News

This week the Commonwealth Secretariat held a four-day workshop in the Maldives for grassroots female entrepreneurs to help them leverage digital infrastructure opportunities for E-Commerce and Digital Marketing.

Approximately 75 women attended the workshop hailing from countries across Commonwealth Africa and Asia. During the workshop, many participants spoke of the struggles they had faced in running their businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The workshop was held by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Physical Connectivity Cluster of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) South and South-West Asia Office.

The goal of the workshop is to help equip women entrepreneurs to use digital and online platforms and leverage digital infrastructure to help them join the global supply chain and contribute toward the development of the global economy.

This workshop is a part of the implementation of the Agreed Principles of Sustainable Investment in Digital Infrastructure for the Physical Connectivity Cluster of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, which is led by The Gambia.

In her address the Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC said:

“The economic disruption of the pandemic has been profound, and women have been the hardest hit. To ensure that women are central to the covid recovery, a key focus of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda is closing the digital divide. Our aim is to train policy makers and women entrepreneurs to ensure that they benefit from this rapid digitalization. The Commonwealth Secretariat has engaged in peer-to-peer learning, knowledge exchange and capacity building.  We launched a new e-learning course on digital infrastructure and the digital divide, and we’ve developed community partnerships with tech companies such as Oracle. These initiatives help to shape policies to provide practical skills to help overcome the digital divide.”

During the workshop, participants learnt about www.wesellonline.org a trading platform exclusively for women entrepreneurs to sell their products online. At the end of the workshop 81 women entrepreneurs registered on the platform.

The training was delivered by Dr Radika Kumar, Adviser infrastructure policy from the Commonwealth Secretariat and resource persons from ESCAP Asia Pacific.

In many ways, digitalization has made the world of work a better place. Yet many groups of workers, in particular, those who are already disadvantaged and marginalized, face challenges associated with unequal access to digital technologies. This podcast episode examines the digital divide and offers some ideas for narrowing it.

In many ways, digitalization has made the world of work a better place, supporting growth in both productivity and incomes. Yet many groups of workers, in particular, those who are already disadvantaged and marginalized such as women, older persons, and persons with disabilities, face dual challenges associated with unequal access to digital technologies compounded by the lack of capacities to use them. This lack of access to modern technologies has been even more pronounced in traditional divides – rural versus urban, and developing and emerging economies versus developed economies. Other characteristics such as age, and skills levels add to the widening of the gap. In this episode, Professor Balaji Parthasarathy of the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore, India, and Matteo Sostero of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre discuss the digital divide and offer some ideas for narrowing it.

The future of work podcast series was created on behalf of the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The temporary importation of private and commercial vehicles is managed through “carnet de passages en douane” (CPD) on the basis of two international conventions (the 1954 Customs Convention on the Temporary Importation of Private Road Vehicles; and the 1956 Customs Convention on the Temporary Importation of Commercial Road Vehicles), counting a total of 96 Contracting Parties, hosted by UNECE. The CPD system is implemented and managed by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) on behalf of the AIT/FIA CPD network and their and its affiliated members.

In October 2021, UNECE and (FIA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalize their cooperation in the digitalization of the CPD procedure. The future eCPD is expected to greatly improve the efficiency, speed and transparency of the system. Through enhanced data management, the eCPD system will reduce administrative burdens for customs procedures, make border-crossing operations more secure, and further support global mobility.

On 9 June, contracting parties, interested countries and national associations gathered to the Palais des Nations for a workshop, co-organized by UNECE and the FIA, to discuss the benefits of the Conventions and current efforts to advance digitalization.

UNECE Deputy Executive Secretary Dmitry Mariyasin recalled the relevance of the two conventions within the framework of the United Nations legal instruments in the field of border crossing facilitation and the urgent need to digitalise them.

FIA Senate President Carmelo Sanz de Barros stressed that digitalization would facilitate cross-border mobility for many motorists, expatriate workers and transport operators throughout key economic corridors, while giving customs authorities and other government agencies the necessary financial and security guarantees.

Konstantinos Alexopoulos, Chief of UNECE’s Transport Facilitation and Economics section and FIA Tourism Services Director Habib Turki described how the digitalization of CPD will build on the lessons learnt from the conversion of the TIR system into eTIR. The new system should be developed using state-of-the-art technologies that ensure efficiency, flexibility and sustainability, while minimizing required efforts and resources. Such an approach will deliver a service covering the requirements of all stakeholders within a short time frame.

Christopher Davies from the Australian Border Force talked about the Australian experience with the CPD system and highlighted the many benefits the future eCPD system will bring, in particular improving storage efficiency and verification processes.

The Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO) Mobility Director Adel Sarris presented a case study on how the United Arab Emirates have moved to an electronic CPD service.

If you wish to subscribe to the UNECE Weekly newsletter, please send an email to:  unece_info@un.org

Ministers of Australia, Japan and Singapore — co-convenors of WTO e-commerce negotiations — have welcomed the good results achieved by the participants in the initiative. In a statement issued on 13 June during the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, they underlined the importance of developing global rules on e-commerce and, together with Switzerland, launched the E-commerce Capacity Building Framework to strengthen digital inclusion and to help developing and least developed countries harness the opportunities of digital trade.

The ministers emphasised participants’ commitment to agreeing on a global set of digital trade rules as rapidly as possible and to ensuring these rules help developing and least developed countries unlock the opportunities of the digital economy.

In their statement, ministers acknowledged the barriers faced by developing and least developed countries seeking to benefit from the digital economy. The E-commerce Capacity Building Framework will help these countries better address those barriers and enjoy the benefits of digital trade, they said.

The Framework will offer a wide range of technical assistance, training and capacity building to support countries’ participation in the e-commerce negotiations.  This includes through a new Digital Advisory and Trade Assistance (DATA) Fund, to which Australia and Switzerland are contributing funding, as well as digital capacity-building support provided by Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and by Singapore through the Singapore-WTO Third Country Training Programme (TCTP).

The co-convenors emphasised that inclusion remains an important principle in the negotiations, as reflected in the inclusive and transparent work of the group, which is open to all members.

The co-convenors noted calls from 105 trade associations from around the worldfor the continuation of the multilateral moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions. It is crucial that the initiative makes this practice permanent among participants in the negotiations, they said.

The ministers said they are committed to a timely conclusion of the negotiations and the co-convenors will issue a revised Consolidated Negotiating Text by the end of 2022.

There are currently 86 WTO members participating in the negotiations on e-commerce, accounting for over 90 per cent of global trade.

The full statement is available here.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cloud services offer governments cost savings, capacity to rapidly scale, advanced cybersecurity features, and access to powerful analytical tools for processing big data.
  • Hybrid cloud models that mix public and private cloud services for data storage and processing can unlock enormous benefits for governments and citizens.
  • Cloud services are essential for maximizing digital dividends and advancing digital transformation in developing countries.

Cloud services play a critical role in accelerating digital transformation and delivering essential public services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cloud services proved life-saving in Rwanda where an acute shortage of health-care workers was resolved through artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted medical triage using a cutting-edge application that required a connection to the cloud. The application checked patients using an AI symptom checker and monitored them during recovery, freeing up health-care workers to support other people as needed.  AI also facilitated near-realtime language processing so patients could speak their indigenous language, Kinyarwanda.  Sensitive medical records shared by this application were safeguarded with cybersecurity and data protection measures.The intensive AI and security requirements used in projects like this one in Rwanda are too expensive and technically sophisticated for a single local cloud provider to manage. Instead, the job must be shared between two cloud providers in an increasingly common hybrid-cloud solution that resolves challenges like this that would be otherwise impossible. In this case, one cloud hosts basic digital services involving personal identity and health information collected from patients, while a public cloud service provider takes on the heavier workload involving AI applications that require more processing power.

