To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations Development Programme, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is proactively seeking ways to help countries utilize digital technologies for development, while at the same time emphasizing the importance of the role information and communications technology (ICT) in achieving those goals.
Takehiko Nakao, ADB President, says that the world is again in a time of immense change brought about by the 4th Industrial Revolution – similar to the time when the first steam locomotive and the first computer were starting to be utilized by humanity.
“Digital technology is rapidly developing in diverse fields—including mobile communications, robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and 3D printing. We are now entering the 4th Industrial Revolution, and we are already experiencing the profound change that new technologies bring to the way we live, work, interact and do business,” said Nakao in his opening speech at the recent Digital Development Forum 2018 held at the ADB headquarters.
The ADB has created the Digital Technology for Development Unit last March to assist developing countries capitalize on this digital shift. The ADB’s Office of Information Systems and Technology is pushing new digital reforms that puts premium on innovation and supports dramatic modernization of business processes.
These include the continuous integration of digital technologies in the operations of ADB – in education, computer-based adaptive learning and remote technologies will enhance learning outcomes in schools; in health services, Telemedicine, AI, and the use of big data will be implemented; in finance, Fintech will help the poor access financial services; in business, ICT is expected to reduce barriers and promote access to market, financial services, and skills training.
All these form part of around 450 ICT-related projects that the ADB has approved across sectors in the past eight years.
Nakao believes that ICT plays a key role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN Development Program, aiming to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. “Moving forward, the ADB will deliver integrated solutions in the areas of ‘smart cities,’ ‘e-government’ and ‘e-commerce’,” said Nakao.
The ADB is also setting up an environment which enables counties to maximize ICTs through three main facets: (1) reliable ICT infrastructure, (2) skilled human resources, and (3) enabling policies and regulatory environments.
Nakao notes that this is the foundation of digital economies – the ADB is helping the public and private sectors invest in telecommunications infrastructure and Internet connectivity, especially in the Asia and Pacific Region.
Samples of ADB ICT Infra projects include financing a submarine cable system between Palau and Guam to provide affordable broadband internet, and supporting the construction of 5,000 telecom towers in Myanmar, which is formerly known as one of the most underdeveloped telecommunications market in Asia.
Nakao describes human resources as “a key driving force for digital transformation,” which he sees is as important as having dependable infrastructure. Digital literacy is essential for people to take advantage of new job opportunities and benefit from services.
“A recent ADB study on the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution projected that while new technology will make machines take over certain jobs from humans, it can also create new jobs that did not exist in the past,” said Nakao.
In line with this, the ADB has increased financial support for technical and vocational education and training in many countries.
Enabling policies and regulatory environments
The last facet that the ADB addresses is in helping countries build an environment to better use ICTs, by helping develop enabling policies and regulation.
Nakao calls on countries to avoid the negative impacts of digital transformation by putting proper regulation, with the aim of promoting data sharing with sufficient protection on data privacy, protecting consumers against cyber-crimes and fraud, preventing illegal activities like money laundering and terrorist financing, and enhancing cybersecurity to prevent cyber attacks and hacking.
Aside from the external projects that promote that use of ICTs for its developing member-countries, Nakao presented several of ADB’s internal digital reforms poised to bolster the institution’s operations, financial services, administration, and knowledge services.
For this year’s Digital Development Forum, a total of more than 300 delegates from the Asia and the Pacific participated, with more than 60 international ICT and sectoral thought leaders and speakers. This initiative of the ADB started in 2014, where they host discussions in ICT and Development in Asia and the Pacific.
via Business Mirror / JT Nisay