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E-Governance: A powerful tool to combat, mitigate and sustainably manage disaster risks

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The impact of climate change is affecting Lesotho’s progress towards development in a number of areas, including agriculture, food security, water resources, public health and disaster risk management. Photo: FAO

E-governance plays a critical role in building inclusive, resilient societies both before and in response to disasters, according to a United Nations report issued this week.

The 2018 E-Government Survey highlights the complex challenges and varied opportunities of deploying e-government services.

Contributing to the global report, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) highlights that the use of information and communications technology during all phases of disaster risk management presents “substantial opportunities to reduce disaster risks, enhance coping capabilities, and provide inclusive preparedness and response.”

Several regional case studies illustrate that it is critical to integrate emerging innovations in digital technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), social media, space applications and geospatial information for e-resilience efforts.

To ensure undisrupted services and information to citizens before, during and after disasters, the report also reiterates the urgency of embracing e-resilience in e-government initiatives.

The findings and recommendations come against the backdrop of several recent disasters, such as landslides in Japan, an unpresented heatwave in Pakistan and monsoon flash floods in Bangladesh and India, all of which serve to remind us how disaster risk is outpacing disaster resilience in Asia-Pacific.

As the Asia-Pacific region is among the world’s most disaster-impacted, governments have stepped-up disaster risk reduction efforts through digital connectivity and innovations.

“Digitally-driven emerging frontier technologies, such as AI, are expected to offer unparalleled levels of data availability, insights and coping capabilities to support countries address this formidable challenge and advance the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said ESCAP.

Broadband connectivity for all remains critical to the success of e-governance.

Towards this end, ESCAP continues to support the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative to seamlessly increase the regional availability, affordability and resilience of broadband networks as a platform for e-resilience.

Its implementation will be reviewed and discussed by countries and partners in Bangkok, from 27-28 August, followed by an ESCAP intergovernmental meeting of the Second Session of the Committee on Information and Communications Technology, Science, Technology and Innovation on 29 to 31 August 2018.

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African Development Bank launches digital tool to help African youth learn to code

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The African Development Bank and technology firm Microsoft today launched the ‘Coding for Employment’ digital training platform, an online tool to provide digital skills to African youth, wherever they are across the continent.

The platform, launched at the 2019 African Economic Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, aims to promote a continuous learning culture among young people and build their capacity to shape the continent’s future.

The high-level event drew heads of state and government, ministers and leaders from the private sector and academia to discuss how this new tool and other technological innovations could be used to spur development across the continent.

“The youth employment and skills development challenge is a complex issue that requires systemic thinking and bold partnerships … to address the existing skills gap and link youth to decent and sustainable employment,” said Hendrina Doroba, the African Development Bank’s acting director for Human Capital, Youth & Skills Development.

“The skills training platform launched today is a testament to the impact that such partnerships can achieve and the Bank looks forward to strengthening similar partnerships.”

The  platform teaches technical courses such as web development, design, data science and digital marketing and will be constantly adapted to respond to market demand. It is accessible on mobile devices, even in low internet connectivity settings and has an affordable, easy-to-navigate, secured and private interface.

“A defining challenge of our time is ensuring that everyone has equal opportunity to benefit from technology,” Ghada Khalifa, Director of Microsoft Philanthropies for the Middle East and Africa, said at the launch.

“Forward-thinking initiatives such as the digital training platform represent our commitment to helping drive the momentum needed. Though there is still much work to be done, we believe that through dynamic partnerships such as these, we can help build a knowledge-based economy in Africa that leaves no person behind.”

The Coding for Employment Program is a crucial part of the African Development Bank’s strategic agenda to create 25 million jobs by 2025, and to equip 50 million African youth with competitive skills. The Bank piloted the program in five countries (Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire) in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation and Microsoft and is currently developing 14 ultra-modern centers specialized in ICT and entrepreneurship skills trainings for youth.

