Excellencies, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, allow me to extend my sincere thanks to His Excellency Mr. Bagdat Mussin, Minister of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry, for inviting me to contribute to the Digital Bridge Forum 2022.
The Forum is timely as it connects policymakers and business leaders, including information technology enterprises, to share knowledge, experiences and ideas on digital technologies and innovations.
In this regard, I am pleased to inform this Forum that the ESCAP Committee on Information and Communications Technology, Science, Technology and Innovation endorsed at the end of August the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) Action Plan 2022-2026. It contains 25 concrete actions to be implemented on a regional cooperative basis by multiple stakeholders.
Countries from the North and Central Asian subregion play a leading role in regional cooperation for digital connectivity as well as transformation through the AP-IS initiative. In this regard, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation served as bureau members of the three AP-IS Working Groups on connectivity for all, digital technologies and applications, and digital data, respectively.
In addition, the Committee welcomed the initiative of the Government of Kazakhstan to establish the Digital Solutions Center for Sustainable Development to provide practical digital solutions in Central Asia and beyond.
As a result, the Committee recommended that ESCAP members and associate members collaborate in the digital transformation process under the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Initiative.
I commend Kazakhstan for its proactive role in promoting digital transformation through such a Centre.
As a key driver of the technology revolution underway, the Asia-Pacific region has made significant progress on digital transformation.
The mass adoption of digital technologies was given a further boost by the largely unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, digital technology has rapidly taken over more aspects of our lives.
At the same time, the pandemic has widened and deepened the digital divide both between and within countries. This has reinforced a vicious cycle of economic inequalities. Consequently, the United Nations has referred to the digital divide as the new face of inequality.
Lack of basic digital infrastructure, adequate investments and affordability have been key limiting factors for many countries in the region.
Earlier this year, the Commission adopted the Bangkok Declaration on a common agenda to advance sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific. In this Declaration, our members and associate members committed to improving digital cooperation andcooperating at all levels, including the ministerial level.
In this regard, the Declaration recognizes that the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative could be one of the useful regional platforms for promoting digital cooperation.
Towards this end, the Asia-Pacific Digital Ministerial Conference in November 2022, organized by the Government of the Republic of Korea with support from ESCAP, will certainly help boost multi-stakeholder partnerships on the development of innovative digital technologies.
I look forward to working with member States and other stakeholders in North and Central Asia through the AP-IS initiative to accelerate the adoption of technologies for an inclusive digital society.