Turning to innovative cloud solutions made much sense in this case, given the deficit of skilled health-care workers needed to meet public demand, and an enabling ecosystem that facilited adoption of this hybrid-cloud solution.

Cloud-based options for managing data

To achieve the next stage of digital transformation and enable countries to reap the benefits of the global digital economy, governments must prioritize adoption of cloud services where feasible. Cloud technologies offer cost savings, the ability to scale rapidly, access to advanced cybersecurity features and big data processing using AI.  In addition, enhanced capacity for innovative business applications through the cloud  can facilitate e-Government platforms and services, as demonstrated by the case in Rwanda.

Additionally, there is an ever-growing number of sophisticated Software as a Service (SaaS) business applications delivered through the cloud to solve specific public sector challenges, such as invoicing, citizen engagement, and managing registration databases. Cloud solutions can further support governments with cloud-based backup systems to enable a layer of redundancy in the case of a system crash, and ensure service continuity.

To realize these benefits, governments in developed countries have long shifted focus away from relying on legacy IT systems to utilizing more cloud-based solutions to manage their data, and increasingly, using public cloud services delivered over infrastructure shared by multiple clients.  In contrast, governments in developing countries often maintain or expand legacy-IT systems, limiting the cost savings and advanced functionalities that cloud services could yield.



Countries leading with cloud policiesThe government of the United Kingdom adopted a “Cloud First” policy, where organizations must first consider and assess public cloud solutions before seeking other alternatives when integrating technology with public services. British ministries are empowered to select the cloud solution that best suits their needs based on security, flexibility, and value for money.Singapore took a different approach, with the government creating a private cloud for the government, the “G-cloud,” to meet security and governance requirements, paving the way for hybrid solutions where public and private cloud solutions can operate together. Singapore’s various ministries can choose appropriate solutions if a public cloud or the G-cloud doesn’t cover their needs.

While public ministries across digitally advanced countries are increasingly integrating hybrid cloud solutions, the mix of public and private cloud procurement in any country will be determined by government objectives, performance requirements, data classification systems, and data governance laws and regulations. To help navigate the available cloud options, a three-step framework focusing on policy objectives, strategic goals, and operational requirements can help governments identify the best solution.



Government cloud migration as a catalyst for the private sectorWhen a government takes a big step towards adopting cloud services, it can also encourage local businesses and entrepreneurs to embrace cloud solutions. Governments—especially in developing countries—are uniquely positioned to signal and generate considerable trust in a system where there is confusion around cloud benefits or concern about placing sensitive data into the cloud. This mistrust can ultimately leave countries expanding legacy IT-storage systems, losing out on cloud benefits and risking a widening of the global digital divide. A government’s adoption of cloud services can act as a catalyst that advances digital transformation not only in the public sector, but across local industry sectors, helping them maximize capture of digital dividends.

This feature story integrates findings from a Government Cloud project supported by the Digital Development Partnership (DDP) which is administered by the World Bank Group. The DDP offers a platform for digital innovation and development financing, bringing public and private sector partners together to advance digital solutions and drive digital transformation in developing countries.

The Ethiopia Coalition launches today, June 9, 2022, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This will mark the official beginning of WDFI Advocacy Hub activities in the region. Follow along below.

 

Follow the event live here:


About the Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion (WDFI) Advocacy Hub

UNCDF is launching a new gender initiative in Ethiopia, with a specific focus on advancing women’s digital financial inclusion.

The Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion (WDFI) Advocacy Hub is UNCDF’s flagship gender initiative to promote WDFI policy change and support the creation of gender-inclusive digital economies through Local Coalitions. The Hub is a partnership with Women’s World Banking.

Local Coalitions enabled by the WDFI Advocacy Hub are designed to be platforms for civil society, the public sector and the private sector to discuss, strategise and collaborate for greater impact. UNCDF will support the members of the Coalition, including the first one in Ethiopia, by facilitating access to trainings and insights, and by channeling financial resources to support the implementation of innovative practical solutions. In addition, the Hub will create unified messages on the priority issues identified by the Coalition in partnership with global organizations, as well as open opportunities for country stakeholders and their work to gain visibility at global platforms, such as the Generation Equality Forum.

The setting of this Coalition in Ethiopia is designed to complement the efforts of the NBE to implement the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, the National Digital Payments Strategy and Digital Ethiopia 2025 Strategy, as these are key to building an ecosystem where all women can leverage technology to live financially secure lives.

H.E Ato Ahmed Shide, Minister of Finance and Ms Myriam Said, Digital Advisor at the Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and State Minister of Innovation and Technology will address digital and financial experts at the launch event on June 9, 2022, in Addis Ababa.

Along with high-level representatives of the National Bank of Ethiopia, Safaricom, EthSwitch, International Finance Corporation, European Investment Bank, and others, they will provide insights into the state of women’s digital financial inclusion in Ethiopia and how to advance women’s economic empowerment through digital technology.

Learn more about the WDFI Advocacy Hub and the Ethiopia Coalition.

As a key part of the socioeconomic system and a public service provider, the Post not only accelerates digitalization, but also ensures that digital transformation includes all population groups and serves them in the best and most equitable way. Viet Nam’s national postal operator, Vietnam Post, provides essential support to each of the three key pillars of the National Digital Transformation Programme: digital government, digital economy and digital society. UPU spoke with Pham Anh Tuan, Vice Minister of Information and Communications of Viet Nam, about what defines the key role of the Post in the national digitization plan and what should be done to fully unfold this potential.

What is Viet Nam working to achieve with the National Digital Transformation Programme?

In pursuit of digital transformation, the Government of Viet Nam has recently issued a number of important policies and decisions, which form the basis for the implemention of the national digital transformation. These include the National Digital Transformation Programme by 2025 with a vision towards the year 2030, the E-Government Development Strategy for 2021-2025 with a vision towards the year 2030, and the National Strategy for Developing a Digital Economy and a Digital Society by 2025 with a vision towards the year 2030. Those national strategies aim to realize development goals based on eight pillars: digital awareness, digital institutions, digital infrastructure, digital human resources, cybersecurity, digital government, digital economy, and digital society.

Digital transformation based on three key pillars – digital government, digital economy, and digital society – has overarching effects on every institution, agency, city, and province. It has a far-reaching impact on every socioeconomic sector, contributing to increased productivity, innovative production models, and improved national competitiveness.

In Viet Nam, digital transformation is considered a revolution involving all people. However, it can only work when each person actively engages with it and enjoys the benefits that it brings about. The digital transformation thus carries the vital mission of universalizing and individualizing various services, such as education and healthcare, for every public member to serve them better. In addition, digital transformation creates opportunities for people in remote, border and insular areas to access services online in a fair, equal, and humane manner that leaves no one behind.

What is the Post’s role in Viet Nam’s digital transformation strategy?

Postal service plays a vital role in ensuring smooth material and data flows, supporting electronic commerce with delivery services, meeting socioeconomic demands, and providing timely response to natural calamities, catastrophes, and pandemics. In our National Digital Transformation Programme, the Post is defined as an essential national infrastructure, supporting the creation of the digital economy, primarily e-commerce, and contributing to the development of the digital government and digital society.

In terms of the digital government, Vietnam Post is a leading partner entrusted by the Government with the task of developing a number of digital platforms and providing digital services to the public, including through the “Developing a Digital Address Platform for Vietnamese Households” project.

