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03 December 2021, 14:00 - 15:30 UTC +7 | Open meeting

Innovation forum

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with Digital Pathways at Oxford, the Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN), the Honey Bee Network, and the Gujarat Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network (GIAN), organised a Forum on Frontiers of Inclusive Innovation: Formulating Technology and Innovation Policies that Leave No one Behind. The forum took place through a series of six online sessions in November and December 2021.

The full report, Frontiers of inclusive innovation: Formulating technology and innovation policies that leave no one behind, is available here.

The closing session was a policy discussion on opportunities to expand and move forward on promoting inclusive innovation. It summarised the key messages that had emerged from the previous policy discussions and policy exchanges. The session put forward key recommendations for promoting technology and innovation policies that leave no one behind. Watch the recording of the session below:

Key Messages

Different countries have different national strategies and policies to encourage inclusive technology and innovation. There are several gaps that need to be addressed to encourage inclusive technology and policies.

  1. Digital illiteracy needs to be addressed. The investments for inclusive digital infrastructures are increasing but there is still a growing digital illiteracy rate in both rural and urban areas.
  2. Create a better platform for promoting grassroots innovation. There must be a lot of collaboration, such as collaboration with universities and funders, to create a supportive environment for grassroot innovators.  Regional collaboration is also key to build a better understanding of inclusive innovation policies – what works and what does not work. Educating the public on grassroots innovation is encouraged to further promote sustainable solutions. There should be lessons on innovation in textbooks. Public media platforms must be utilised. Furthermore, there must be a provision of a network-based entrepreneurship model where people are able to collaborate on ideas and assist one another in challenges.
  3. Create scalable inclusive innovations. One of the challenges some countries face is scaling innovation despite numerous existing grassroots innovations. This particularly applies to innovations that can apply to the welfare of the entire country. Only a few out of numerous existing innovations have managed to scale up on a national level. Higher collective capacity is essential for scalable innovations.

Examples of good practices

  • In Indonesia, the government has been working to deploy 4G Internet networks in more than 12,500 uncovered villages, which is expected to be completed by 2022.
  • In Cambodia, the government is seeking to transform Cambodia into a digital economy and society by 2035. To do so, it has adopted a strategic framework to promote digital infrastructure, foster digital trust, develop digital citizens, build a digital government and promote digital businesses.
  • In the Philippines, the Department of Science and Technology has adopted the Grassroots for Inclusive Development 2019 to 2022 Framework Plan. This plan promotes the use of community-led solutions that support sustainable development among Filipinos. The Department supports marginalised communities, including indigenous peoples and those living in geographically isolated areas, through science, technology, and innovation-based interventions.
  • The Government of Fiji is seizing digital technologies to enable previously financially excluded citizens make payments, receive money, and access finance safely. Mobile money has enabled the government to reach vulnerable individuals who would otherwise have no access to government assistance and benefit, especially in the aftermath of natural disasters and in the face of the current pandemic.

Moving Forward

More regional exchanges and dialogues about inclusive innovation policies and practices in Asia and the Pacific can provide a useful platform for sharing knowledge and supporting more inclusive innovation.

“What we have learned is that promoting inclusive innovation requires hard choices and long-term commitment. Hard choices because it requires dealing with opposing priorities. [...] A commitment because ensuring that the very poorest of rural communities can benefit from innovation is much tougher than creating innovations for, for example, high-income urban populations.”

Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary, United Nations ESCAP


Where support is needed

Participants identified support required to further promote inclusive innovation in three key areas:

Access to expert policy guidance and advice.

  • Organise more discussions with policy makers to enhance their understanding of inclusive innovation.
  • Develop a coaching/mentorship program where innovation specialists and policy makers can exchange good practices in inclusive innovation policy.
  • Establish a fund to support and train more region-based experts and inclusive innovation champions.
  • Provide a platform for dialogue in promoting systemic approaches, instruments and governance that support inclusive innovation development processes, structures, and policies.
  • Create pathways to a dynamic, evidence-based, and proactive stakeholders consultation strategy, and a decentralised institutional mechanism that balances top-down and bottom-up efforts.
  • Develop a fellowship program where fellows can support inclusive innovation at the grassroots level.
  • Set up a community of practice that maps out existing good practices at the country-level.
  • Facilitate programs for innovators and policymakers to understand the regulatory and institutional environment for better collaboration.

Invest in inclusive innovation research, infrastructure, and activities.

  • Invest more on digital infrastructure to improve digital inclusion.
  • Forge collaborative cross-country policy research efforts.
  • Involve economic and planning ministries in these dialogues, as they play an important role on budget allocation.
  • Increase public support for seed funding, pilot production, and testing/validation of grassroots innovations.
  • Craft a regional risk fund to support grassroots innovations.

Increase recognition for inclusive and grassroots innovations on a country/regional level.

  • Implement a pilot project to provide evidence on grassroots innovations, to help raise recognition for these innovations.
  • Help gain political recognition for the knowledge systems and creative potential of marginalised communities and individuals.



