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How can digital technology support gender equality in the MENA Region?

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photo: UNIDO

In line with the European Development Days 2019’s overarching title ‘Addressing inequalities: building a world which leaves no one behind’, UNIDO organized a LAB Debate on 19th of June on “How can digital technology support gender equality in the MENA region?”, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Women.  Tackling gender inequality is an intricate and lengthy process, but digital technology can help fast-track progress. Digital transformation gives women the possibility to access finance, integrate into national and even regional and global value chains, as well as access knowledge. Although bridging the digital gender divide cannot solve all the challenges that women in the MENA region face, it carries significant potential towards gender equality.

“Now is the time to upgrade the engagement model and move from enablement to the power of role models to unlock the full potential of the talented women of the MENA region”, said Ms. Liat Shentser, Director of Systems Engineering Sales at Cisco Systems International.

Moderated by Ms. Monica Carcò, Chief, Rural Entrepreneurship, Job Creation and Human Security Division, the session discussed and showcased i) how can policy and regulation best optimize incentives for market players to innovate, compete and invest along gender-sensitive technologies in the MENA, ii) the role of ICTs in facilitating women integration in value chains and iii) the type of partnerships that have proven effective in engaging women both as consumers and producers of digital technologies. Ms. Carcò said, “To support women-led businesses in taking full advantage of ICT, well-informed programs and policies addressing their specific challenges and needs are a prerequisite. To this end, UNIDO is soon to launch a survey on women entrepreneurs’ access to and use of ICT and digital technology in the MENA region.”

The insightful panel discussions resulted with numerous recommendations, including the necessity for well-informed policies, data collection and monitoring of created impact. Equally important,  making women part of the decision making process, having more investments in technologies that are targeting women, and promoting women role models, particularly those in middle to top management positions, will  play a significant role in limiting the gender-blind approach in innovation.  Finally, designing and building up impact-driven public private partnerships remain a key enabling modality to deliver concrete results.

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Creating a common approach to the digital economy and Industry 4.0

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Photo credits: The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO)

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) participated in a forum of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) to discuss how international organizations can promote the development of the ICT infrastructure and new technologies in order to realize digital economies.

Mr. Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, UNIDO’s Director of the Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation, highlighted UNIDO’s role and functions in leveraging the potential of Industry 4.0 to meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Technical cooperation, developing new norms and standards, and the convening of stakeholders and partnerships to share best practices are ways of enabling this.

“Industry 4.0 is going to bring about far reaching changes and governments must implement best practices to address these important challenges.”

More than a dozen international bodies took part in the forum, including the African Union, ASEAN, the OECD and the World Economic Forum, who all agreed that public-private partnerships are key to combat the existing digital divide, both in terms of infrastructure and technical solutions, which include building capacities and using innovation in ICT.

The International Telecommunication Union further highlighted the need to support the development of and harmonization of international standards, which survey the readiness of enterprises for Industry 4.0.

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APEC Strengthens Trust with Data Protection System

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Data protection in the Asia-Pacific region has just received a significant boost with the appointment of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) by Singapore as its accountability agent. Singapore joined the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system in March last year and has become the third economy after the United States and Japan to operationalize the system.

Adopted in 2011 and endorsed by the 21 APEC Leaders, the CBPR system allows participating businesses and other organizations to develop their own internal rules and policies consistent with the specific CBPR program requirements upon which the certification is based in order to secure cross-border data privacy.

As accountability agents, IMDA will ensure the privacy policies and practices of participating organizations comply with the APEC CBPR and Privacy Recognition for Processors (PRP) through independent third party assessments before certifying them.

“The appointment of the IMDA by Singapore as the new accountability agent of the CBPR system shows the deep commitment from members to pursue a better data protection mechanism that does not hinder innovation and development,” said Shannon Coe, Chair of the APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group.

Data protection is an urgent issue for businesses in the region, which is home to 45 per cent of the world’s internet users—about 1.99 billion people. People and businesses are connected globally, with more and more data flowing across borders.

“Trust is key to the growth and development of the digital economy,” added Coe. ”A strong data protection system is beneficial for both businesses and consumers and furthers participation in the digital economy.”

The approval of the IMDA as an accountability agent in Singapore was reached by the Joint Oversight Panel of the APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group, which administers the APEC CBPR system. IMDA will join other accountability agents such as Schellman & Company, TrustArc in the United States and the Japan Institute for Promotion of Digital Economy and Community (JIPDEC) in Japan.