The goal is to scale up the program to 130 centers of excellence across the continent over a 10-year period. It will create nine million jobs by building synergies with the public and the private sector globally to deliver demand-driven, agile and collaborative skills to empower young people to become innovative players in the digital economy.

The Coding for Employment training platform can be accessed here across 54 African countries.

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ADB’s First Satellite Financing to Expand Internet Access in Asia and Pacific

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $50 million agreement with Kacific Broadband Satellites International Limited (Kacific) to provide affordable satellite-based, high-speed broadband internet connections to countries in Asia and the Pacific, especially in remote areas of small island nations in the Pacific and larger island nations like Indonesia and the Philippines. This is ADB’s first satellite financing.

The Asia-Pacific Remote Broadband Internet Satellite Project will help make broadband internet connections more widely available to countries in the region, where more than 2 billion people do not have reliable internet access due to inadequate infrastructure, geographical challenges, and the high cost of services.

“Better access to reliable, high-speed internet can help improve education services, expand access to information, attract investments, reduce rural–urban development gaps, enhance trade and connectivity, and stimulate local economies,” said ADB Director General for Private Sector Operations Mr. Michael Barrow. “It will also help improve communication, especially during emergencies and times of disaster when terrestrial networks might be damaged.”

“ADB’s role was key in getting this transaction closed,” said Kacific Founder and CEO Mr. Christian Patouraux. “ADB’s involvement has helped secure the necessary financing for this highly developmental project. The benefits of connectivity are life-changing—from increased tourism, access to information, financial services, to health care and education for many remote communities in the region.”

The project will support the construction, launch, and operation of a shared geostationary earth orbit, high-throughput satellite. Kacific-1 is scheduled to be launched by SpaceX in December 2019 and will be operational in early 2020.

The financing comprises loans from ADB and the Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund (LEAP), which is administered by ADB. Established in March 2016 with support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, LEAP is one of ADB’s cofinancing vehicles dedicated to private sector infrastructure in Asia and the Pacific.

ADB will be working with GuarantCo, a Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) company, to guarantee additional private cofinancing for the project. GuarantCo provides credit solutions for infrastructure development in lower income countries in Africa and Asia and is funded by the governments of the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, and Sweden through the PIDG Trust and the Netherlands through FMO, the Dutch Development Bank, and the PIDG Trust. PIDG is a development and finance organization delivering pioneering infrastructure in the poorest and most fragile countries.

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Cybersecurity: A Crucial Element of Socio-economic Stability and Prosperity

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Cybersecurity has become a key safeguard to future socio-economic prosperity and stability as industries are transitioning towards data- and technology-driven business models and governments grapple with the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. More than 80% believe that risk of cyberattacks will increase in the year ahead. With an estimated pricetag of $90 trillion worldwide, there is a rising imperative to safeguard individuals and businesses.

Under the theme Enabling Leadership for a Secure Digital Future, over 150 leaders and experts in the cybersecurity, policy, regulation and technology fields are meeting at the second annual World Economic Forum Annual Meeting on Cybersecurity in Geneva, Switzerland, to address three priorities: Strengthening global cooperation for digital trust and security, securing future digital networks and technology, and building skills and capabilities for the digital future.

Meeting participants include government representatives from G20 countries, civil society organizations and academia, and prominent cybersecurity leaders from companies representing a cross-section of industries in the private sector. Ten international organizations, 18 countries and over 20 specialized agencies are taking part.

“As the international organization for public-private cooperation, the World Economic Forum is leading a global effort to drive systemic change on the most pressing cybersecurity issues. We believe that this change will be most impactful if the private sector and the public sector work on solutions together,” said Alois Zwinggi, Head of the Centre for Cybersecurity.

Key sessions include preparing for future threats, how to secure smart cities, increasing security by replacing passwords and building cyber-resiliance. Leadership, governance and cooperation were key themes.

The Forum, as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is offering its Platform on Cybersecurity and Digital Trust to allow the participants to drive the cybersecurity agenda for the coming year, to share information on emerging cyber-threats, jointly assess the risks of emerging technologies and collaborate on urgent action to combat cybercrime.

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