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Leaders Call for Greater Cooperation in South and Southeast Asia

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The prime minister of Bangladesh and the deputy prime minister of Singapore both called for improved regional cooperation in South Asia and Southeast Asia during the closing session of the India Economic Summit 2019 this afternoon.

“We have always thought about this because of our geographical situation” in the middle of an East-West axis connecting the regions, said Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Initiatives might eventually include a trans-Asian highway and railway, she suggested. “Now I give more importance to connectivity with Southeast Asia.”

As evidence of her country’s commitment to regional integration, the prime minister called attention to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM), the multilateral trade and investment organization. Bilateral initiatives include cooperation on water and energy initiatives with India. While accepting large numbers of refugees from Myanmar, Bangladesh continues to work with the leaders of that nation on a wide range of issues.

Hasina expressed her desire for “shared prosperity,” a concept echoed verbatim by Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Singapore. “We need to create a framework for cooperation,” said the Singaporean official. He believes that South Asia-Southeast Asia can become a “great area” for the development of cutting-edge technology. Extending beyond digital technology and artificial intelligence, this should include research and development into new agricultural techniques, he added.

Meeting outcomes:

Reflecting on the challenges and opportunities of the region, the meeting produced numerous notable outcomes:

Drones will soon deliver life-saving medical supplies and vaccines to rural communities in Telangana. The government will begin a drone delivery programme built on a World Economic Forum and Apollo Hospital Group framework.

Clean fuel will fly 1 million airline passengers between Delhi and Mumbai by 2030 thanks to SpiceJet and a coalition of aviation partners. They’ve joined the World Economic Forum’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow Project, promoting the use of biofuels and blended fuels through public-private partnership.

People in Punjab will soon be driving down a 100km electric vehicle corridor, which is part of a sustainable pilot project with the World Economic Forum’s Moving India initiative. This is one example of how India is accelerating the adoption of electric mobility nationwide.

Smart cities are no longer a thing of science fiction, but how we collect and use citizens’ data responsibly and sustainably is the next big hurdle. To help tackle this, the Smart Cities Mission India joined the G20 Smart City Alliance, chaired by the World Economic Forum, to establish universal norms and guidelines for safe and responsible implementation of smart city technology.

To support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative ending open defecation, the Forum’s Young Global Leaders community will mobilize more than $3.5 million in resources to finance the urban sanitation ecosystem in 10 Indian cities, in collaboration with Population Services International (PSI) and the Forum’s Global Shapers. Their #AfterTheFlush initiative promotes a healthy and sustainable urban sanitation system.

Doubling farmers’ incomes and transforming the agriculture sector is one step closer to becoming a reality. More than 70 global and regional leaders committed to support investments in integrated food value chains throughout the country. This partnership will build on the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture partnership, which has supported 600,000 farmers.

India’s leading energy companies and the Ministry for Petroleum and Natural Gas will partner with the Forum and other public-sector groups to improve the quality of urban services and create more economic opportunities.

The summit succeeded in bringing many innovative ideas to the fore. To ensure these and other initiatives progress, the World Economic Forum launched a high-level Regional Stewardship Board for South Asia. It has a one-year mandate to shape and develop the Forum’s work in the region. High-level representatives from Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka will focus on shared regional challenges, including closing the skills gap, sustainable production and trade facilitation.

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Development

Climate Finance: Climate Actions at Center of Development and Recovery

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) called access to climate finance a key priority for Asia and the Pacific as governments design and implement a green and resilient recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Speaking at the United Kingdom Climate and Development Ministerial—one of the premier events leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November—ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said expanding access to finance is critical if developing economies in Asia and the Pacific are to meet their Paris Agreement goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.

“We can no longer take a business-as-usual approach to climate change. We need to put ambitious climate actions at the center of development,” Mr. Asakawa said. “ADB is committed to supporting its developing member countries through finance, knowledge, and collaboration with other development partners, as they scale up climate actions and push for an ambitious outcome at COP 26 and beyond.”

ADB is using a three-pronged strategy to expand access to finance for its developing members as they step up their response to the impacts of climate change.

First, ADB has an ambitious corporate target to ensure 75% of the total number of its committed operations support climate change mitigation and adaptation by the end of the decade, with climate finance from ADB’s own resources to reach $80 billion cumulatively between 2019 and 2030. ADB has also adopted explicit climate targets under its Asian Development Fund (ADF), which provides grant financing to its poorest members. ADF 13, which covers the period of 2021–2024, will support climate mitigation and adaption in 35% of its operations by volume and 65% of its total number of projects by 2024.

Second, ADB is enhancing support for adaptation and resilience that goes beyond climate proofing physical infrastructure to promote strong integration of ecological, social, institutional, and financial aspects of resilience into ADB’s investments.

