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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

16 November 2021

ESCAP ES

Excellency Mr. Bagdat Mussin, Minister of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry of Kazakhstan; 

Excellency Ms. Aminath Shauna, Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology of the Maldives; 

Excellency, Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, State Minister, Information and Communication Technology Division of Bangladesh; 

Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 

Excellences, Distinguished Participants,  

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I welcome you all to the Kick-off Event of the UN Development Account Project on “Frontier Technology Policy Experimentation and Regulatory Sandboxes in Asia and the Pacific.”  

The time you have dedicated today to this event is a testament to the importance of innovation and regulatory experimentation that nurtures innovation.  

I extend my sincere thanks to Under-Secretary General Liu and his team for the opportunity to partner with ESCAP on this important project. 

The Asia-Pacific region in the coming decades will be a vastly different place from what it is now. Every day we witness how frontier technologies are rapidly transforming our development paradigms, production and consumption patterns and how societies operate.  

In particular, as COVID-19 lockdowns turned many aspects of our physical lives into a virtual reality almost overnight, “digital” took on a compelling new meaning in the region. 

Asia and the Pacific remains one of the most digitally divided regions in the world. More than half of its 4.1 billion people remain offline. Less than 5 per cent of the population has access to high-speed and affordable Internet, while the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States are facing even more challenges in their paths to digital connectivity. 

Notwithstanding this, middle-income countries have been catching up by investing in the development of innovative technologies and enabling policies.  

As the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation emphasized, we must work together to make emerging technologies and relevant policy and regulatory framework innovative and productive.  

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

In this respect, I wish to highlight three points: 

The future of innovative technologies, including digital technology, is anything but certain. Therefore, on the supply side, an essential condition for innovation is continued investment in technology development and infrastructure.  

In this regard, ESCAP has supported member States in enhancing the development of innovative technologies by promoting the Action Plan 2022-2026 of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) initiative. 

In terms of the demand side, we need to invest in digital literacy and digital education for all people, particularly the vulnerable groups such as the aged, women and children.  

Without the strengthened capacity of people, the impact of frontier technologies cannot be sustainable in the long term. 

We have to strengthen our coordination framework and partnerships with all stakeholders, including governments, the business sector and social groups, to enhance synergic innovations. 

Only by working together will we ensure that these technological breakthroughs work for the economy, society and environment in a sustainable manner. 

In this regard, ESCAP is working with the Government of the Republic of Korea in organizing the UN Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Digital Cooperation: Shaping Our Digital Future in late 2022 to promote innovative technology development and multi-stakeholder partnerships. 

In conclusion, I hope this event will be a good opportunity to accelerate innovation policies and frameworks for sandbox experimentation by deepening meaningful engagement with all our partners in Asia and the Pacific. 

Thank you very much. 

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