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We need to lead technology, not let technology lead us

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Industry experts, policymakers, and representatives from the ICT sector, international organizations and academia, have come together to discuss the role of frontier technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things, in combating climate change and achieving a circular economy.

The 13th Symposium on ICT, Environment and Climate Change was co-organized by a number of UN agencies, including the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and was hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) at their Geneva headquarters.

The potential of frontier technologies to help to lower carbon emissions, boost climate resilience and support the transition to a circular economy represents a significant opportunity for stakeholders to progress with the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure.

The event was opened by ITU’s Deputy Secretary-General, Malcolm Johnson, who emphasized the importance of the three C’s – collaboration, cooperation and coordination. “We need innovative solutions to the way we produce goods and services,” he affirmed in his opening remarks.

The importance of partnerships was prominent throughout the day’s discussions, during which participants learnt about how frontier technologies are helping to boost climate actions, from satellite data to support farmers with harvesting to tropical weather forecasts. 

The need for bold leadership, and “a strong vision and guts to execute the plan” was highlighted by Piyush Verma, Senior Energy Market Analyst at the International Energy Research Centre. Participants were united in the belief that “we need to lead technology, not let technology lead us.” This notion was echoed throughout the three sessions with Ericsson’s Master Researcher, Pernilla Bergmark, affirming that ICT could be an “enabler of exponential climate action”.

The role of data in combating climate change and achieving a circular economy was also discussed, with numerous examples given of ways in which Big Data and augmented realities are being used to power decisions to improve the lives of people across the world from Dubai to Norway. In a pilot project in the Norwegian town of Ålesund, traffic data has been used to help to halve emergency service response times, while in Dubai the implementation of circular ICT services and infrastructure has resulted in significant economic savings for over 50 entities.

During the final session on the “Impacts of E-waste on Climate Change and Moving to a Circular Economy”, experts provided updates on various international efforts to improve e-waste management. This included an overview of the international standards developed by ITU-T Study Group 5: “Environment, Climate Change and Circular Economy”, and an update on the UNIDO GEF Project that assists 13 countries in Latin America both technically and financially, advising on e-waste policies and regulations, suitable management technologies, business models, capacity building and awareness-raising, in collaboration with ITU and other UN agencies.

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EU’s satellite navigation system Galileo reaches 1 billion smartphone users

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Tomorrow, Galileo, Europe’s satellite navigation system, will reach 1 billion smartphone users worldwide. This milestone coincides with the 15th anniversary of the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), the Commission’s key partner in operating Galileo.

Ahead of a special event at the GSA’s headquarters in Prague, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “Galileo is now providing high quality timing and navigation services to 1 billion smartphone users globally. This has been made possible by a truly European effort to build the most accurate navigation system in the world, with the support and dedication of the GSA. I am confident that our space industry will continue to thrive with more work, ideas and investment under the new EU Space Programme.”

Since December 2016, Galileo provides so-called “initial services” which already improve everyday life for citizens and businesses with accurate positioning, navigation and timing signals.

Today 95% of companies that produce smartphone chips for satellite navigation make chips that enable Galileo. The ‘1 billion users’ milestone is based on the number of smartphones using Galileo sold across the world. The actual number of Galileo users is larger. In Europe, all new car models approved for the market are equipped with the eCall system, which uses Galileo to communicate the vehicle’s location to emergency services. Since this year, Galileo is integrated  in  the digital  tachographs  of  lorries – a speed and distance recording device – to  ensure  the  respect of driving time rules and improve road safety.

Galileo has also been providing crucial Search and Rescue (SAR) Service, reducing the time it takes to detect a person equipped with adistress beacon to less than 10 minutes at sea, in mountains or deserts. With Galileo, the accuracy of localisation has improved from 10 km to less than 2 km.In the future, the system will also confirm to the person that help is on the way.

Finally, Galileo supports public authorities with its Public Regulated Service, for sensitive security use. It offers a robust and fully encrypted service for government users during national emergencies or crisis, such as terrorist attacks, to ensure continuity of services.

The European space industry, the second largest in value in the world, is strong and competitive. To help maintain and further enhance the EU’s leadership in space, the Commission has proposed a €16 billion Space Programme for the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027.

BACKGROUND

Galileo is the EU’s own global satellite navigation system. It is a civilian system under civilian control, which provides accurate positioning and timing information. Galileo aims to ensure Europe’s independence from other satellite navigation systems and its strategic autonomy in satellite navigation. Europe’s autonomy in this sector will boost the European job market, help the EU step up its role as a security and defence provider, and support emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, drones, automated mobility and the Internet of the Things.

Galileo provides ‘initial services’ since December 2016. During this initial ‘pilot’ phase preceding the ‘full operational services’ phase, Galileo signals are used in combination with other satellite navigation systems. In the full operational phase, users will be able to use Galileo signals independently of other satellite navigation systems.  

Other EU space activities include Copernicus (free and open Earth observation data of land, atmosphere, sea, climate change and for emergency management and security), EGNOS (regional satellite navigation system) and Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST). 