In terms of the digital economy, the Post facilitates e-commerce and provides an infrastructure for the digital economy. Vietnam Post has a significant advantage with a nationwide network of nearly 28,000 service points and a 100 per cent postal coverage of every commune in the country. This enterprise can bring products from local household businesses and cooperatives to every corner of the country and beyond for consumption, thus promoting the development of the digital economy in agricultural and rural areas.

In 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, postal businesses were involved in the Agricultural and Rural Digital Economic Promotion Programme as part of the Viet Nam National Digital Transformation Programme. Almost 6 million agricultural production households have been trained to gain digital skills to operate on e-commerce platforms and about 100,000 agricultural products have been listed on e-commerce platforms established by Vietnamese postal enterprises. Those results bridge the e-commerce gap between urban and rural communities.

In terms of the digital society, the Post has become a service industry involved in improving the quality of life, ensuring social welfare and consolidating social trust. In addition, the Post contributes to the prevention of and response to natural disasters, diseases, and emergencies as directed by the Government.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, in cities and provinces where social distancing measures were applied, postal businesses have actively engaged in providing essential commodities to people by establishing 4,346 distribution points for essential items and distributing 102,974 tons of goods with a total worth of 994 billion VND.

How does Vietnam Post help facilitate the digital inclusion of underrepresented groups, including the un(der)banked and small and medium enterprises (SMEs)?

Vietnam Post is a leader in digital transformation. As a national postal operator controlling the public postal network, Vietnam Post actively implements programmes that popularize digital skills and deploys new digital utilities in remote areas where access to the benefits of digital transformation is limited. Furthermore, Vietnam Post is a licensed payment intermediary, for it provides mobile applications that allow online money transfer and payments for essential services via smartphones and acts as a digital channel for other financial and banking services. Additionally, Vietnam Post works with many banks and other financial institutions to facilitate on-behalf collection and payment of loan services to customers safely and conveniently.

To support SMEs on their digital transformation journey, Vietnam Post distributes digital business administration solutions for SMEs, and provides them with delivery monitoring tools in the form of Open API that can be used interoperably and easily with their existing IT systems. Finally, through a digital address platform that is linked to the national digital map, the Post further boosts the growth of e-commerce and the digital economy.

In parallel, what are some ways the Ministry is working to help facilitate the digital transformation of the Post itself?

As the governmental agency in charge of implementing Viet Nam’s National Digital Transformation Programme, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has undertaken many steps to promote the digital transformation of the Information and Communications sector, including the Post. Some key efforts included:

  • In 2021, the Ministry implemented a programme to assist SMEs with digital transformation, which benefited 16,000 businesses. In 2022, this programme was further expanded to target an additional 30,000 companies, including postal businesses. In addition to other forms of support, the programme participants are provided with a 50 per cent cost deduction when renting or buying digital platforms and solutions from a certified list published by the Ministry.
  • At the beginning of 2022, the MIC developed a “Strategy on Postal Development by 2025 and vision towards 2030” and submitted it to the Prime Minister for adoption. The Strategy envisions the Post becoming an essential infrastructure for the country’s digital economy and e-commerce, digital government and digital society, thus helping realize the goal of a digital Viet Nam by 2030. The Strategy also identifies digital transformation as a primary tool to further the development of the Post, with a particular emphasis on:
  1. Building regional hubs and mega-hubs compatible with the plans for national logistics systems.
  2. Developing a Viet Nam digital address platform linked to the national digital map to support the growth of e-commerce and the digital economy.
  3. Expanding the postal service ecosystem based on the application of digital technology.

What are the main challenges of postal digital transformation and how can the UPU help member countries address them?

According to the UPU’s report “The Digital Economy and Digital Postal Activities – A Global Panorama”, global or regional digital studies or reports do not seem to specifically address the Post. Although digital transformation is happening vigorously across most parts of the economy, it is less true for the postal sector. Therefore, it is essential to foster postal digitalization programmes and deploy innovative technologies to improve postal business management, operations, and production efficiency.

In Viet Nam, while carrying out digital transformation in the postal sector, we have encountered some challenges, namely:

  • Due to the characteristics of the postal sector, many processes remain in the form of manual labour and thus require a large workforce with long processing times, which prevents digital transformation from being conducted quickly and comprehensively.
  • Postal businesses are mainly small and medium enterprises with limited resources and capital available to invest in technology, which makes them unable to develop technological solutions and digital platforms to support business production.
  • Postal workers face difficulties in using and applying new technologies in business management and operations due to the lack of digital skills.

To help the Union’s members overcome these challenges, from our point of view, the UPU could consider some of the following actions:

  1. conducting research and evaluation of the benefits and challenges of digital transformation for its member countries for them to refer to and base their policies upon;
  2. developing several primary digital platforms to share among designated postal operators to help them save resources;
  3. studying the possibility of a digital transformation support fund for developing and least developed nations (similar to the UPU’s Quality of Service Fund – QSF).

Finally, the UPU should continue implementing its technical assistance projects, which are essential to support member countries in the research and development of digital platforms that meet their needs.

  • Internet penetration rate in Africa is 43% as of December 2021.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the critical importance of Internet connectivity.
  • Community networks and Internet exchange points are a cost-effective way to bridge the digital divide.

As the Internet Society celebrates its 30th anniversary as a global nonprofit advocating for an open, globally-connected Internet, the organization is calling for accelerated action to further Internet development throughout the African region. During the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) 2022 taking place in Kigali, Rwanda under the theme “Connecting the unconnected to achieve sustainable development”, Dawit Bekele, Regional Vice President – Africa of the Internet Society, lauded the progress made by stakeholders in expanding access throughout the continent, while encouraging more collaborative efforts to bridge the digital divide.

​​Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest growth in global Internet penetration, increasing from less than 1% in 2000 to 30% today. Between 2019 and 2021 Internet use in Africa jumped by 23%. Despite this impressive growth, there is still a coverage gap of over 840 million people who don’t have access to reliable and affordable Internet access.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the value of Internet connectivity which has been an essential lifeline for the continuity of business, healthcare, education, government, and other critical activities. We applaud the significant investments in the last decades to develop Internet infrastructure, which have made the Internet available to more people across the continent. However, the pandemic also highlights the digital divide that remains, particularly in rural, remote and even urban areas around the world.”

Dawit Bekele, Regional Vice President – Africa, Internet Society

Community networks are a way to help address the digital divide. They are communications infrastructures built, managed, and used by local communities and are a sustainable solution to address connectivity gaps in underserved regions. The Internet Society has a long history of working with communities worldwide to fund, build and train people with the skills needed to run and maintain community networks.

In Africa, the Internet Society has helped build community networks in South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia, Morocco, Senegal, and Ethiopia.

At WTDC, the organization will be making a pledge to support 100 complementary solutions to connect the unconnected, and to train 10,000 people to build and maintain Internet infrastructure, all by 2025 as part of the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, an initiative led by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that aims to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the hardest-to-connect communities around the world.

Also vital to expanding the Internet throughout Africa is the interconnection between local networks, content providers, and users. Currently, millions of dollars are spent every year to route local Internet traffic through expensive international links. This not only makes the Internet slower and more costly for Internet users, but it also limits the kinds of applications that can run on the local Internet. For this reason, the Internet Society has been at the forefront of supporting the establishment and growth of Internet exchange points (IXPs) that enable and encourage local traffic.