“In APEC, we are working to include more people to participate in the economy through digital trade and related processes. We can achieve this by ensuring that we have the right system in place to protect consumers’ data. This builds not only trust, but confidence for both consumers and the businesses,” said APEC Secretariat Executive Director, Dr Rebecca Sta Maria.

There are currently eight participating APEC economies in the CBPR system, including Australia, Canada, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Chinese Taipei and the United States.

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GDPR shows results, but work needs to continue

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Just over one year after the entry into application of the General Data Protection Regulation, the European Commission has published today a report looking at the impact of the EU data protection rules, and how implementation can be improved further. The report concludes that most Member States have set up the necessary legal framework, and that the new system strengthening the enforcement of the data protection rules is falling into place. Businesses are developing a compliance culture, while citizens are becoming more aware of their rights. At the same time, convergence towards high data protection standards is progressing at international level.

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, said: “The European Union strives to stay at the forefront of the protection of personal rights in the digital transformation while seizing the many opportunities it offers for jobs and innovation. Data is becoming an invaluable element for a booming digital economy and is playing an increasingly vital role in developing innovative systems and machine learning. It is essential for us to shape the global field for the development of the technological revolution and for its proper use in full respect of individual rights.

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “The General Data Protection Regulation is bearing fruit. It equips Europeans with strong tools to address the challenges of digitalisation and puts them in control of their personal data. It gives businesses opportunities to make the most of the digital revolution, while ensuring people’s trust in it. Beyond Europe, it opens up possibilities for digital diplomacy to promote data flows based on high standards between countries that share EU values. But work needs to continue for the new data protection regime to become fully operational and effective.”

The GDPR has made EU citizens increasingly aware of data protection rules and of their rights, as indicated by a Eurobarometer survey published in May 2019. However, only 20% of Europeans know which public authority is responsible for protecting their data. This is why the European Commission has launched this summer a new campaign to encourage Europeans to read privacy statements and to optimise their privacy settings.

While the new data protection rules have achieved many of their objectives, the Commission’s communication also sets out concrete steps to further strengthen these rules and their application:

One continent, one law: Today, all but three Member States – Greece, Portugal and Slovenia – have updated their national data protection laws in line with EU rules. The Commission will continue to monitor Member State laws to ensure that when they specify the GDPR in national laws, it remains in line with the Regulation and that their national laws are not a gold-plating exercise. If needed, the Commission will not hesitate to use the tools at its disposal, including infringements, to make sure Member States correctly transpose and apply the rules.

Businesses are adapting their practices: Compliance with the Regulation has helped companies increase the security of their data and develop privacy as a competitive advantage. The Commission will support the GDPR toolbox for businesses to facilitate compliance, such as standard contractual clauses, codes of conduct and new certification mechanism. In addition, the Commission will continue supporting SMEs in applying the rules.

Stronger role of data protection authorities: The Regulation has given national data protection authorities more powers to enforce the rules. During the first year, national data protection authorities have made use of these new powers effectively when necessary. Data protection authorities are also cooperating more closely within the European Data Protection Board. By the end of June 2019, the cooperation mechanism had managed 516 cross-border cases. The Board should step up its leadership and continue building an EU-wide data protection culture. The Commission also encourages national data protection authorities to pool their efforts for instance by conducting joint investigations. The European Commission will continue to fund national data protection authorities in their efforts to reach out to stakeholders.

EU rules as reference for stronger data protection standards across the globe: As more and more countries across the world equip themselves with modern data protection rules, they use the EU data protection standard as a reference point. This upwards convergence is opening up new opportunities for safe data flows between the EU and third countries. The Commission will further intensify its dialogues on adequacy, including in the area of law enforcement. In particular, it aims at concluding the ongoing negotiations with the Republic of Korea in the coming months. Beyond adequacy, the Commission aims to explore the possibility to build multilateral frameworks to exchange data with trust.

Next steps

In line with the General Data Protection Regulation, the Commission will report on its implementation in 2020 to assess the progress made after two years of application including on the review of the 11 adequacy decisions adopted under the 1995 Directive.

Background

The General Data Protection Regulation is a single set of rules with a common EU approach to the protection of personal data, directly applicable in the member States. It reinforces trust by putting individuals back in control of their personal data and at the same time guarantees the free flow of personal data between EU Member States. The protection of personal data is a fundamental right in the European Union.

The GDPR has been applicable since 25 May 2018. Since then, nearly all Member States have adapted their national laws in the light of GDPR. The national Data Protection Authorities are in charge of enforcing the new rules and are better coordinating their actions through new cooperation mechanisms and the European Data Protection Board. They are issuing guidelines on key aspects of the GDPR to support the implementation of the new rules.

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