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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

24 April 2024

ES ESCAP

Honourable Madam Lenora Qereqeretabua, Chair of the session,

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Very good morning. I am very pleased to join all of you on this session on the subregional perspectives.

Examining subregional perspectives to leverage digital innovation for sustainable development enriches our understanding and exploration of regional and subregional cooperation as well as the role of ESCAP.

ESCAP’s five subregions are very distinct and diverse, but experiences, challenges and insights can be relevant across them.  

For the Pacific small island developing States, given their geographical dispersion, digitalization is particularly important for connectivity, efficient delivery of public services, trade, climate resilience and disaster risk reduction

In East and North-East Asia, digital innovation is progressing to support environmental sustainability as well as for trade, transport and energy. Digital initiatives on air pollution, disaster risk reduction and ageing populations are also noteworthy here.

North and Central Asia has seven landlocked developing countries and digital innovations are critical for connectivity in transport, trade and energy.

In South and South-West Asia, digital innovations have transformed the delivery of basic services and social protection and are contributing to addressing air pollution and disaster risk management.

South-East Asia has witnessed the transformative power of digital innovations for e-governance, e-commerce and renewable energy.          

From these diverse experiences, common issues emerge across subregions and I wish to highlight two.

First is the digital divide. People are still left behind in digital access and its benefits due to a complex array of factors, often structural, such as gender, income, education, social status, geographical isolation and displacement. Without digital inclusion, digital innovation will be an SDG divider.

A second challenge shared across subregions is risk management of fast-evolving digital technologies. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is adding complexity and unpredictability.  

Policy and regulatory frameworks and actions need to be adapted to manage these risks and to strike the right balance between technological progress and ethical and sustainable practices.   

What gives us hope is the abundance of knowledge, experience and successes in Asia and the Pacific. The five subregions of ESCAP offer ample examples of digital innovations that provide solutions to development problems in a vast range of contexts.

Some are at the vanguard of global technological innovation while many have experiences responding to challenging contexts.

Subregional cooperation is important in sharing ideas, technology and capacities for digital solutions. Cooperation enables economies of scale that can benefit governments, private sector and consumers of digital technologies.

Common regulatory and policy frameworks can align national laws and policies to facilitate digital connectivity.

We can learn from today’s distinguished panelists from public, private, academic as well as civil society sectors, who will share subregional insights into digital innovation for SDG acceleration and disaster risk management. Furthermore, a valuable enabler of cooperation is subregional organizations as they underpin important digital initiatives.

The strong Pacific regional architecture has facilitated the creation of a Pacific digital hub.

Organizations in North and Central Asia that also extend to other subregions are spearheading a digital single market, disaster risk information sharing and cybersecurity capacity building.

South-East Asia has the ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement.

In East and North-East Asia, the Greater Tumen Initiative has a digital economy cooperation roadmap, and the Trilateral Cooperation mechanism tackles ICT and intellectual property rights and provides a Trilateral + X framework to expand cooperation.

In South Asia, the Bay of Bengal cooperation initiative under BIMSTEC offers a platform for cooperation in science, technology and innovation, also connecting to South-East Asia.   

Subregional organizations are important partners for ESCAP. Today, we are honored to have senior officials representing many of these organizations from PIF, BIMSTEC, TCS, CICA, SCO, ECO and SPC in our presence.

We will hear from them shortly on their development priorities and more specifically their approach to digital cooperation. I am also keen to hear their views on how we can strengthen cooperation with ESCAP.

I look forward to a fruitful exchange and reflection, with contributions from the subregional organizations, panelists and member States.

Thank you very much.

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