The Internet Society’s research shows that IXPs improve the end-user experience, lower the cost of access, and stimulate the development of local Internet ecosystems and cross-border interconnections. By improving local Internet services and reducing their costs, well-managed IXPs open new worlds of possibility with modest investment.

About the Internet Society

Founded in 1992 by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society is a global non-profit organization working to ensure the Internet remains a force for good for everyone. Through its community of members, special interest groups, and 120+ chapters around the world, the organization defends and promotes Internet policies, standards, and protocols that keep the Internet open, globally connected, and secure. For more information, please visit www.internetsociety.org.

About WTDC 2022

The World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) will be held from 6-16 June in Kigali, Rwanda. Organized by the International Telecommunications Union and held every four years, the conference brings together government representatives from around the world to determine the topics, programs, and priorities for telecommunications development globally for the next four years.

WTDC is a uni​que opportunity to develop innovative approaches and new models of collaboration for connectivity in the final decade that is left to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For further information, please visit the conference website.

The basic concept of Policy Notes for the Group of Twenty (G20) Trade, Investment, and Industry Working Group (TIIWG) regarding digital transformation in trade was the subject of a meeting of trade experts as a follow-up to the Road to G20 event titled Digital Transformation in Trade, a webinar held on 8 June 2022. Present at the meeting were Dr Lili Yan Ing, lead advisor on Southeast Asia of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA); Dr Bayu Krisnamurthi, advisor to the minister of trade of Indonesia; Dr Hari Widodo, head of the Center for the Study of Foreign Trade; Dr Iskandar Panjaitan, head of the Center for the Study of International Trade Cooperation; and Dr Widyastuti, head of the International Trade Analysis and Policy Studies (ITAPS).

During the meeting, ITAPS presented key points as takeaways from the previous Road to G20 event. Dr Krisnamurthi added some important points on the issue of digitalisation and the existing gap in trade activity. He cited the importance of cooperation in digitalisation and provision of digital facilities, especially in the G20 forum. Dr Ing addressed the importance of having quality digitalisation privacy and competition laws to support cross-border data flow. She said ERIA will keep supporting Indonesia’s G20 and developing key points for TIIWG and ministerial meetings.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Digital connectivity links people to markets, jobs, and opportunities.
  • Comprehensive information on fiber optic networks, along with open data, and infrastructure mapping are critical to inform policy and investment decisions that can make internet more widely accessible.
  • The World Bank supports these building blocks to help close the digital divide.

Mapping fiber optic networks, cables, and telecom carriers. Building standards and tools for public input and management. Creating regulations and laws that equitably govern and organize data and ownership. This is the practical work of building digital connection for people all over the world.

Broadband is high speed internet access delivered to users many ways, including fiber optics, wireless, cable, telephone modems, and satellites. It is the way to digitally connect to the modern world to markets, banking, school, healthcare, and opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic starkly highlighted the importance of access to broadband internet connectivity to keep communities and services functioning in a locked-down world.

“We have seen that digital technologies are what’s keeping people, governments and businesses connected. Now, more than ever, we are focused on supporting meaningful access and bringing digital opportunities to all, especially those in the hardest-to-connect communities, so that no one is left behind,” said Christine Zhenwei Qiang, Director for Digital Development at the World Bank.

However, many people in developing countries remain unconnected to the internet. And many of those, who are connected, must cope with poor quality of service and spotty reliability. This number, in total, is huge—2.9 billion people, without connectivity, are cut off from the benefits of the digital age.

The World Bank supports significant investment in global fiber digital infrastructure to expand broadband connectivity to all— people and businesses– by 2030. But there are challenges: the size of investment required; potentially lower returns in connecting rural areas, where the unserved population mostly lives; and major gaps in data regarding existing telecom infrastructure. For example, the fact that digital infrastructure is mostly privately owned by over 3,000 internet service providers around the world means there is limited publicly available information on telecom and fiberoptic networks, which can hinder decision making around planning, maintenance, and expansion. For the data that is available, it’s not published according to commonly agreed standards. More readily available and usable information about infrastructure is critical to support decisions for targeted and cost-efficient digital infrastructure investments by the private and public sectors.

This is why the World Bank and its partners are working to create a digital map of terrestrial fiber infrastructure worldwide (kicking off with an initial focus on Africa), using open standards for data entry and sharing with public and private stakeholders. One of the most important tasks is to build a culture of openness and trust among regulators, infrastructure owners, and operators. The system can only work well with goodwill and cooperation, and trust is essential.

This mapping project with open standards aligns with the goals of the Partners2Connect Digital Coalition (P2C), which is working to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation globally across four pillars. The first is to link people everywhere, including in traditionally hardest-to-connect in rural and remote areas. The second aims to ensure that people have the skills and know-how to use digital technologies, content, and e-government services safely, inclusively, and equally. The third is to bring digital transformation to people using what’s called a “whole-of-ecosystem” approach, which relies on inclusive, collaborative policies and regulations to support entrepreneurship, innovation, start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses, trade, and job creation. And, finally, P2C strives to speed this transformation via innovative financing models and changes to public policy and regulations to accelerate public and private investment in meaningful access and affordable connectivity.

Affordable, accessible, and reliable connectivity can change lives for the better. To make that happen for the millions around the world who remain offline requires a focus on open data, common standards and data sharing initiatives to inform policy and investment decisions that can expand broadband connectivity to all.

Recent months have seen Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, take several leaps forward in digital development, underlining the rapid momentum of the East African country.

Last November, the Rwanda Innovation Fund (RIF) was launched to support disruptive and innovative companies that offer solutions to the region’s challenges, through a public-private partnership between the government and investment manager Angaza Capital.

A few weeks later, Swedish investment fund Norrsken Foundation opened its first hub outside Scandinavia. The Kigali facility is expected to host 1,000 entrepreneurs in its first year of activity.

These two examples show how Rwanda is quickly becoming one of Africa’s major innovation hotspots. The country ranks eighth among start-up ecosystems across the Middle East and Africa, and fourth in Africa as a whole, with Kigali ranking fourteenth among cities in the region, according to the 2022 Global Startup Ecosystem Index.

Over the past two decades, forward-looking digital policies have served as major drivers of Rwanda’s economic transformation. Although the scope remains wide to build further on these changes remains wide, several milestones already demonstrate practical results.

The technology sector currently represents 3 per cent of Rwanda’s annual GDP. But the government’s goal is to more than triple this figure and reach 10 per cent within a decade. “We see ourselves as a proof-of-concept destination for innovative companies and start-ups to launch, test, and scale,” says Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, who is also chairing the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) in Kigali from 6 to 16 June.

Stellar ambitions

The country’s aspirations to set regional benchmarks focus on building up digital capacities with a positive social impact. These include the Rwandan satellite programme, begun with a cube satellite that helps monitor water supply and anticipate natural disasters.

Rwanda launched its first telecommunications satellite, Rwa-Sat-1, into space in 2019 in partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The “CubeSat” now obtains data from terrestrial sensors to help keep the government informed on national water resources, agriculture, meteorology, and disaster risks.

The agreement with Japan also includes training specialists in the design and production of mini satellites. The Rwandan authorities ultimately aim to build their own capacity to collect and analyse geospatial data and apply these insights to different areas of government, Ingabire said.

Following the creation of the Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) in 2021, the government intends to promote the aerospace business and industrial development and eventually nurture competitive products and services for export.

Last October, Rwanda filed an application with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to launch two satellite constellations: Cinnamon-217 and Cinnamon-937. These groups of satellites – both planned for launch by the end of 2023 – are meant to function as a unified system to enable permanent, near-global connectivity.

