UN forges technological cooperation to tackle COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific

UN forges technological cooperation to tackle COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific

Collaboration at the regional level is a critical force for scaling up effective technologies and increasing innovation capacity in the fight against COVID-19.

Convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the two-day Committee meeting highlighted how digital inclusion and resilient digital networks across the entire region have become the foundation for government measures to effectively stem the worst impacts of the pandemic.

“Digital has taken on a compelling new meaning in the region – people, planet and prosperity are all increasingly dependent on access to digitally-driven technological innovations and seamless connectivity,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

She added, “As we are planning to chart our future in the post-COVID-19 world, we need to address the digital and technology divide with urgency. We cannot let this divide drive new forms of socio-economic inequalities.”

More than half of the region’s 4.1 billion people remain offline and in the least developed, landlocked developing and Pacific island countries, less than 5 percent of the population has access to high-speed and affordable Internet. Women and girls, regardless of location, level of income or age, have lower access than men.

To leave no one behind, the Committee discussed a set of guidelines for inclusive technology and innovation policies for sustainable development and committed to developing policies that promote inclusive technology and innovation to ensure that innovations are accessible, relevant, and affordable for all.

The Committee also underscored the importance of harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector to focus on developing innovations to address social and environmental challenges as well as provide economic opportunities. Social innovators and entrepreneurs have stepped up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From providing educational technology and e-health services for the most vulnerable to developing community tracing initiatives, the work of social innovators and entrepreneurs is more critical than ever.

In this regard, the Committee recognized the critical role that innovative business models – such as social enterprise, inclusive business and impact investing – play in accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, and recommended that the United Nations support member States to grow this new and emerging sector.

The 2020 United Nations E-Government Survey published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) finds that among the world’s least developed countries, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Cambodia have become leaders in digital government development, advancing from the middle to the high E-Government Development Index group in 2020. ESCAP further highlighted the challenges and opportunities of digital government in the Asia-Pacific region and emphasized the use of ICT during all phases of disaster risk management.

Original source: ESCAP