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ADB Supports Digital Technologies for Innovative Development Solutions

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is helping countries in Asia and the Pacific leverage digital technologies for development, while implementing digital reforms within its own institution, said ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao during a 2-day forum being held at ADB headquarters.

The Digital Development Forum 2018 provides a venue for high-level discussions on the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for development in region. During the forum, leading technology experts will give presentations and workshops to more than 300 participants from development institutions, government agencies, academe, and the private sector, as well as to ADB staff.

“The world is again in a time of immense change being brought about by the 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Mr. Nakao in his opening remarks at the forum. “With appropriate policies, the developing countries of Asia and the Pacific stand to benefit tremendously in this new era. I see great opportunities, as well as challenges.”

Digital technology is rapidly developing in diverse fields. New tools like mobile communications, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) are bringing profound changes to the way people live, work, interact, and do business. To help countries leverage digital technologies for development, ADB created the Digital Technology for Development Unit in March 2018. It is also implementing new digital reforms that focus on innovation and support dramatic modernization of business processes.

ADB has actively started to promote digital technologies in its operations. In education, computer-based adaptive learning and remote technologies will enhance learning outcomes in schools. Telemedicine, AI, and the use of big data will have great potential to improve health services. Fintech will help the poor to access financial services.

Over the last 8 years, ADB has approved 450 projects that have ICT components. Moving forward, ADB will deliver integrated solutions in the areas of “smart cities,” “e-government,” and “e-commerce.”

In addition to the use of digital technologies in its operations, ADB is helping build an enabling environment for countries to better use digital technologies. This includes (1) reliable ICT infrastructure, (2) skilled human resources, and (3) enabling policies and regulatory environments.

To help build ICT infrastructure, ADB, for instance, is financing a submarine cable system between Palau and Guam to provide affordable broadband internet to Palau. To build skilled human resources, ADB supported the technical and vocational training system in Sri Lanka to provide better job opportunities for graduates with high ICT skills.  And, as part of its efforts to support enabling policies and regulatory environments for digital technologies, ADB’s new country partnership strategy in the Kyrgyz Republic will support the national initiative on digital transformation.

Turning to ADB’s own digital reforms, Mr. Nakao said that new digital technologies will strengthen ADB’s operations, financial services, administration, and knowledge services in line with its new long-term Strategy 2030. He emphasized that the willingness of staff to embrace change was key for the reforms’ success.

During the Digital Development Forum, ADB will sign a cooperation agreement with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) to collaborate on research and development of innovation programs and activities, and capacity building and the promotion of innovation programs at both institutions.

As a pre-event, the two institutions held the ADB–AIM Hackathon 2018, where youth and start-ups from around the world presented innovative solutions to various development challenges. Click here to see the list of teams that won the competition as they provided solutions for Know Your Customer, Health Solutions for Rural Health, and Digital IDs.

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EU plans to invest €9.2 billion in key digital technologies

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The Digital Europe Programme is a new €9.2 billion funding programme whose goal is to ensure that all Europeans have the skills and the infrastructure needed to meet a full range of digital challenges.

It is part of a strategy to further develop the digital single market, which could help to create four million jobs and boost the EU’s economy with €415 billion every year while increasing the EU’s international competitiveness.

“For too many years, Europe’s tech sector has lagged behind third countries such as the US and China. We need a coherent Union-wide approach and an ambitious investment to secure a solution to the chronic mismatch between the growing demand for the latest technology and the available supply in Europe,” said Austrian ALDE member Angelika Mlinar, one of the MEPs repsonsible for steering the plans through Parliament.

A part of the budget  would be allocated to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises and public administrations to use technology more often and better, while other parts will cover strategically important fields such as supercomputers, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

“We can count on European excellence when it comes to research and innovation, but our businesses, especially SMEs, still found it difficult to access and take advantage of new solutions,” said Milnar. “This programme has been crucially designed to tackle the low take-up of existing testing technologies. We are on track to deliver one of the most promising and necessary funds for Europe’s future.”