Visionary e-waste policies

Without policies focused on sustainability, accelerated digital transformation can result in negative effects.

Take for instance the 53.6 million tonnes of discarded electronic waste – or e-waste – generated globally every year. As of 2019, only 78 countries were covered by some kind of e-waste legislation, policy or regulation, according to ITU’s 2020 Global E-Waste Monitor.

Today, Rwanda is one of only 13 African countries with specific legislation in place on e-waste. The law passed in 2016 establishes common principles for the management of discarded electronic devices, as well as shared responsibilities on this topic among the country’s institutions.

Four years later, in 2020, the country inaugurated its first e-waste management plant.

The Enviroserve Rwanda Green Park, promoted through a partnership between the government and Dubai-based company Enviroserve, can process up to 10,000 metric tons of e-waste per year. This facility offers services such as repair and refurbishment of electrical products, e-waste collection services, dismantling and recycling, and provides technical assistance to individuals and organizations handling e-waste.

Enviroserve’s services give a second life to computer monitors, old phones, and other devices, which, once repaired, can be sold at a lower price. Several countries in the region have expressed interest in the facility as an example of how sustainable digital development can reduce environmental impact, spur economic activity, and create jobs.

“Enviroserve has already deployed 20 e-waste collection centres across the country,” according to Minister Ingabire. “The programme is set to be expanded through the World Bank-funded Digital Acceleration Project, which will add 30 collection centres across all 30 districts of the country.”

Rwanda actively promotes the regional e-waste management strategy of the East African Communications Organisation (EACO), together with Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The initiative seeks to jointly enhance regional infrastructure, strengthen coordination at the regional and national levels, and promote research and innovation to build circular economies.

“Together with ITU, we are working on a project to introduce and implement the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) concept in our regulatory frameworks,” Minister Ingabire adds. “This project includes an awareness campaign to teach the public how to treat e-waste, and procedures for disposal at designated collection points to increase collection rates and public participation in the exercise.”

Global Collaboration Will Feature IBM SkillsBuild to Deliver Digital Learning to Women and Youth

UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) today announced that it is working with IBM to address the digital skills gap by delivering digital learning to youth and women, as part of UNCDF’s Digital Futures initiative. IBM will support the implementation of Digital Futures through the IBM SkillsBuild initiative to offer digital and workforce skills training for students and job seekers.

The Digital Futures initiative will endeavor to deliver advanced digital and 21st century workforce skills in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Digital Futures is designed to mobilize an international digital and workforce skills partnership ecosystem to deliver digital skills training, consisting of public and private sector organizations as well as educational institutions and donors. The initiative will focus on delivering digital training to youth, women and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) students with a specific geographic emphasis on least developed countries (LDCs). Digital Futures will aim to train 50,000 youth, women and TVET students.

“The key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals agenda is to scale all impactful solutions, including solutions to enhance digital literacy and to strengthen skills building to ensure competitiveness in the global digital economy and in light of the 4th Industrial Revolution,” said UNCDF Executive Secretary Preeti Sinha. “Our partnership with IBM will look to leverage their expertise in digital skills building alongside our primary commitment to serve the LDCs. Through this, now global partnership, IBM and UNCDF will endeavor to leave no workforce behind; notably in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.”

Digital Futures will be supported by IBM through IBM SkillsBuild. IBM SkillsBuild is a free, digital training program aimed at students, educators and job seekers offering access to learning courses, resources, and support focused on reskilling or upskilling learning on core technology and workforce skills needed to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. IBM SkillsBuild operates in 159 countries, offering over 1,000 courses in 19 languages in technical disciplines such as cybersecurity, AI, quantum computing, or data analysis, as well as workplace skills.

“At IBM, we are committed to investing in the future of work and to provide free education on disruptive technologies, which is why we’re excited to partner with UNDCF on Digital Futures to help democratize opportunity and fill the growing digital skills gap,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, Vice President, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG. “We look forward to working together with UNCDF and help prepare youth and women in Africa, Asia and the Pacific for in-demand technology jobs in the market as part of IBM’s commitment to equitably skill 30 million people worldwide by 2030.”

UNCDF will lead in the implementation and execution of Digital Futures with a pilot phase already underway in East and Southern Africa. Digital Futures will build on the learnings of an ongoing digital skills building programme deployed by UNCDF in collaboration with IBM and the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MInT).

The Digital Futures initiative is an outgrowth of the Partner2Connect (P2C) Digital Coalition, which was launched by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). P2C is a multi-stakeholder alliance to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation globally, with a focus on but not limited to hardest-to-connect communities in least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states.

“I welcome this pledge towards Partner2Connect. The Partner2Connect Coalition is a game-changing opportunity to take a holistic approach, catalyze new partnerships, and mobilize the resources needed to connect those who are still offline,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. “I am calling on all players to step up and help us connect those 2.9 billion that are unconnected. I look forward to welcoming many more pledges soon so that we can truly “Partner2Connect the World.”

Digital Futures will serve as an anchor for P2C’s ambition of rolling out advanced digital and workforce skills relevant for the digital economy and future of work. Digital Futures is one of three initiatives led by UNCDF supported by P2C.

About UNCDF

UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development.

UNCDF’s financing models work through three channels: (1) inclusive digital economies, which connects individuals, households, and small businesses with financial eco-systems that catalyze participation in the local economy, and provide tools to climb out of poverty and manage financial lives; (2) local development finance, which capacitates localities through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance to drive local economic expansion and sustainable development; and (3) investment finance, which provides catalytic financial structuring, de-risking, and capital deployment to drive SDG impact and domestic resource mobilization.

About IBM Education

As part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, IBM’s education portfolio takes a personalized, diverse, and deep approach to STEM career readiness. IBM’s pro bono programs range from education and support for teens at public schools and universities to career readiness resources for aspiring professionals and job seekers. IBM believes that education is best achieved through the collaboration of the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors.

IBM SkillsBuild offers more than 1,000 online courses, and shareable badges upon their successful completion, on topics ranging from professional workplace proficiencies to technical skills for many industries, roles, and technologies, including hybrid cloud computing, AI, cybersecurity, data analytics, help desk, and project management. It also offers access to mentors, resume-building projects, as well as partner-led job fairs, and job referrals. As of February 2022, IBM SkillsBuild has helped 1.72 million students and job seekers globally to complete 4 million learning hours in cybersecurity, data analysis, and other technical disciplines.

“Our partnership with IBM will look to leverage their expertise in digital skills building alongside our primary commitment to serve the LDCs. Through this, now global partnership, IBM and UNCDF will endeavor to leave no workforce behind; notably in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.”
Preeti Sinha, UNCDF Executive Secretary

“We look forward to working together with UNCDF and help prepare youth and women in Africa, Asia and the Pacific for in-demand technology jobs in the market as part of IBM’s commitment to equitably skill 30 million people worldwide by 2030.”
Justina Nixon-Saintil, Vice President, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG

“I welcome this pledge towards Partner2Connect. The Partner2Connect Coalition is a game-changing opportunity to take a holistic approach, catalyze new partnerships, and mobilize the resources needed to connect those who are still offline.”
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

Countries worldwide—and developing countries in particular—recognize the need for digital transformation to foster economic growth, improve efficiency, enable skills development, and advance human and social development. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, digitization has become an even more crucial enabler of economic and social development. It is also critical for achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—all of which include digital components.

Realizing the desired economic and social prosperity from increased digitization is only possible if the digital infrastructure and systems underpinning them are safe and secure.   Addressing the fast-evolving nature of cybersecurity risks is challenging, largely due to the speed of digital innovation and the proliferation of threats that can impact the safety, prosperity, and resilience of a country.

