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Asia-Pacific Sets High-Level Policy for Sustainable Development Goals

September 1, 2018

Meetings with leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region this past week have set policies which will have long-term implications for the region’s Sustainable Development objectives.

Senior officials gathered August 29-31 in Bangkok to discuss the role of technology to further the cause of the region’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region. The sessions were held as part of the Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Starting with the opening remarks by ESCAP’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Hongjoo Ham, the emphasis was inclusion for all members of the society as technology becomes more integrated into all aspects of life. As he said at the meeting, “STI and ICT  have helped promote economic growth and social development in this region but not in a balanced manner. There has been enormous growth in Asia and the Pacific, yet many countries and segments of society are still well behind the curve.” He went on to say that, “The question we must ask is how can STI and ICT be used to better promote the economic pillars of the SDGs? How can we make this agenda more inclusive, more socially responsible and more in tune to the environment?”

Thailand’s Minister of Digital Economy and Society, H.E. Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj made the points even clearer from a national policy perspective. He pointed out that this was about far more than just getting those ordinarily on the fringes of society involved in the use of technology. “We need to introduce e-commerce to people in rural areas that have good products to sell not just to their community, but to the world,” he said. “There are many digital opportunities which we can use for public good and to support the SDGs, and we aim to use the Thailand 4.0 plan to reduce disparity, promote more inclusion, improve economic competitiveness and ensure sustainability.”

Japan’s senior representative at the event, Dr. Michiharu Nakamura, UNIATT 10 Member-Group (2018-2019), and Senior Advisor/Former President of the Japan Science and Technology Agency, spoke to the concept of inclusion in its need to span many different disciplines and every possible country in the region. Without that, regardless of the difficulty of making that happen, some segments of society and perhaps even some entire countries might be left out of the potential of achieving certain SDGs. “To harness STI for addressing the SDGs,” he said, “we need holistic, multi-disciplinary approaches. This can be made possible when each country carefully considers how they can integrate STI into their national development strategy and policy, and formulate the appropriate STI for SDG roadmaps according to their vision.”

To accomplish this, the Committee will work backward from the Sustainable Development Goals and create STI plans to support them on both a national and international level. It will also be drafting STI policies to support development, propagation of technology utilization across local societies and capacity-building where needed.

The Committee also announced plans to enhance and expand ESCAP’s many regional cooperation mechanisms covering both on-the-ground technology and even into space. These include the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway, the Regional Space Applications Program, and the Regional Drought Mechanism, the last of which is becoming even more important as climate change issues become more urgent. The group will also be leveraging programs at the UN Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT) and the Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT).

As a next step, the Committee will be hosting the inaugural Asia-Pacific Innovation Forum coming up in the near future. It is intended to be a major platform for bringing together a genuine public-private partnership in planning the future of technology integration and inclusion for the region.