Excellency Mr. Jong-ho Lee, Minister of Science and ICT of the Republic of Korea,
Excellencies, Ministers, Vice-Ministers, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the First Asia-Pacific Digital Ministerial Conference 2022, under the theme “Shaping Our Common Future.”
I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Korea, and in particular to His Excellency Minister Lee, for organizing this conference with the support of ESCAP.
With many ministerial-level representatives joining us in person today, the strategic importance of evolving a shared vision and action plan for a common digital future is clear.
Indeed, “digital by default” has become our norm since the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital transformation has been accelerated in many aspects of our lives.
However, there is a concern that this also has widened and deepened the digital divide both within and among countries, and since digital dividends were not equally distributed, it reinforced economic inequalities. Consequently, in the report of the United Nations Secretary-General, “Reclaiming our future: a common agenda to advance sustainable development,” the digital divide is referred to as the new face of inequality.
May I refer now to the Asia-Pacific Digital Transformation Report 2022, one of ESCAP’s flagship publications, which provides evidence that the region is the most digitally divided in the world in terms of age, gender, education, disability and geography.
There is an urgent need to develop new development paradigms, and policy and regulatory frameworks in a more flexible and adaptive way.
At the heart of such new paradigms is the digital transformation process.
During the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly this year, the President of the Republic of Korea, emphasized that one of the most urgent tasks for the global community and the United Nations is promoting global cooperation to narrow the digital divide.
To address the widening disparities and actively advance digital transformation in the Asia-Pacific region, the ESCAP Committee on ICT and STI convened last August in Bangkok, endorsed the Action Plan for Implementation of the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway from 2022 to 2026 with a vision of connecting everything for everyone to accelerate the achievements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The vision embodies the ever-evolving nature of digital technologies that provide both opportunities and challenges for improving the wellbeing of connected people.
The objective of this vision is “to bridge the digital divide and accelerate digital transformation first by promoting universal digital connectivity in a cost-effective way, second by scaling up digital technology applications for an inclusive digital economy and society, and third by improving the use and management of digital data.”
Furthermore, the Commission adopted a resolution in which governments committed to ensuring universal, safe, affordable and equitable digital access through cooperation at all levels, including the ministerial level.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
Before closing, I would like to emphasize that multi-stakeholder partnerships, that include the business sector and civil society, are the foundations for international and regional cooperation.
By working together, we are in a better position to tackle the problems that will arise as digital transformation advances.
I hope the outcome of the Ministerial Conference today marks a new digital chapter in the trajectory of regional cooperation and multilateralism and that such ministerial conferences will be organized regularly in the upcoming years.
As the region’s most inclusive intergovernmental platform, you can always count on ESCAP’s support.
I wish you all a successful and productive conference.