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New Social Compact

E-resilience readiness for an inclusive digital society by 2030

Photo: United Nations/Chetan Soni

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The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the link between digitalization and development, both by showing the potential of digital solutions and by laying bare the significant digital divides that still exist. Digital transformation means the new development paradigm change and its process of the whole social fabric of value creation, management, use, and distribution by using disruptive technologies including AI, digital data, connectivity, and network. E-government, platform enterprises, payments via the cloud, streaming entertainment, and social networks are some examples.

In this regard, the Fifth Session of the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway Steering Committee (AP-IS SC-5) adopted the AP-IS Action Plan 2022-2026 on 25 November 2021. The Action Plan consists of three main pillars with 25 actions centered on Connectivity for All; Digital Technologies and Applications, and Digital Data. One of the key focus areas under the pillar of Connectivity for All is e-resilience. It is identified as essential to accelerate digital transformation.  

E-resilience is essential for the operation of a digital economy and society in the long term.  The ability of a society to resist, accommodate, adapt to, and recover from the effects of shocks including disasters, in a timely and efficient manner can be measured through resilient ICT infrastructure. 

In this connection, ESCAP has developed a new ESCAP e-resilience monitoring dashboard, which combines all ICT indicators into four thematic pillars of assessment of e-resilience readiness, in the background of hazard and exposure scoring:  (i) ICT infrastructure as a physical basis, (ii) ICT policy in various sectors,  (iii) the role of ICT in data management, and (iv) the role of ICT in creating new systems and applications. The e-resilience dashboard offers visually appealing Internet speed maps for various economic groups as well as risk maps, ranked by the degree of risk for each country. For example,

E-resilience of ICT infrastructure scores low across several indicators. Internet penetration in Bangladesh and Afghanistan is at 15 and 14 per cent, respectively. Cross-sectoral coordination among government agencies and telecom operators is lacking and creates problems in these countries. Security challenges in Afghanistan pose considerable impediments to the laying of optical fiber cable networks. There is much room for improvement in Kyrgyzstan (38 per cent) and Mongolia (47 per cent), which could be attributed to the lower use of computers. Although, Kazakhstan, a landlocked developing country, demonstrated the highest level of internet penetration regionally (79 per cent), the structural and societal barriers reduce the affordability and access to broadband networks in rural areas and lower the e-resilience readiness of the country. 

ICT policy in different sectors in the least developed and landlocked developing countries does not provide a full picture of how to equip policymakers on disaster risk reduction measures.  Cybersecurity regulations and cross-sectoral deployment are lacking as well. DRR measures and e-resilience are weak in most least developed countries and landlocked developing countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, despite the efforts and investments made in ICT infrastructure improvement and enabling regulatory environment. 

The importance of partnerships and cooperation to continue e-resilience monitoring and actions includes highlighting the need to collect ICT data.  The e-resilience readiness metrics of ESCAP organize this data under four pillars to assess progress towards 2030 through digital foresight planning, considering the abilities to respond to hazards and exposure.

  • For example, in Japan, it was found that the earthquake and tsunami in the east in March 2011 destroyed more than 56,000 households. In this regard, the country has contributed to the relocation of power lines according to new requirements and has compelled all municipalities and prefectures to make plans to replace overhead cables with underground ones.
  • One illustrative example is the current developments in the policies of Bhutan, which is entering into a partnership with Skylink to ensure that the population has access to low-orbiting satellites, providing internet access to support the development of a third national language around coding and software programming language. Computer software, apps, and websites are created by the coding language.

The ICT technology should serve the economy, and, in turn, the digital economy must support the environment and society. The shared vision among businesses and the government in Thailand defines the digital economy as a transformative economy that maximizes digital technologies in all socio-economic activities. This understanding will influence infrastructure, innovation, data, human capital, and other digital resources.

In summary, e-resilience is an essential foundation for achieving an inclusive digital society based on strong partnerships and regional cooperation.  

UN ESCAP

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New Social Compact

To legalize or not to legalize?

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Prostitution is considered as one of the oldest professions, which always causes conflicting points of view. The sex industry tied to human trafficking, is a billion-dollar industry, second only to the illegal drugs empire. The European Union (EU), as well as many other international organizations, has had trouble in deciding collectively whether to legalize it or abolish it. The controversy behind legalizing prostitution relies mainly in its close link to human trafficking. The most common form of human trafficking within the European Union is for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In 2019, 60% of victims of human trafficking in the EU were trafficked for sexual exploitation. The number of prostitutes across the region ranges between 700,000 and 1.2 million. Thus, human trafficking for sexual exploitation, being one of the most serious security problems of the EU, is linked directly with the legalization of prostitution and the sex market, as a whole.

Prostitution is legal and regulated in Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Austria and many other countries of the European Union. In Germany alone, the industry is estimated to be worth $16.3 billion. However, it is naive to believe that the legalization of prostitution will automatically translate in bettering the economic, social, work and health conditions of those in the field. Nevertheless, this just creates a vicious cycle because the money they earn ends up in the hands of the brothel owners and procurers. In this type of business, no matter the conditions women are always seen as disposable products who are used and discarded, that is why it is inherently linked to male power and control. Under these circumstances, woman working in such atmosphere will always be in a much more vulnerable position. 

