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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

03 December 2020

Opening Address

Ms. Ajarin Pattanapanchai, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, Royal Thai Government,

Mr. Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union (ITU),

Ms. Areewan Haorangsi, Secretary General of the APT,

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to extend my congratulations to the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) for organising the 15th Session of the General Assembly.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 lockdowns have turned many aspects of our physical lives into a virtual reality and have underlined a critical need for action-oriented digital transformation. Scaling up digital plans remain a vital tool to be better crisis prepared and increase our e-resilience in future.

I would to offer three priority areas for your further discussions and reflections.

First, strengthen investment in digital connectivity. By increasing investments into the digital ecosystem and the broadband infrastructure, there in an opportunity to improve e-resilience in the region.

Policymakers need to design and implement digital strategies in ensuring safe, inclusive, affordable, and reliable speed internet access for all. Achieving sustainable socio-economic growth is possible with a sustained investment in reducing digital divide across the region.

Second, enhance the knowledge and capacity to develop and use Internet contents and services. Through renewed emphasis on partnership, there is a growing need to find new ways of bringing meaningful e-services to all.

Momentum in scaling up digital literacy is accelerating, not only in schools but also as lifelong processes. Millennials have proven particularly resourceful in developing local internet content while tele-medicine, e-healthcare services and e-learning experiences and resources are all expanding. While there is cause for optimism, we also know that maintaining the momentum is not going to be straightforward. The speed at which technology changes, the governments require to accelerate investments in skill formation and capacity development.

Third, harness regional cooperation and partnerships to ensure whole-of-society digital transformation for human well-being and security. By realizing subregional action plans in Internet traffic management, cross-border connectivity and e-resilience, member States can benefit immensely in accelerating implementation of the Master Plan for the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS).

In this regard, I welcome the progress and strong member state commitments in the Pacific, South Asia and in North and Central Asia through strengthening national data centers, sub-regional Internet traffic management and identification of smart cross-border infrastructure corridors.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In taking forward the regional digital transformation agenda, ESCAP is developing an information portal to support partnerships for ICT infrastructure co-deployment with road transport and energy infrastructure. 

I am also pleased to inform you that the Committee on ICT and STI, held in August 2020,  recommended that the Secretariat set up a drafting group in 2021 for the implementation of the next phase of the AP-IS Master Plan in 2022-2026. These are very encouraging initiatives and policy directions.

ESCAP looks forward under the framework of the “Inter-agency Working Group on ICT” to join hands with APT as well as ITU and other members of the UN family, to accelerate progress towards sustainable digital connectivity, transformation, and innovation by deepening meaningful cooperation and partnerships in Asia and the Pacific.

I wish you a very productive session. Thank you for your attention.

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