The new Space Programme will bring all existing and new EU space activities under the umbrella of a single programme. It will maintain existing infrastructure and services and introduce a number of new features to foster a strong and innovative space industry and preserve the EU’s autonomous, reliable and cost-effective access to space.

The new programme also introduces a unified and simplified system of governance. The EU will ensure that the increase in financial investment is supported by efficient decision-making so that all EU space activities are rolled out on time and on budget. The Commission will continue to be responsible for managing the overall programme. The intergovernmental European Space Agency (ESA), given its unmatched expertise, will remain a major partner in the deployment of the system and in the technical support to the operational tasks of the EU space programme. The GSA, to be renamed the ‘EU Agency for the Space Programme’, will increasingly support the operation and market uptake of EU space activities and play an increased role in ensuring the security of all the components of the programme.

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More Drones in the Sky and More Benefits on the Ground

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The World Bank, World Economic Forum and the Government of Rwanda with support from UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) have come together to announce the African Drone Forum: Symposium, Expo and Flying Competitions, an international drone and unmanned traffic management event, which will be hosted in Rwanda in February 2020. The event will include a regulatory summit that brings together leading figures in drone technology from the private sector and airspace regulators to highlight and discuss what is possible for the future of drones in Africa.

Africa is already a leader in the drone revolution with the first national scale deployments of drone delivery in countries such as Rwanda and Ghana and smaller scale tests in Malawi and Zambia. Africa also faces unique challenges that drones can help address, such as limited ground infrastructure, reflecting the fact that just one-third of Africans live within 2km of an all-weather road, and that there is a more than $50 billion investment gap in infrastructure throughout the continent. The African Union highlighted drones as a priority technology for the continent in 2018. Many African countries, however, don’t allow for robust drone use, in some cases barring most civilian groups’ access to airspace.

“Increasing drone use in Africa does not only bring great benefits to business, agriculture and the health sector but quite literally save lives by taking deliveries off the roads and into the sky,” said Timothy Reuter, Head of Aerospace and Drones at the World Economic Forum, “To unleash this potential, new policies need to be put in place that safely open the skies to drones as most African countries do not yet permit the most beneficial applications.”

“The African Drone Forum will open and test the minds of engineers, regulators, entrepreneurs and investors. The flying competitions will promote new industries and services, harness data for delivery and resilience, create activity hubs and opportunities to leapfrog technologies, and develop skill sets for 21st century jobs in the region and beyond,” said Riccardo Puliti, Global Director, Energy and Extractive Industries and Regional Director, Africa, Infrastructure at the World Bank. “This will promote the skies above Africa as a valuable resource and technologies to help build sustainable infrastructure.”

Rwanda’s groundbreaking use of medical delivery drones supported by an open regulatory approach, developed with support from the World Economic Forum, has shown exactly what a forward-thinking government can accomplish. Rwanda was selected as host for the event because it is currently one of the only countries that has policies in place that allow for the types of applications being demonstrated in the competition. By hosting the African Drone Forum in Rwanda in February 2020, the World Bank, World Economic Forum and the Government of Rwanda hope to highlight the benefits Rwanda has created by expanding drone use in the country while encouraging other countries in the region to take a similar approach.

“We are excited to host the Africa Drone Forum, a platform that will bring together policy makers, drones enthusiasts, experts and industry leaders to explore potential use case applications for UAV technology on the African continent.” says Honourable Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, Rwanda. “It’s an opportunity for Rwanda to share our experience in pioneering the use of Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) UAV operations, and our development of drone regulations.”

In this year’s flying competitions, global experts will invite companies that are leading the way in drone technology to compete. During the challenge, the World Economic Forum will curate discussions with regulators throughout Africa on how to create policies that enable the safe deployment of drone technologies in their own countries.

This year’s competitions are also supported by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the Republic of Korea and a number of development partners.

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ADB Launches New Partnerships to Support Innovative Solutions

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will partner with three winning teams from a hackathon hosted by ADB in partnership with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) from 31 August to 2 September.

ADB and AIM held the competition as part of Digital Week 2019 taking place from 2 to 5 September. More than 700 youth and startups from around the world presented innovative solutions to three challenges. ADB and AIM defined the three challenges based on current organizational and development needs. 

The winning teams are “Eskwelabs” from the Philippines and “Gnowbe” from Singapore for the “Building the Digital Skills of Employees” category; “FlexM” from Singapore for the “Developing Digital Payment Solutions” category; and “Agua Wireless Systems” from India for the “Future Proofing for the Water Crisis” category. The solutions leveraged emerging technologies such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, and digital payments.  

ADB has also entered into non-exclusive cooperation arrangements with Microsoft Operations Pte Ltd. and Oracle Corporation Singapore Pte Ltd. to collaborate on the adoption and use of emerging technologies in ADB’s work. Under the cooperation arrangements, ADB and the companies will exchange information on emerging technologies, train people to apply these technologies, and organize joint events and meetings. Both companies will also provide advisory and knowledge support for ADB’s digital transformation.  

“ADB recognizes that partnerships with top IT companies as well as small startups will help support our digital innovation program through knowledge exchange, capacity building, and co-creation of digital solutions designed for ADB’s business needs,” said ADB Vice-President for Administration and Corporate Management Ms. Deborah Stokes.

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