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2019

The UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) Inter-sessional Panel 2018-2019 convened on 15-17 January 2019, in Vienna, Austria. During the panel, an issues paper was introduced on the impact of rapid technological change on sustainable development. The draft issues paper, which is prepared by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretariat, examines the opportunities, risks, and challenges brought about by rapid technological change. It also looks at the role of science, technology, and innovation (STI) policy. The paper further identifies strategies, policies, and immediate actions required to use STI to empower people, especially those who are vulnerable, and ensure inclusiveness and equality. One of the key messages posited by the paper is that rapid technological change offers significant opportunities to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.. That said, it also poses new challenges for policy-making, threatening to outpace the capacity of governments and society to adapt to the changes new technologies bring about.

A recent poll of 202 councillors of London boroughs carried out by YouGov for the Greater London Authority, revealed that digital exclusion is the biggest barrier to digital transformation (50%) in London’s boroughs. According to the surveyed councilors, alongside digital exclusion, other barriers include cybersecurity (27%), costs of transformation (21%), lack of digital skills (10%), and the poor handling of data and privacy (16%). Many councillors also reckon that the quality of services can be enhanced by data sharing, but they doubt the public sector to securely do that (44%). The poll also shows the importance of smartphone data with 69% saying it’s useful for data sharing and improving public services, against 18% disagreeing. They further noted the significance of sensor technology to gather air pollution and traffic data.

Denmark based company Bluetown, announced its  Airband Initiative with Microsoft which will bring Internet access to approximately 800 000 people in underserved communities in the Eastern region of Ghana. TV white space and wi-fi will be used to create affordable public wi-fi zones. The project will also provide Internet and free access to digital services such as e-learning, e-health, news and more) to local institutions and businesses .

The UK government’s Digital Inclusion Fund provides an award of £400 000 to support digital inclusion through three projects that support the development of smart homes for the elderly, an app to combat obesity, and video consultations in palliative care. The smart homes scheme is led by Uttlesford Council for Voluntary Service that trains homeowners to be ‘digital boomers’  to help others improve their digital skills. ‘Digital boomers’ open up their homes to other older people to show them how they can make the most of smart technology in areas such as controlling household appliances and contacting friends and family by video. Another scheme is dedicated to a ‘Health Swap’ app created by the Down’s Syndrome Association to allow people with Down’s syndrome to monitor their weight and exercise levels with their smartphones to promote good health and wellbeing. Weldmar Hospicecare Trust will further investigate how technology can improve end of life and palliative care. To this aim, it will examine how technology can help citizens report their health on a daily basis and request video consultations that are time and cost effective.

2018

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a report on how new technologies open up opportunities for leapfrogging in developing countries. Leapfrogging is the concept of ‘bypassing intermediate stages of technology through which countries have historically passed during the development process’. However, it necessitates innovation policies to uphold the deployment of frontier technologies and their adaptation to meet their needs and promote sustainable development. The report notes that rapid technological advances and cost reductions in ICT have enabled some developing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, to skip the development of landline infrastructure by moving directly to mobile telecommunications. According to the report, countries need strategic innovation policies, sound infrastructure and institutions, and appropriate technological standards to promote leapfrogging.

On 18 December 2018, China published a policy paper on possible measures to enhance the China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and promote greater development of China-EU relations. The paper addresses issues related to the cooperation in political, security and defense fields that include the “good use of the China-EU Cyber Taskforce, jointly advocate a community with a shared future in cyberspace, promote norms for responsible State behavior in cyberspace under the UN framework, and advance the reform of the global internet governance system for a peaceful, secure, open, cooperative and orderly cyberspace.” Additionally, the paper tackles the cooperation in scientific research, innovation, emerging industries, and sustainable development through "Digital China" and the EU Digital Single Market where exchanges and cooperation between China and the EU are further required. It also refers to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) hoping that its implementation will not affect normal business interactions between the two sides. According to the paper, cooperation on data protection between China and the EU will continue to protect personal information and the legitimate rights of citizens.

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