Furthermore, it is important to take into consideration that trafficking humans for sexual exploitation is clearly a gender-specific phenomenon that happens at the expenses of girls and women. Women are mainly the prostitutes and trafficking victims, while men tend to be the clients or procurers. Over the period 2017-2018, the percentage of women among the victims of trafficking was 92%. For that reason, prostitution cannot be untied from the jaws of human trafficking. Both consist in supplying and delegating women for the objective of male sexual pleasure through exploitation.

Since 2014, Article 2 and 3 of the European Union now mention gender equality and the respect for human dignity as some of their main values. Notwithstanding, having countries that benefit the most out of prostitution is a juxtaposition that still needs to be analyzed. The reality is that every woman faces systematic oppression and most do not enter prostitution because they want to but due to poverty and limited opportunities. The true question remains how much of an act of free will can prostitution be when you live within a system that sees your body as an object for sexual pleasure; this being more important than your human quality.

In legalizing prostitution, the security of sex workers has never been part of the debate, neither has their integral health. Likewise, looking out for prostitutes or fighting the system that perpetually offers the consumption of bodies has never been part of the agenda. The factors that influence the decision of politicians exhibits a strong male gaze of the issue. All politicians care about is the economic benefit and taking prostitution from the streets and into enclosed spaces so everything looks “cleaner”. Furthermore, when prostitution is legalized sex tourism increases and red light districts are institutionalized, which makes the situation altogether worse.  Pimps and traffickers are given a free pass to operate and even can hide their victims in plain sight.

In Europe, most sex workers come from other countries and do not have a legal immigration status, hence, if prostitution is legal or not, does not help at all. Another issue is that being a sex worker holds a lot of stigma within society. Illegality frames everything they do, leaving a space wide open for anything to happen to these women. Therefore, multiplying even more the level of vulnerability and causing for women prefer not being branded as sex workers or have it in official record. Thus, if prostitution is as innocent as any other business, as some politicians have declared, why is it so dangerous or why having it in your official record represents such a repercussion.

Overall, in the European Union, member states have a very lenient approach towards prostitution. Only three countries have a strict ban on sex work which criminalizes both buyers and sellers. The countries that possess such a neo-abolitionist approach are France, Sweden and Ireland. Prostitution can be a euphemism for human trafficking and with its legalization it tries to restrict it in accordance with rules imposed by the state, regardless, there is no way of guaranteeing it.  Thus, legalizing prostitution is not the right decision done by the governments, neither a way of taking care of prostitutes, rather is just a way of patching up the issue without going to the core.

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New Social Compact

Musings of a journalist – Part 3

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The entire idea of writing this is that as journalists we find ourselves finding and scratching other people’s truths. However, we often escape from our own. The idea of writing this is to come closer to my own truth and to stay connected with it.

Some good things have also happened since January. I believe I fell in love with someone for a while, fell out of love with them recently and am waiting to feel in love with them again. The strongest learning I’ve had about love is that it’s not permanent. It comes and goes in tides and we must persevere to know when the next tide will come. People who expect love to be permanent have either lost themselves in love or are blinded by it, both of which might lead to delusions. I think my style of loving is more like a realist who gives into delusions once in a while but gets back to reality. Might sound sad, but this is the sad reality of long relationships. People can fall out of love and fall in love with the same person at different points of time. Lovers just need to wait for the right timing. And don’t let this fool you – there might be no right timing for lovers, but that doesn’t mean that love does not exist between them. It simply means that the timing was, is and never will be right.

One more messed up thing about me is that there was once a time I had no friends and I wanted friends more than anything else. Now that I have friends, I think it feels like a burden to be responsible for people’s emotions. To build these connections and promises of a lifetime when I might not even be in the same country after 3 months. But does that matter? Some people might not be in this world after 3 months! Some people might be terminal. Should that stop us from connecting with them at a deeper level? Maybe some connections are deeper because we know they are short lived. Maybe some connections are not so deep because we know they ebb and flow like tides, with different intensity of feelings at different points in time. What is a good measure for judging connections? Depth or time? I think both measures fail. One of the mysteries of this world is how to judge the quality of a connection. I am yet to understand how.

Another realization I’ve had these past few months is that without love we are little. But without self respect we are nothing. Without alcohol, I do feel a sense of anxiety every once in a while. Coffee makes up for that. We move from one vice to the next. I also know that coffee is not the best for my health, but I still know it’s better than alcohol. A good sense of creating better addictions is something I’m trying to incorporate in my life.

Since the last few months, I have been afraid of death. And I have learned to overcome it. I’ve learned to live in the present moment. I’ve learned to live by projecting a future I want into this world. I’ve learned to trust myself and rebuild myself. And with this piece of writing. I’ve rebuilt a sense of trust and truth in myself.