To address these issues, many countries are developing national cybersecurity strategies (NCSs). Several multinational organizations have also affirmed the importance of adopting comprehensive NCSs. The latest reports by the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) and Group of Government Experts (GGE), for example, highlighted how developing cyber capacities at a global level—including by adopting NCSs—can help build trust and stability in cyberspace. Governments are getting the message. In the last three years, there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of countries that have adopted NCSs. But despite recent progress, 60 percent of least developed countries (LDCs) still do not have strategies, and most developing countries that have adopted one struggle to implement them due to a lack of financial and human resources.

Fortunately, tools and methodologies exist to help governments tackle these problems. The Guide to Developing a National Cybersecurity Strategy, now in its second edition, provides a useful and flexible framework to support policymakers in developing, updating, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating their strategies. It was developed by a consortium of over 20 expert organizations from the public and private sectors, inter- and non-governmental organizations, academia, and civil society. The guide serves as an important resource and blueprint for developing and implementing comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable NCSs that take a country’s specific socio-economic vision, political context, and cultural and societal values into account and encourage the pursuit of secure, safe, and resilient digital societies.

The guide inspired the Global Policy Dialogue and Briefing on Cybersecurity Strategy Design and Implementation. The event, co-organized by the World Bank and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and moderated by the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE), was designed to help governments think strategically about developing their NCSs and effectively implementing them. It brought together government leaders from across the globe—from Ecuador to Tonga—to reflect on their respective governments’ experiences, discuss priorities and challenges in designing and implementing NCSs, and facilitate partnership opportunities within the international community.

Developing country representatives shared some of the most common challenges to implementing NCSs. One of the biggest, for example, is developing and retaining a professional cybersecurity workforce. With over 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs expected by 2025 worldwide, governments—especially in developing countries—will be particularly hard-pressed to develop a professional cybersecurity workforce and prevent the brain drain towards better jobs abroad and in the private sector.

Andrew Toimoana, Director of Tonga’s Digital Transformation Department, said, “Here in Tonga—and I can speak for most of our Pacific neighborhood islands—we’ll be facing the same issue with employing human resources and trying to keep our experts in the island.”

Bolor-Erdene Battsengel, the State Secretary for Mongolia’s Ministry of Digital Development, expressed concerns about the low adoption rates of national cybersecurity strategies in LDCs and emphasized the importance of cybersecurity and digital skills development to securing the digitization process and, more broadly, ensuring successful development outcomes. “We live in a world where we already face several inequalities about gender, education, income, and economic levels,” she said, adding that rapid digitization can worsen these disparities. Battsengel concluded that when building cybersecurity capacity, countries should “start with those who have been left out of digital development.”

The Global Policy Dialogue addressed many of these issues and served as a catalyst for future engagements and partnerships. Moving forward, governments and the international community must channel the necessary resources into capacity building and workforce training initiatives to ensure the long-term sustainability, continuity, and scalability of their digital development and cybersecurity projects. A number of initiatives and resources can support ongoing collaboration in this area, for example, the GFCE. The exchange of information on the development and successful implementation of national cybersecurity strategies, coupled with new and enhanced financial assistance mechanisms and stronger international partnerships, will do much to strengthen the cyber resilience of developing countries and accelerate a safer digital transformation across the globe.

Digital transformation, as commonly defined, is the cultural, organisational, and operational change of an organisation, industry, or ecosystem through a smart integration of digital technologies, processes, and competencies across all levels and functions in a staged and strategic way. Particularly in trade, it is playing a key role in changing modern human life and leading changes in what and how people trade. But whilst digital transformation improves productivity and trade, it also raises inequality through displacement effects and impacts on developing countries through premature deindustrialisation and disappearance of manual and routine.

Such observations were shared by Dr Lili Yan Ing, lead advisor on Southeast Asia of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), in a webinar titled Digital Transformation in Trade held on 8 June 2022. The webinar was one of the side events of the Road to Group of Twenty (G20) and conducted by the Ministry of Trade of Indonesia with ERIA and the International Trade Analysis and Policy Studies.

Citing privacy, cyber security, competition, and digital divide issues as the key challenges in digital transformation and digital trade faced by countries, particularly the G20 countries, Dr Ing suggested to the G20 four main points to achieve digital transformation development for all. First, it is important for the G20 to implement what has been committed in digital transformation and digital trade, including the frameworks. Second, G20 needs to commit to improve the quality of digital enablers, from physical to human capital. Third, G20 should promote efforts to improve the preparedness for digital adoption to reduce digital divides between and within countries. Finally, she said, it is important to have privacy and competition laws be implemented worldwide. In the question and answer session, Dr Ing cited the importance for governments to provide estimations and an outlook for the economy and communicate them well to small and medium-sized enterprises. The economic outlook and credible forecast, she said, could help them anticipate ongoing development issues as well as upcoming economic disturbances.

Other speakers in the webinar were Albert Park, chief economist of the Asian Development Bank; Haroon Bhorat, professor of economics and director of the Development Policy Research Unit of the University of Cape Town; Torbjörn Fredriksson, head of the E-commerce and Digital Economy Branch of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development; Leonard Theosabrata, director of the Ministry of Cooperatives and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises of Indonesia; Zahra Murad, head of UKM Center FEB UI; Pamitra Wineka, chief executive officer (CEO) of TaniHub; and Edward Tirtanata, CEO of Kopi Kenangan.

IDB Lab, the innovation laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is launching a call to identify innovative solutions that make use of digital tokens to promote biodiversity conservation and facilitate climate action. The Digital Tokens for Biodiversity Innovation Challenge is a joint effort from the Natural Capital Lab, the IDB Group’s one-stop-shop for promoting financial innovation in natural capital, and LACChain, the global alliance for the blockchain development in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), led by IDB Lab.

Digital tokens, crypto assets, or purely digital assets can become amplifiers of actions that halt and reverse biodiversity loss and promote nature-friendly solutions. However, the possibilities of these instruments in this field have hardly been explored globally and minimally in LAC, a region that has 40% of the world’s biological diversity, 30% of the drinking water available on earth, and almost 50% of the world’s tropical forests.

IDB Lab, fully aligned with the promotion of actions against climate change established by the IDB Group’s Vision 2025, launches this call to explore the true potential of digital tokens aimed at startups, SMEs, foundations, non-profit organizations, corporations, universities, think tanks, public innovation agencies, accelerators, and other organizations with experience in the subject, ready to implement models, and duly registered and located in one of the 26 IDB borrowing countries. Organizations from non-borrowing countries may also participate if they do so in association with any of the above.

We expect to receive proposals that promote the conservation and/or regeneration of biodiversity with novel solutions of an innovative nature and appropriate use of technology, paying special consideration to the context, the social and economic inclusion of poor and vulnerable populations, as well as the participation and leadership of local communities in the conservation and management of natural resources. A second track of the challenge seeks solutions that raise awareness and create networks of actors working in the technology industry in the field of biodiversity, as well as favoring inclusive and binding governance protocols for this field of application, including monitoring systems.

The challenge will remain open until August 12, 2022. The selected proposals will be announced in September 2022 and may receive funding to develop their projects in any of the aforementioned 26 countries. They will also be included among IDB Lab´s network of global innovators working in LAC to exchange knowledge, experiences, best practices, and may have opportunities to participate in networking events organized by the IDB Group and its partners.