Learn more about the forum's discussion topics

REPORT: Frontiers of Inclusive Innovation: Formulating technology and innovation policies that leave no one behind

This report highlights the opportunities and challenges that policymakers and development partners have to expand the frontiers of inclusive innovation. When inclusion is the next frontier of technology, STI policies are designed differently: With broader objectives than just economic growth, with social development and sustainable economies in mind; and they are inclusive in terms of aspiring to enable everyone to benefit from – and participate in – innovative activities.

Governments can add an inclusive lens to STI policies by considering the following questions:

Four questions

This report explores how these four dimensions of inclusivity are addressed in several innovation policies: national STI policies; digital economy strategies; initiatives supporting grassroots innovations; and policies promoting inclusive business.

Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP
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Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Formerly, she was Professor of Economics at Universitas Padjadjaran, Indonesia, where she also served as a Director for the Center for Sustainable Development Goals Studies, as well as Vice Chair of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences. Prior, she was the Minister of National Development Planning and the Head of National Development Planning Agency in Indonesia, alongside being the Alternate Governor of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank representing Indonesia.

Kaveh Zahedi
Mr. Kaveh Zahedi
Deputy Executive Secretary, United Nation ESCAP
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Mr. Kaveh Zahedi is the Deputy Executive Secretary the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP).

Prior to this, Mr. Zahedi worked at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) including as its Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific and Deputy Director of the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, overseeing work on green economy, resource efficiency and climate change. He also set up and headed the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

Before UNEP, Mr. Zahedi worked at an NGO as project manager for micro credit and development projects in Latin America and the Middle East.

Over two decades Mr. Zahedi has worked for the United Nations in Kenya, Mexico, UK, France and Thailand. He holds a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA, and a BSc first class degree in Economics & Geography, from University College London.

H.E. Mr. Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña Department of Science and Technology, The Philippines
H.E. Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña
Department of Science and Technology, The Philippines
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H.E. Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña is the Secretary of Science and Technology at the Department of Science and Technology in the Philippines. Before he assumed leadership of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), he was the Undersecretary for Science and Technology Services from 2001 to 2014. Except for his brief retirement from 2014 to 2016, he has been with the department since 1982. De la Peña has also served as the president of the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology (PhilAAST) and is also a former chairman of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development

H.E. Dr. Kan Channmeta, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, Cambodia
H.E. Dr. Kan Channmeta
Secretary of State of the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, Cambodia
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Dr. Kan Channmeta is currently the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation. He is assigned to be working on Technology transfer policy and regulation, SMEs Go Digital and Technology Adoption for SMEs Initiative and Tech Start ups.  

His previous position was the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications from September 2013 to August 2021. His tasks mainly were attributed as followed; (1) to prepare policy and regulation such as  the Telecommunications Law, the Telecommunications-ICT Development Policy 2020 and in ICT-related sectors (Digital Signature Sub-Decree and ICT business registration Sub Decree); (2) to develop  the Universal Service Obligation Fund and Capacity Building and R&D Fund since its establishment in 2017; (3) since 2015, through the National Institute of Post, Telecoms and ICT, to build a strong foundation of innovation infrastructure and ecosystem for youth, MSMEs and researchers, and to develop digital transformation initiatives for MSMEs toward Digital Economy and 4IR such as the Innovation Center, Technology Center, Tech Start-up Kingdom Report 2019, Digital  Skill Assessment 2021, Digital Cambodia 2019 (toward Industry 4.0), Digital Cambodia 2020 (Digital Talents), Women in Tech, Girls in ICT; digital literacy programs via Broadband to Schools and school labs in the rural area; University Development programs; incubation, accelerating, scale up and mentorship programs; and (4) to bring our Cambodian Tech Start-ups to Regional and Global competitions through ASEAN ICT Awards, Echelon 27, Global Entrepreneurship Network, Vivatech and Seedstars. 

From September 2008 to September 2013, he was Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Commerce in charge of legal compliance and WTO; and ASEAN. 

He is also a Member of Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC) in charge of Science,  Technology and Innovation sector since 2012. 

In addition to his posts in the public sector, Dr. KAN Channmeta has been a lecturer at various  universities since 2002, including the Royal University of Law and Economics for Lyon 2 University,  Build Bright University, University of Jean Moulin, Lyon 3 (France), Ain sham University (Egypt),  French University in Erevan (Armenia), and National University of Lao (Lao PDR).

Mr. Ariff Ali, Governor of the Reserve Bank, Fiji
Mr. Ariff Ali
Governor of the Reserve Bank, Fiji
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Mr. Ariff Ali was appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji on 11 September  2017.  

Mr Ali joined the Reserve Bank in 1992 in the Research Department. He has  worked in the Economics, Financial Markets and the Financial Institutions  Groups and was Team Leader for the FIJICLEAR project. He rose to head the  Financial Markets Group in 2009 and was the Chief Manager of the Economics  Group from 2013. Prior to his appointment as Governor, he was the Deputy  Governor since May 2014.  

As Governor, Mr Ali is the Chairperson of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Fiji,  Monetary Policy Committee, Macroeconomic Committee, Capital Markets  Development Taskforce, National Financial Inclusion Taskforce and Secured  Transactions Taskforce. He is also a member of the Council of the Fiji Institute  of Bankers and the National Anti-Money Laundering Council.  