In the last six months I was also selected for an apprentice hub where I was mentored for my NGO by Priyanka Jha, Miss International 2004 and Miss India top 5. I also had the privilege of being selected for the Global Governance Initiative and am impressed by my attendance and participation in the fellowship. I wrote a five thousand word thesis about the negative impact of social media as a part of the fellowship. I cannot imagine having written a five thousand word thesis ever before. Now I’ll be starting a course by MIT in May called MIT bootcamp. I’m building my start-up on the side and also working for my NGO – Coral Warriors. I’ve also been interviewed by some publications for my NGO and have been working on expanding the board of directors. I’ve tried to get an internship in consulting but have failed quite strongly till now. I might not have to continue failing if the opportunity arises. That’s the beautiful part about failing – we fail back to back and one day life surprises us. Some more things I really want to do is develop a sense of routine, build my sense of peace, go for treks, feel more connected with myself, not agree with people blindly to ensure a continued relationship with them and get more political like I was before. Perhaps while reflecting on the first six months (almost six months of 2022), I cannot help but reflect on what I want the next six months to look like.

I want them to be filled with a deep sense of purpose and belonging. I want to be humble. I want to feel more connected. I want to feel like I am creating a positive impact, like my life has meaning. I also want to work towards getting a Masters degree. Most of all, I wish to stay connected with my truth through all this. To not forget my past in a fury of this madness. To remember what pain feels like and live everyday with gratitude. Being a believer of manifestation, I want to manifest my goals and dreams for myself, but only those that bring me peace.

This is my truth and I am glad to be sharing it with you.

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New Social Compact

Musings of a journalist – Part 2

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The entire idea of writing this is that as journalists we find ourselves finding and scratching other people’s truths. However, we often escape from our own. The idea of writing this is to come closer to my own truth and to stay connected with it.

Since I’m writing this to come to terms with my own reality, it’s also a good idea to reflect on how I feel when people ask me – “How do you manage your time?” or “You are doing so much!” or “Your story is inspiring.” To be honest, people are saying this to me to encourage me and motivate me, but as someone who is used to doubting and second guessing myself, the only impact that words like this have on me in the short term is – IMPOSTER SYNDROME. I remember battling it at university where I felt like a constant imposter amidst people who were doing so much more than me. I know we must not compare ourselves to others but it’s a mistake of the past.

Today, I feel like an imposter where people feel like I am doing a lot and being a lot, when I don’t perceive myself to be doing anything at all! For someone who spends their day feeling like they’ve wasted their time, there’s a cognitive gap in their understanding that they might have actually done something productive. I struggle with feeling productive and feel like a fake version of myself on most days where people can’t see the real me. Most people might see a list of things I’ve done and imagine I’m being my best self when perhaps I’m not. Someone please tell me – What’s a good way to tell someone who pedestalizes me that I don’t deserve to be pedestalized? What’s a polite way to ask them to not look up to my achievements because I have none.

The last six months of my life have been hyper stressful. I got rejected from the IVY League university to which I had applied and life hasn’t been the same since. It’s taken a while for me to accept the fact that I might have made some decisions in the past, which are of course reversible in due course of time, but it will take time. However, on a positive note, I did not see myself here one year ago. I got into a university in the UK which is still over the caliber my grades represent. I have realized one thing about academia. There are no second chances, you need to start from scratch.

In the last six months, I also believe the usage of my social media has increased, thereby causing a decline in my overall wellness. Perhaps, my university roommate has been smart in deleting the app overall but I am aware she lapses every once in a while when she feels the urge to check the internet. But her lapses exist once in six months. And mine from social media would be like twelve hours. I want to be immune to social media and delete the apps eventually. But of course, Instagram is a tool for business and I do believe in my ability to monetize the application, perhaps like others who want to be influencers but have no future in the field. Ouch! But yes, honestly, either put yourself out there and start now or never.

Since January began, I have watched the entire Oscar nominations list, almost, barring five movies I’m going to have to pirate because selections on Netflix suck. Despite accomplishing my almost 52 movies/ series and 52 book goals (26 books by June and 26 more by December), despite being on track, I feel flung off. There is no sense of pleasure in doing it anymore. Why does someone even read 26 books in 6 months? Someone might read one book and derive enough information out of it which someone who reads 26 books might miss out on. I find the reading 52 books goal displeasurable right now. I don’t see the meaning in it except knowing that it creates a good sense of ego. Yay, I’m reading more than most people. Yay, I probably know more than them about this world and how it works. Or yay, I’m not as dumb as I thought three years ago.

Honestly, the first time I read 52 books a year, last year, it was like an achievement. But now it feels just like another addiction to keep my day going. I really need other better hobbies to keep me engaged. Reading is not the only important thing. Lately, I’ve realized we need to apply what we read. And the truth is when we start applying our readings to the real world, there is very little time for reading left. I wonder is this realization why most people stop reading in their twenties? Is this why my father stopped reading in his twenties? I seriously wonder why people who were avid readers and dreamers once have now stopped reading. Did life hit them or did they realize they had to get up from books and start hitting life?

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