For more information about this challenge, please visit the following link: https://convocatorias.iadb.org/en/bid-lab/digital-tokens-biodiversity

From May 16 to 20, 2022, government representatives from Ethiopia and Malawi visited Uganda and Rwanda to learn best practices on the implementation of digital transformation strategies to build inclusive digital economies. Supported by the UN Capital Development Fund’s (UNCDF) DFS4Resilience Programme, which is funded by the European Commission and Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), the programme deploys digital finance solutions at scale to deepen financial inclusion, making economies and societies more resilient to external shocks.

Government representatives from Malawi and Ethiopia had an opportunity to hear first-hand how the Uganda Ministry of ICT used IDES on their digital inclusion and digital transformation journey.

In Uganda the delegation learned how the country, led by the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, uses the Inclusive Digital Economy Scorecard (IDES), a tool developed by UNCDF and like-minded partners, to plan and set national priorities.

In Uganda the delegation learned how the country, led by the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, uses the Inclusive Digital Economy Scorecard (IDES), a tool developed by UNCDF and like-minded partners, to plan and set national priorities.

IDES TOOL IS ABOUT PEOPLE AND NOT JUST DATA.

OTHER COUNTRIES ARE IMPLEMENTING IDES AND THAT IS ENCOURAGING BECAUSE IT MEANS IT IS DOABLE AND BENEFICIAL.

UNCDF IS DOING A GOOD JOB IN MEASURING THE DIGITAL ECONOMY USING INDICATORS SUCH AS INFRASTRUCTURE, SKILLS, POLICY AND REGULATION AND INNOVATION, AND THIS HAS HELPED UGANDA KNOW WHERE IT IS AND IN IDENTIFYING GAPS TO IMPROVE.

 

Rwanda has been leading the way for many years in digital transformation in Africa, therefore, the visit to the country allowed the delegation to see – firsthand – the impact of digitalization on the lives of the citizenry and how a holistic, comprehensive approach to digitalization ensures that no one is left behind.

UGANDA IS TRYING AND RWANDA IS IN A MUCH BETTER POSITION. DIGITAL INCLUSION IS AN OBJECTIVE THAT EVERY AFRICAN COUNTRY CAN ACHIEVE IF IT PAYS ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING: POLITICAL LEADERSHIP, IMPLEMENTING THE RIGHT POLICIES AND STRATEGIES AT THE RIGHT TIME AND COMMITMENT AND DISCIPLINE.

The insights and learnings are crucial for Ethiopia and Malawi as both countries work to deepen digital inclusion and develop their digital transformation strategies.

Learn more about UNCDF’s work to build inclusive digital economies

The Personal Data Protection Office (PDPO) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), have today launched a data protection and privacy portal that will ease reporting, processing, and resolving of data protection and privacy complaints and breaches. It will also ease registration of persons and organizations collecting and processing personal data. The portal includes SMS/USSD functionality to enable universal access and usage by most citizens. A two-month long awareness campaign to publicize and drive usage of the portal, as well as create awareness on the rights of individuals whose personal data is collected, was also launched.

“The Personal Data Protection Office is open to individuals to file their complaints if they are concerned that their personal data protection rights have not been respected and have not managed to resolve the matter with the organisation involved, whether it is a public or private organization. The data protection and privacy portal makes the filing and resolution of such complaints an efficient process,” Ms. Stella Alibateese, National Personal Data Protection Director said.

The Personal Data Protection Office was set up by the Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019 as an independent Office under the National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (NITA-U) with the mandate to oversee the implementation and enforcement of the Act. The Office was operationalized in August 2021.

The Data Protection and Privacy Act aims to: protect the privacy of the individual and of personal data by regulating it’s collection and processing; provide for the rights of the people whose data is collected and the obligations of organizations that collect this data; and to regulate the use or disclosure of personal data. The law provides that all personal data must be handled in accordance with the principles of data protection and privacy as provided in the Act which include; Accountability, Lawfulness, Minimality, Retention, Quality, Transparency and Security.

“Today’s launch is not about the portal, but rather about what the portal will enable us to achieve, that is, building trust in the digital systems and solutions that have and will increasingly become part of our daily lives. Trust in the digital economy, as we call it today, will drive usage of digital solutions to improve the wellbeing of Ugandans,” Richard Ndahiro, Technical Advisor – Inclusive Digital Economy, UNCDF said.

The potential of digitalization in transforming the livelihoods of individuals, communities, businesses, and the wider economy is never in doubt, and many communities are already reaping the benefits. Yet, digitalization presents several risks which we must work to mitigate. These risks include: (1) That some people are being left behind, and this – if not addressed – will perpetuate significant inequalities, (2) That one’s personal data can end up in the wrong hands or be used contrary to the owner’s wish.

UNCDF’s support to the PDPO to develop the data protection portal is part of its ‘Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era Strategy’, funded by SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The strategy aims to empower millions to use digital services that will leverage innovation and technology to improve their wellbeing, while contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

To access the portal, visit https://pdpo.go.ug/file-complaint

About the Personal Data Protection Office

The Personal Data Protection Office is Uganda’s statutory body established as an independent office under the National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (NITA-U) and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of and enforcement of the Data Protection and Privacy Act. The Office is headed by the National Personal Data Protection Director. The Personal Data Protection Office’s statutory functions include the following; overseeing the implementation of and being responsible for the enforcement of the Data Protection and Privacy Act; coordinating, supervising and monitoring data collectors, data processors, and data controllers; monitoring, investigating and reporting on the observance of the right to the privacy and receiving and investigating complaints relating to violation of the Act. More information on the Office can be found on www.pdpo.go.ug

ABOUT UNCDF

The UN Capital Development Fund makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 46 least developed countries (LDCs). UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development. UNCDF’s financing models work through three channels: (1) inclusive digital economies, which connect individuals, households, and small businesses with financial eco-systems that catalyze participation in the local economy, and provide tools to climb out of poverty and manage financial lives; (2) local development finance, which capacitates localities through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance to drive local economic expansion and sustainable development; and (3) investment finance, which provides catalytic financial structuring, de-risking, and capital deployment to drive SDG impact and domestic resource mobilization. www.UNCDF.org

For further information contact:

Baker Birikujja, Manager Licensing and Legal Affairs, baker.birikujja@pdpo.go.ug

Rachael Kentenyingi, Communications Specialist, UNCDF Uganda, rachael.kentenyingi@uncdf.org

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved a credit of $40.7 million from the International Development Association (IDA) to help Mongolia improve online public services to citizens and businesses, boost digital skills training, and increase digital-enabled jobs.

The Smart Government II Project aims to improve Mongolia’s legal and regulatory environment for building trust and cybersecurity in the use of digital technologies. The project will also enable the development of public services, shared use of cloud computing, and cybersecurity services in the public sector.

The project also aims to help develop Mongolia’s digital economy in response to the impact of disruptive technologies transforming economies and societies globally, and to provide new opportunities for Mongolia’s development. For the digital economy, the project will provide skills and literacy training to 13,000 civil servants and citizens, create 3,000 new digital jobs for youth and women, and help digitalize 2,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to improve their competitiveness and resilience in the global economy.

The project will expand on the successful interventions of the first SMART Government Project that will close on August 31, 2022. The closing project had built and strengthened critical enablers for public sector transformation and online service delivery, including the national-level disaster recovery center, government enterprise architecture, e-Mongolia and open data portal, and e-property registration system.

