As change accelerates in the Asia-Pacific region, a new development paradigm is in the making. The “made in Asia, consumed in the West” development model that served it so well in the past, is giving way to economic growth that is more inclusive and sustainable, and thus increasingly sourced from within the region. The information economy is is emerging as a key contributor to this paradigm shift. Already, by the end of the decade, 68% of the worlds ICT goods were sourced from the ESCAP region. Furthermore, the growing importance of Asia-Pacific as a regional ICT market is reflected in the fact that over the past decade, intra-regional trade grew the fastest (annual average growth of 20.8%) as compared to growth in Europe’s and North America’s imports from Asia-Pacific which stood at 15.74% and 8.39%, respectively. Digital innovations are also bringing transformative effects to people-to-people connectivity, holding much promise that all peoples will be empowered to contribute more meaningfully to the region’s emerging knowledge society.
At the same time as the promises grow, so do the perils giving rise to an interplay that is in constant flux. For one, the digital divide has widened rather than narrowed over the past decade, and it has widened in those very technologies that are at the forefront in creating a knowledge society: mobile broadband internet. Second, as a region that is the most disaster prone and where we know that disasters will strike with greater frequency and force in future, it is imperative to bring the benefits of technological advances to all, so that risks to disasters can be mitigated, while also improving disaster management overall.
Consequently, much work remains to be done on the policy side before we can truly say that ICTs have led unequivocally to improved human development. Any complacency, rooted in the view that change is best left to market driven innovation without active policy directives, would almost certainly mean Asia-Pacific’s hugely resourceful but still poor masses will miss out on the promises of the 21st Century.
At ESCAP our work on the information society is driven by the idea that ICTs are tools that can empower citizens to become the main actors of change, and that engage governments as the peoples’ partner, in providing supportive policy directives. We examine issues from broad socio-economic perspectives, analysing policy options and trade-offs. As an intergovernmental commission, we mobilize key policy decision-makers that can muster the political commitment needed to adapt today’s information society into tomorrow’s knowledge society.
By ESCAP Commission Resolution 64/1 endorsed in April 2008, the Conference structure of the Commission was amended. Eight committees were endorsed, among which are the Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Both these committees fall under the responsibility of IDD, and the ICT and Development Section services the Committee on ICT, and contributes to the Committee on DRR.
At its 69th Session in 2013, the ESCAP Commission adopted ESCAP Resolution 69/10 on promoting regional information and communications technology connectivity and building knowledge-networked societies in Asia and the Pacific.