Third, ADB is increasing its focus on supporting the poorest and most vulnerable communities in its developing member countries by working with the United Kingdom, the Nordic Development Fund, and the Green Climate Fund on a community resilience program to scale up the quantity and quality of climate adaptation finance in support of local climate adaptation actions.

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Human Rights

Migrants left stranded and without assistance by COVID-19 lockdowns

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At least 30,000 migrants are stranded at borders in West Africa according to the UN. IOM/Monica Chiriac

Travel restrictions during the COVID pandemic have been particularly hard on refugees and migrants who move out of necessity, stranding millions from home, the UN migration agency, IOM, said on Thursday. 

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the first year of the pandemic saw more than 111,000 travel restrictions and border closures around the world at their peak in December.  

These measures “have thwarted many people’s ability to pursue migration as a tool to escape conflict, economic collapse, environmental disaster and other crises”, IOM maintained. 

In mid-July, nearly three million people were stranded, sometimes without access to consular assistance, nor the means to meet their basic needs.  

In Panama, the UN agency said that thousands were cut off in the jungle while attempting to travel north to the United States; in Lebanon, migrant workers were affected significantly by the August 2020 explosion in Beirut and the subsequent surge of COVID-19 cases. 

Business as usual 

Border closures also prevented displaced people from seeking refuge, IOM maintained, but not business travellers, who “have continued to move fairly freely”, including through agreed ‘green lanes’, such as the one between Singapore and Malaysia.  

By contrast, those who moved out of necessity – such as migrant workers and refugees – have had to absorb expensive quarantine and self-isolation costs, IOM said, noting that in the first half of 2020, asylum applications fell by one-third, compared to the same period a year earlier.  

Unequal restrictions 

As the COVID crisis continues, this distinction between those who can move and those who cannot, will likely become even more pronounced, IOM said, “between those with the resources and opportunities to move freely, and those whose movement is severely restricted by COVID-19-related or pre-existing travel and visa restrictions and limited resources”. 

This inequality is even more likely if travel is allowed for anyone who has been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19, or for those with access to digital health records – an impossibility for many migrants. 

Health risks 

Frontier lockdowns also reduced options for those living in overcrowded camps with high coronavirus infection rates in Bangladesh and Greece, IOM’s report indicated.  

In South America, meanwhile, many displaced Venezuelans in Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Brazil, lost their livelihoods and some have sought to return home – including by enlisting the services of smugglers. 

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Tech News

Deloitte Introduces ReadyAI™ Artificial Intelligence-as-a-Service Solution

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Deloitte introduced ReadyAI, a full portfolio of capabilities and services to help organizations accelerate and scale their artificial intelligence (AI) projects. ReadyAI brings together skilled AI specialists and managed services in a flexible AI-as-a-service model designed to help clients scale AI throughout their organizations.

The AI market is expected to exceed $191 billion by 2024, growing at 37% compound annual growth rate. As organizations accelerate their adoption of AI, many struggle with challenges such as limited access to specialized talent, slow development cycles, and the resources to continuously maintain AI models. Creating and sustaining AI models at scale typically requires people with capabilities across data science, IT operations and user experience (UX) who work seamlessly towards a common goal. With Deloitte’s ReadyAI, organizations now have access to the services, technology and expertise they need to accelerate their AI journey.

ReadyAI offers comprehensive service capabilities including:

Data preparation: Provide data extraction, wrangling and standardization services. Also supports advanced analytical model development through feature engineering.

Insights and visualization: Design and generate reports and visual dashboards utilizing data output from automations to improve business outcomes and automation performance.

Advanced analytics: Data analysis for both structured and unstructured data. Creation of rule-based bots and insights-as-a-service.

Machine learning and deep learning: ML and deep learning model development. Video and text analytics to assist conversational AI.

Machine learning deployment: Create deployment architecture and pipelines for upstream and downstream integration of ML models.

Model management and MLOps: Management of model performance, migration and maintenance. Automation of model monitoring process and overall DevOps for machine learning.

Deloitte’s recent “State of AI in the Enterprise” third edition study of enterprise AI adopters found that less than half of adopters believe they have a high level of skill around integrating AI technology into their existing IT environment. With a talent pool of more than 3,100 AI professionals, Deloitte can assemble teams that have the right combination of industry, domain and AI technology skills to best suit clients’ needs. These experts include cloud engineers, data scientists, data architects, technology and application engineers, business and domain specialists, and visualization and design specialists. By leveraging the right combination of skills, organizations can quickly accelerate their AI journey.

ReadyAI teams operate as an extension of clients’ teams often for engagements of six months or more. Services are available as a flexible, subscription model, allowing clients to scale resources and capabilities up or down based on business needs and priorities. Learn more about ReadyAI.

Gartner, the world’s leading information technology and advisory company, named Deloitte a Leader for the seventh time in a row in its February 2021 report titled, “Magic Quadrant for Data and Analytics Service Providers.”

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