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Bangkok - 26 Apr 2024

News Number: G/16/2024

ESCAP Photo/Cory Wright

Governments from across Asia and the Pacific agreed today to harness technological advancements and digital innovation for sustainable development, with special attention to the region’s most vulnerable countries and population groups.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) wrapped up its 80th session by adopting a resolution encouraging countries to work together closely to promote research, dialogue, technical cooperation and development of digital technologies and digital economy initiatives in an efficient, affordable, inclusive, secure and accessible manner, particularly for the most vulnerable.

It stressed the need to close the vast remaining digital divide in the region and affirmed the different approaches and tools available to each country for augmenting the positive impact and scale of digital innovations so that development outcomes can benefit all people.

“Solutions lie within the diversity in Asia and the Pacific,” underscored Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP at the closing. She added, “Countries have been able to leverage digital innovation for sustainable development and address various sectoral challenges, such as access to finance, resource management and delivery of public services. Some of their experiences and solutions, if tailored to meet the specific circumstances, could likewise address similar challenges faced by others.”

Asia and the Pacific are at the forefront of digital innovations. However, the region also currently exhibits the highest level of digital divide globally. Within countries, significant accessibility gaps remain, especially between women and men, youth and older persons, persons with and without disabilities, people living in urban and rural areas, and people with different income levels and educational backgrounds. Many who are covered do not have the necessary skills to make use of digital innovations, while 37 per cent of the population with access to broadband do not use the Internet.

The resolution further recognized the major impediments developing countries face in engaging with and accessing new technologies such as an appropriate enabling environment, sufficient resources, infrastructure, education and literacy, capacity, investment and connectivity.

“There must be adequate policy support at global and regional levels to integrate digital technologies and tools for sustained improvements in productivity and the creation of decent job opportunities in these countries,” said Rabab Fatima, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. She further highlighted the need for strong support from development partners, the UN and other stakeholders, including from the private sector, to facilitate technology transfer and financing.

According to the Asia-Pacific Countries with Special Needs Development Report 2024 recently published by ESCAP, least developed countries have received only 0.10 per cent of the digital foreign direct investment inflows and account for less than 1 per cent of the region’s exports of digitally deliverable services. The study calls for a balanced strategy that prioritizes high-impact service areas, such as e-commerce and digital marketing, while also nurturing foundational sectors such as manufacturing.

More than 800 delegates from 61 member States, associate members and observer countries as well as various stakeholder groups and international organizations attended the session held from 22 to 26 April in Bangkok. Three other resolutions were also adopted, covering sustainable energy connectivity, strengthened support for countries in special situations to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and meet other global commitments, as well as on improving procedures for intergovernmental meetings.  

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