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2019

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asian (ESCWA) released a study on Arab Horizon 2030: Digital Technologies for Development. The study examines digital technologies for development in the Arab region within the framework of the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development. Through the study, ESCWA aims to promote radical policy changes in utilising digital technologies for sustainable development in the Arab region. To this aim, it identifies proposals and recommendations for harnessing these technologies in social, economic, and human development opportunities. The research tackles seven thematic policy areas relevant to digital technologies and their impact on development goals: digital strategies, ICT sector, ICT infrastructure, cybersecurity, digital divide, e-applications, and e-government. For each policy area, the study provides an in-depth analysis organised under four sections: a) contextualisation of the thematic issue with respect to its impact on the sustainable development goals (SDGs), b) analysis of local policies in Arab countries and the gap with developed countries, c) pinpointing the Horizon 2030 vision and policy change recommendations to fulfill SDGs, and d) outlining business-as-usual trajectory in line with the Horizon 2030 vision. At the end, the study provides a summary of the 2030 vision and the pertinent policy change recommendations for each of the seven areas.

Facebook owned WhatsApp announced a ‘Startup India-WhatsApp Grand Challenge’ in partnership with Invest India to enhance the country’s entrepreneurial and small business community growth. Through this challenge, the company will award five winning start-ups a grant of US$50 000 each. The themes for the start-up challenge vary between healthcare, rural economy, financial and digital inclusion, education, and citizen safety. ‘Entrepreneurs with highly innovative ideas, business models that solve for a local India problem, making a large scale socio-economic impact, are invited to apply,’ WhatsApp highlighted in a press release. The last day to register for the challenge is March 10.

Facebook, in a reported session at the 2019 edition of the Fairway Galle Literary Festival, held in Sri Lanka from 16-21 January, has outlined its efforts at curbing misinformation and promoting online safety through digital literacy skills programmes.According to Shelley Thakral, head of policy programmes (India, South Asia and Central Asia) at Facebook, the company has partnered with civil society organisations in Sri Lanka to promote digital literacy and economic development. Thakral cited an initiative in collaboration with Sarvodaya, one of the oldest civil society organisations in Sri Lanka, that aims to train up to 20 000 school children by the end of 2019 on how to stay safe on social media.

Refinitiv joins the UN Task Force on Digital Financing of Sustainable Development Goals as a data partner. The company announced that it will deploy its data and insight to support local communities and combat climate change through committing to three core pledges on environment, diversity and inclusion, and sustainable solutions that support the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). ‘As we explore ways in which the digitalization of finance can be used to unlock resources for the Sustainable Development Goals, having solid data on the sources, types and direction of funding flows is critical to our work. With Refinitiv's support, we hope to find opportunities in which small changes to investment criteria or incentives could shift investors and investments toward more sustainable outcomes’ said Tillman Bruett, director of the Task Force Secretariat. The task force, which consists of leaders from developed and developing countries, is mandated to recommend strategies to harness the potential of financial technology to advance the SDGs. It met at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 22-25 January 2019, at Davos, and is expected to present its preliminary report of recommendations to the UN Secretary-General in September 2019.

The most significant effort in advancing Industry 4.0 is the development of digital infrastructure. According to a recent report, private and public sector representatives who took part in the 2019 edition of the ASEAN Digital Infrastructure seminar organised by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council in Thailand, announced the expansion in the country’s Internet infrastructure.

Minister of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand, Pichet Durongkaveroj told reporters during the seminar that Thailand is all set to become a full-fledged broadband nation by the end of 2019 by providing Internet access to an additional 50 000 villages this year.

A new report from Germany’s NetzPolitik says Facebook is working with Aeronautics giant Airbus, to test drones in Australia. This is an attempt to revive the social media giant’s ambitious programme to beam Internet across the globe using drones which was abandoned last year. NetzPolitik obtained a document, requested under Australia’s Freedom of Information Act, that showed that the two companies spent last year planning on how to collaborate and schedule test flights in November and December 2018.  According to the report, Facebook wants to use the drones that operate at an altitude of 20 kilometres from the Earth’s surface to bring connectivity to some 3.8 billion people who do not yet have access to the Internet.

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