Countries in the Asia-Pacific region have made great strides towards implementation of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) at a United Nations led meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh this week, where over 100 international and regional ICT experts and government officials gathered for the first session of the AP-IS Steering Committee from 1 to 2 November 2017.
Co-organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Government of Bangladesh, the meeting was opened by Abul Maal A Muhith, Minister of Finance, and Zunaid Ahmed Palak, State Minister of the ICT Division of the Government of Bangladesh. The inaugural session focused on implementation of the AP-IS Master Plan to enhance regional broadband connectivity for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as articulated in the Regional Road Map for Implementing Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.
In a rapidly evolving and connected world, poverty is defined increasingly by isolation and disconnect from the benefits of information, knowledge and technological advancements. Whilst the Asia-Pacific region is home to some of the world’s ICT leaders, a recent ESCAP report ‘Artificial Intelligence and Broadband Divide: State of ICT Connectivity in Asia and the Pacific 2017’ revealed that the broadband divide is actually-widening within the region. Eighteen ESCAP countries have less than 2 fixed-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, and this situation has not changed over the decade, while countries such as the Republic of Korea and Japan display a high propensity for technological information, not least in robotics and automation, with near ubiquitous broadband connectivity at affordable prices.
Mr. Hong Joo Hahm, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP, underlined that co-deployment of fiberoptic cable along passive infrastructure such as highways, railways and power grids will be a critical means of achieving the affordability and resilience of broadband networks, further highlighting the unique role that ESCAP can play in encouraging countries to adopt such practices.
ESCAP’s International Agreement on Asian Highway Network and the Trans-Asian Railway Network Agreement are some of the key instruments that could potentially accommodate such co-deployments in a -cost-efficient manner, that is attractive to both public and private investments. Mr. Hahm noted that based on Bangladesh’s proposed amendment to the Agreement on the Asian Highway, a Working Group would consider this further in December 2017.
Meeting participants also successfully developed subregional implementation plans which are driven by member countries in collaboration with partners, using the unique regional cooperation platform of ESCAP.
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