCAP region. Finally, he explained that there are logistical challenges, data protection, and financial support for digital trade in the Asia-Pacific region. He also commented on the Talented Young Scientist Program jointly organised by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China and UNCTAD.
By Gilles D. Bana