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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

18 July 2023

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, colleagues,

At the outset, I convey my appreciation to the Government of Peru, who, in collaboration with the United Nations Group on Information Society (UNGIS), organized this event.

This event rightly focuses on two major challenges in advancing digital inclusion and transformation.

The first is enabling universal connectivity, while the second is how to develop the competencies and solutions to address risks so that the transformative opportunities offered by digital innovations are harnessed.

Allow me to share insights from the Asia-Pacific region. The region has been a strong driver of digital innovations, emerging as a key global hub, particularly in response to COVID-19 restrictions over the last three years.

However, according to ESCAP’s Asia-Pacific Digital Transformation Report 2022, Asia and the Pacific is the most digitally divided region in the world.

Furthermore, as digital became the default during the pandemic, digital divides widened and deepened socio-economic gaps. To mention but one example, it is estimated that remote learning did not reach 220 million school-going children, or 28 per cent of those eligible.

In this respect, I would like to emphasize four key messages:

First, on the supply side, it is crucial for both the public and private sectors to make concerted efforts to scale up infrastructure investments that reach all. This should include a specific focus on investing in missing cross-border links for seamless regional terrestrial connectivity. Such efforts are critical for countries in special situations so that no one is left behind.

Second, on the demand side, as digital innovation accelerates, we have to continue to promote skills in the use of emerging technologies, focusing on digitally vulnerable groups and lifelong learning for ageing societies. This also includes equipping the general public with the means to critically assess the risks of digital innovations, notably the spread of misinformation, hate speech and fraud.

Third, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique opportunity to recalibrate partnerships between governments and the business sector. The Secretary-General, in his policy brief on digital platforms, has called for a “UN Code of Conduct for Information Integrity on Digital Platforms,” and by working together, digital platforms and evolving artificial intelligence applications can be made more safe, secure, responsible and ethical.

Fourth, digital transformation is unleashing multi-sectoral innovation that holds promise that SDG implementation can be accelerated. The theme topic for our 80th session of the Commission will be examing such opportunities and highlighting the region’s emerging body of best practices. ESCAP will be pleased to share the findings and recommendations of this study with UNGIS partners and member States from all regions.  

I am also pleased to inform you that our Commission has adopted a resolution on promoting digital cooperation and inclusion through implementation of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Initiative, a regional blueprint of cooperation to bridge the digital divide and accelerate digital transformation, while the Government of Kazakhstan in partnership with ESCAP will organize a Ministerial Conference on Digital Transformation in October 2024. 

 

Excellencies,  Distinguished Delegates, Colleagues

I reiterate ESCAP’s unwavering commitment to supporting digital inclusion and cooperation, including the effective implementation of the WSIS Action Lines.

We look forward to working in close collaboration with UNGIS partners and our member States towards leveraging the opportunities of digital innovation for an inclusive digital society.

Thank you.

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