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10 November 2020 | By invitation only

ESCAP Secretariat is organizing this virtual Experts Group Meeting (EGM) in preparation for the SPECA Economic Forum and SPECA Governing Council, scheduled on 19-20 November 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for the digital transformation and underscored its importance for mitigating the economic slowdown, sustaining wellbeing, and speeding up recovery. Social distancing has generated a high demand for fast and reliable connectivity to support the growing information flow. Since January 2020, data traffic has increased all over the world, and, in some cases, it has exploded overnight, challenging the capabilities of underlying ICT infrastructure. The quality of connectivity depends on the level of development of the ICT infrastructure, and COVID-19 has revealed the yawning gap between under-connected and hyper-digitalized states in Asia and the Pacific, with those that are less digitally equipped being more vulnerable to the devastating effects of the pandemic. 

Digital infrastructure needs strengthening to deal with the impact of COVID-19 and future public health crises. Given limited state budget and often scarce investment resources from private sector into energy, transport, and ICT systems, planning and implementing the infrastructure co-deployment can be an option for many countries. ESCAP (2019) illustrated that co-deployment can reduce costs in network deployments, expand coverage, reduce the rural-urban digital divide, but at the same time, it requires the high level of collaboration of ICT, Energy and/or Transport stakeholders. Notably, the Secretary General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation launched on 11 June 2020, highlighted key collaborative actions to improve connectivity and achieve universal access to safe, affordable and reliable broadband internet by 2030. ESCAP (2019-2020) has been developing tools and methodologies, aimed to facilitate collaboration in practical implementation of co-deployment, in line with national priorities and needs.

Relatedly, the resilience of ICT infrastructure and networks in Asia and the Pacific assumes importance in the face of a pandemic. As the third pillar of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS), e-resilience is defined as the ability of ICT systems to withstand, recover from and change in the face of an external shock. ESCAP (2020) views e-resilience from two lenses: ICT for its own resilience and ICT for societal resilience, which are inter-dependent and especially critical in times of crisis. Assessing and monitoring these two sides of e-resilience on a regular basis can help governments’ policy responses to present and future crises. Recognizing the importance of digital connectivity and e-resilience for development, as well as for overcoming major challenges, ESCAP proposes to design an e-resilience monitoring framework and dashboard to inform and assess digital performance across the region and ensure that safe, affordable and reliable digital connectivity is available to all to handle future crises. 

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Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division [email protected]