Mr Ali is the Chairperson of the Government Tender Board, the Accident Compensation Commission Fiji and the Fiji Roads Authority. 

Mr Ariff Ali obtained his Bachelor of Economics (Honours) degree from the  International Islamic University, Malaysia and a Master of Business  Administration from the University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

Ms. Mira Tayyiba Secretary-General, Ministry of Communications and Informatics, Indonesia
Ms. Mira Tayyiba
Secretary-General, Ministry of Communications and Informatics, Indonesia
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Ms. Mira Tayyiba is the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Communications and Informatics in Indonesia. With her two decades of experience in governments, she is well-known for her expertise on e-commerce, digital creative economy, and digital infrastructure development. She has led various nation-wide digital initiatives, most notably Indonesia’s E-Commerce Roadmap, Indonesia’s Broadband Plan, and Indonesia’s Digital Roadmap 2021-2024.

For her notable contribution, she received the distinguished award of Satyalancana Karya Satya XX in 2017 from the President of Indonesia.

Before joining the Ministry of Communications and Informatics, she served as the Expert Staff to the Indonesian Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs for Digital Transformation, Creativity, and Human Resource Development (2019-2020).

Prof. Anil K Gupta, Founder and Coordinator, Honey Bee Network, India
Prof. Anil K Gupta
Founder and Coordinator, Honey Bee Network, India
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Prof. Anil K Gupta is the founder of the Honey Bee Network and a visiting faculty member at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He has also worked with the government of India to establish the National Innovation Foundation, which holds national competitions to encourage new inventors and helps sustain them through the National Micro Venture Innovation Fund.

He facilitated the Festival of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (FINE) through, hosted by the office of President of India at The President’s House (March 19-23, 2018); pursues research on sustainable natural and institutional resource management, building global value chain to get the grassroots and youthful creativity its due; links technology youth with the problems of MSMEs, and other innovators (, unlocks corporate and public/private institutional creativity through empathetic open reciprocal innovations, and supports strategic organizations for making breakthroughs innovations.

Prof. Gupta’s mission is to expand the global as well as local space for innovations from and for grassroots, link ideas in the informal and formal sectors, ensure recognition, respect and reward for creative communities, individuals, children and tech students etc.; augmenting open innovations by individuals, institutions, corporations, and countries through frugal, flexible and friendly empathetic platforms.

Mr. Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor at UNDP/Government of Bangladesh
Mr. Anir Chowdhury
Policy Advisor at UNDP/Government of Bangladesh
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Anir Chowdhury is a Programme Advisor of the a2i Programme of the ICT Division and the Cabinet Division of the Government of Bangladesh supported by the UNDP. He leads the formation of a whole-of-society innovation ecosystem in Bangladesh through massive technology deployment, extensive capacity development, integrated policy formulation, whole-of-government institutional reform, and an Innovation Fund. His work on innovation in public service has developed interesting and replicable models of service delivery decentralization, public-private partnerships, and transformation of a traditional bureaucracy into a forward-looking, citizen-centric service provider. He is a regular speaker in international conferences on public service innovation and reform, digital financial inclusion, civil registration and digital identity management, SDGs, youth and community empowerment, educational transformation, public-private partnerships, and South-South Cooperation. He is a member of the Prime Minister’s National Digital Task Force, Education Minister’s National ICT in Education Task Force, UNESCAP Regional Steering Group for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS), Co-Founder and Board Member of South-South Network for Public Service Innovation (SSN4PSI) and Co-Founder of South-Asia Civil Registration Network (CR8). He co-founded several software and service companies and non-profit organizations in the US and Bangladesh. He graduated magna cum laude in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics from Brown University and did post-graduate work on management, marketing, and education reform in Harvard, Columbia, and Boston Universities.

Ms. Trinh Thi Huong Director of Policy and General Affairs Division, Agency for Enterprise Development, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Viet Nam
Ms. Trinh Thi Huong
Director of Policy and General Affairs Division, Agency for Enterprise Development, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Viet Nam
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Trinh Thi Huong has worked as a policy maker in enterprise development for 17 years, gaining experience in supporting small and medium sized enterprises (SME). She is now Director of Policy Division, Agency for Enterprise Development, Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI). Huong has contributed to many Vietnamese Government legal frameworks that support the development of small and medium enterprises. She also put much effort in promoting IB in the national sustainable business support programme.

Ms. Marta Pérez Cusó
Economic Affairs Officer at ESCAP
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Marta Pérez Cusó leads ESCAP’s programme on inclusive technology and innovation policies to promote technologies and innovations that leave no one behind. She also leads ESCAP’s work on promoting enabling policy environments for inclusive business in ASEAN.

She has over 18 years’ work experience with the United Nations providing policy advice on science, technology and innovation (STI) and information and communication technology policies to governments across Asia and Latin America.

Before joining ESCAP, Ms. Pérez Cusó worked with UNCTAD and Oxfam GB. She holds an MSc in Development Management, Open University UK and is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Catalan.

for more information, please contact

Trade, Investment and Innovation Division +66 2 288-1234 [email protected]
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