Source: Small Island Developing States
1 February 2019: The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asian (ESCWA) has released a study on digital technologies for development, including recommendations for harnessing such technologies for social, economic and human development. The report considers digital technologies in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the ten-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
The report titled, ‘Arab Horizon 2030: Digital Technologies for Development,’ focuses on seven policy areas relevant to digital technologies: digital strategies; information and communication technology (ICT) sector; ICT infrastructure; cybersecurity; the digital divide; e-applications; and e-government. The report considers Arab country situations within the context of these strategies, observing that most Arab countries have “stagnated or lowered over the period 2010-2011 to 2016-2017” on the digital economy and innovation, even among affluent Arab countries.
The publication compares a business-as-usual approach with a “Horizon 2030” vision and policy changes in line with the 2030 Agenda. Horizon 2030 envisages an Arab region where all countries adopt holistic digital strategies supporting a national long-term sustainable development vision, and make progress in implementing this vision.
The authors propose a “Vision 2030 Blueprint” of policy recommendations to support SDG achievement. The strategy seeks to contribute to economic growth and well-being through a well-developed ICT sector and infrastructure and a reduced digital divide, resulting in reduced poverty and inequalities and women’s empowerment, among other outcomes.
The report also cites challenges facing Arab countries with regard to each of the 17 SDGs, as outlined in the first Arab Sustainable Development report issued in 2015, and draws linkages to the potential of digital technologies. On SDG 1 (no poverty), for example, the report states that digital technologies can make communication more affordable, and help multiply development opportunities for the poor and empower women and marginalized communities. The authors argue that broadband deployment can have an effect on gross domestic product (GDP) growth, creating new markets, encouraging innovation and supporting conditions of economies of scale, therefore contributing to job creation and poverty reduction. On SDG 15, the report describes how digital technologies can support the conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems through improved monitoring and reporting, leading to increased accountability, and through improving efficiencies in land restoration via data collection, analysis and sensors. On SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) the publication underscores the contribution of digital technologies to electoral monitoring, increased transparency and citizen empowerment.
To support SDG achievement, the report recommends: facilitating a culture of collaboration and dialogues that promotes the use of digital technologies for the benefit of sustainable development and attaining the SDGs; developing national digital strategies aligned with the 2030 development vision, managed at the highest political level and implemented through a whole-of-government approach; and adopting an inclusive approach to policy implementation that involves all stakeholders and takes into consideration the needs of women and men and engages youth. The report further suggests: enhancing the framework for developing human capabilities and skills for the digital age, including adoption of technologies for sustainable development; developing governance mechanisms and reforming regulatory systems to support a holistic digital economy; and formulating policies and incentives for investments in the digital economy. [Report Webpage] [Publication: Arab Horizon 2030: Digital Technologies for Development]