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UNIDO and Iran to develop ICT value chain

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The Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), LI Yong, today met with Javad Azari Jahromi, Minister of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who announced a self-funded project to be implemented by UNIDO within the framework of its 2017-2021 Country Programme.

The US$1 million project will seek to boost the Iranian ICT value chain with the aim of creating local employment opportunities as well as to promote the regional economic integration of Iranian start-ups and SMEs. The project was designed to support the country’s sixth 5-year development programme that places a strategic focus on ICT.

“The partnership between Iran and UNIDO builds on the Organization’s track record in boosting the performance of private sector producers through the promotion of industrial linkages and diversification, including by creating a favourable investment climate and a conducive environment for start-ups and fast-growing organizations,” said Director General LI Yong.

Minister Azari Jahromi added: “Taking into account the rapid progress achieved by the Islamic Republic of Iran in different aspects of ICT during the recent years as well as swelling number of very talented and well-educated specialized Iranian young generation in this field, it is due time to boost our regional cooperation with neighbouring countries. To that end, we intend to develop an effective partnership with UNIDO as the UN agency with the primary mandate to enhance industrial development. I trust that UNIDO’s vast technical expertise and capacities and policy advisory services will ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the aforementioned programme, which at the end will be beneficial for our whole region.”

The current UNIDO-Iran Country Programme covers a range of cooperation areas to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development in the country, including business development and sustainable job creation, the integration of local industries in global production networks and investment promotion, the development of agricultural and industrial value chains and support to meeting commitments under the Montreal Protocol as well as other international agreements for safeguarding the environment.

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Harnessing the potential of Industry 4.0 tech to improve e-commerce

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photo: UNIDO

“Cutting-edge technologies and institutions can empower manufacturers to customize their products and services to their customers’ needs; as ‘smart’ ecosystems are being established, e-commerce connects smart factories with smart societies,” said Frank van Rompaey, Representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Geneva, at a thematic session on “Industry 4.0 and E-commerce” held during UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week 2019.

Organized by UNIDO, the thematic session explored how Industry 4.0 can enhance e-commerce services and benefits. The panelists touched upon the potential economic and social transformations arising from the Fourth Industrial Revolution; identified applications of Industry 4.0 technologies in e-commerce; and shared best practices, experiences and solutions to enhance consumer experience when engaging with e-commerce.

“E-commerce will be a key driver for both the Fourth Industrial Revolution and seizing the opportunities of the African Free Trade Area,” said Alastair Tempest, CEO at Ecommerce Forum Africa. “The union of e-commerce with Industry 4.0 technologies can address the logistical flow of goods in Africa, promote financial technology solutions, enhance customer service and facilitate the growth of digital businesses.”

Taking the example of Brazil, the CEO of ENEXT Gabriel Lima, said: “Only 2 per cent of Brazil’s industrial sector is prepared for Industry 4.0, but this sector is gaining traction,” pointing to the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the iFood platform to provide customers with customized restaurant recommendations and increase the efficiency of order approvals. “E-commerce is asset light and cheap, and therefore a very good starting point to drive Industry 4.0 development in Brazil as well as globally,” added Lima.

Speaking from a consumer’s perspective, Julien Grollier from CUTS International discussed the risks brought by the Internet of Things for consumers related to personal data protection, digital rights management, competition effects, and liability and responsibility chains. “Consumers must play an active role in policy dialogue formulation, increase awareness of their rights; improve their digital literacy,” said Grollier.

Experiences and lessons learned from the private sector relevant to standardization, digital manufacturing, transparent logistics and information interconnection were also discussed during the session.

The Vice President of Sinopec Europa GmbH, Suoyu Zhang, presented the example of China: “Early adoption of e-commerce has now resulted in inclusive development in most sectors within the country. E-commerce has supported the digitization of enterprises and consumers and led to the implementation of efficient and effective digital supply chains.”

Under the theme “From Digitalization to Development”, UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week emphasized the necessity to break down silos among institutions, government representatives and policy makers for an effective contribution of e-commerce towards sustainable development.

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