“It is important that all Mongolian citizens and businesses be able to benefit from the global digital transformation and their country’s digital development efforts,” said Andrei Mikhnev, World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia. “This project will provide Mongolian women, persons with disabilities, and rural or remote inhabitants with easy-to-use and efficient digital public services, and allow youths to develop digital skills and access a wider range of jobs. It will help SMEs – especially those owned or led by women – increase their competitiveness in the global digital market and build their resilience for future crises.”

The Mongolian government has succeeded in providing online public services to citizens and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This experience has added momentum to the government’s longstanding commitment to use the digital transformation as a new driver of economic growth, to develop efficient and accessible public services, and to become a “Digital Nation” in the next five years.

The new project will assist the government in adopting an integrated, whole-of-government approach for its online public services and digital investments.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) today opened a landmark digital development conference aimed at bringing affordable, meaningful connectivity to the estimated 2.9 billion people worldwide who still lack an Internet connection.

The World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), taking place at the Kigali Convention Centre over the next two weeks, promises focused negotiations to connect the unconnected and accelerate global digital development.

The ITU conference will produce a globally agreed Declaration and Action Plan for Connecting the Unconnected to Achieve Sustainable Development.

“Access to high-speed internet has not kept up with the fast pace of digital transformation, and the digitization of the economy in general,” said Rwanda’s President, H.E. Paul Kagame, who opened the conference this morning. “If such inequalities are left unchecked, development will accelerate more and more in some parts of the world, while elsewhere it slows down. The numbers speak for themselves. One third of the world remains offline, and the majority are women in developing countries. The responsibility to shape the future of the digital economy, and ensure no one is left behind, lies with all of us, working together.”

Under the auspices of ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, WTDC brings together more than 2,000 members of the international community, including Heads of State, government ministers, national delegations from 153 countries, prominent leaders from the digital sector, high-level representatives of regional bodies including the African Union and European Union, and top officials from non-governmental bodies.

Between 6 and 16 June, they will strive to draw up a bold new roadmap for harnessing digital technologies to drive socio-economic development and re-energize progress towards the  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN for 2030.

Ramping up global connectivity has gained greater urgency amid the COVID-19 pandemic of the past three years. While Internet use surged in 2020, reaching 4.9 billion​ users worldwide, some 2.9 billion people remain unconnected and in growing danger of being left behind.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, addressing more than 1,000 delegates present at the opening ceremony via video message, said: “The potential of digital technologies to help us make up lost ground in our efforts to achieve the 17 SDGs is tremendous. But so too are the challenges. Over one third of humanity still has no access to the Internet…Your task is to is to map out a new Action Plan to bring the nearly three billion unconnected people into our global digital community, because leaving no-one behind means leaving no-one offline.”

Addressing key development priorities

Rwanda’s Minister for ICT & Innovation and Chair-Designate of WTDC, Paula Ingabire, told delegates gathered at the Kigali Convention Centre: “WTDC is our opportunity to conclusively address the issue of affordable and meaningful connectivity. We must mobilize ourselves to agree on urgent issues that require our consensus now, if we are to continue building foundations for a successful digital future. We can and we must take action over the next four years to ensure connectivity that enables the world’s sustainable development.”

“I echo the UN Secretary-General’s call for universal connectivity with affordable services by 2030 and hope WTDC will make headway on removing all remaining barriers to connectivity,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “We have obligations to the world’s youth, and to each other, to connect the unconnected, drive the development of new technologies central to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and continue to show the world what ITU can do as a technical and, equally important, development agency.”

The Kigali Declaration and the Kigali Action Plan will set out the priorities of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) for the next four years. To strengthen international collaboration, this 8th WTDC is placing added emphasis on new strategies to encourage commitments from both the private and public sectors to rapidly ramp up inclusive, sustainable connectivity through the Partner2 Connect Digital Coalition.

“This conference is all about mobilizing leaders from government, the global tech sector and beyond, to bring digital inclusion to even the hardest-to-connect communities and unleash the power of digital partnership to deliver on our 2030 sustainable development pledges,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which organizes the conference in support of ITU’s mandate to ‘connect the world.’​

Pioneering initiatives: 

This current gathering features a series of ‘firsts’ for an ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference, including:

Generation Connect Global Youth Summit, 2-4 June

A pre-event youth summit, the Generation Connect Global Youth Summit, which welcomed hundreds of young people aged 15-29 onsite in Kigali, with another 5,000+ joining online from around the world via livestream links. The resulting Generation Connect Call to Action​​ will be presented to WTDC delegates and will inform their discussions as they work towards agreement on the Kigali Action Plan.

Launch of the Global Connectivity Report, 6 June

An important new ITU data study, the Global Connectivity Report 2022, will be launched at the WTDC opening press conference on 6 June. The comprehensive report looks at the evolution of connectivity around the world and offers in-depth analysis on the barriers and issues still needing to be resolved to achieve full digital inclusion.

Partner2Connect Digital Development Roundtable, 7-9 June

The P2C Roundtable sessions, organized through the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition from 7 to 9 June, will bring in leading players from the private sector and civil society with the aim of actively advancing commitments to accelerate global connectivity. The event will showcase more than 100 major connectivity pledges from partners around the world.

WTDC Spotlight Sessions

The Roundtable programme also features five Spotlight sessions offering deep-dives into specific issues: Partnering to Transform Education; Advancing the Doha Programme of Action; the Secret Ingredients of Last-Mile Connectivity Investment; Accelerating Universal Meaningful Connectivity through the UN Global Digital Compact; and a special session on Assistance and Support to Ukraine in Rebuilding the Telecommunications Sector.

Network of Women @ WTDC 

A series of WTDC Network of Women (NoW) events, including a NoW breakfast, NoW Walkathon, and NoW lunch, will promote women’s leadership opportunities in the digital sector and the broader international arena.

WTDC Webcasts

Selected sessions, including the WTDC opening and closing ceremonies, the Partner2Connect Roundtable sessions, and the opening press conference will be viewable via webcast.

Find more information, including in-depth backgrounders, in the 
WTDC Newsroom

Growing ‘connectivity canyon’ emerging between the hyperconnected and the ‘digitally destitute’, with more than one third of humanity still totally offline.

The immense potential of the Internet for social and economic good remains largely untapped despite 30 years of steady growth, according to a new report from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies.

Launched to coincide with the opening of ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, the Global Connectivity Report 2022 argues that while easy, affordable access to fast broadband is near-ubiquitous in most rich-world nations, vast swaths of humanity remain excluded from the immense possibilities offered by the online experience, stunting economic development and deepening global inequalities.

While the number of Internet users surged from a just a few million in the early 1990s to almost five billion today, 2.9 billion people – or around one third of humanity – still remain totally offline, and many hundreds of millions more struggle with expensive, poor-quality access that does little to materially improve their lives.

The report advocates for putting ‘universal and meaningful connectivity’ – defined as the possibility of a safe, satisfying, enriching, productive, and affordable online experience for everyone – at the centre of global development. It also evaluates how close the world is to achieving that universal and meaningful connectivity, using the connectivity targets for 2030 recently released by ITU and the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology.

The cost of broadband subscriptions and digital devices remains a major barrier to connectivity, the report confirms. While Internet access has become progressively cheaper in richer countries, getting online is still prohibitively expensive in many in low- and lower-middle-income economies.

And although the cost of broadband – especially mobile broadband – has fallen significantly over the past decade, the majority of low- and middle-income economies still fall short of the global affordability target of 2% or less of gross national income per capita set by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

“Equitable access to digital technologies isn’t just a moral responsibility, it’s essential for global prosperity and sustainability,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “We need to create the right conditions, including promoting environments conducive to investment, to break cycles of exclusion and bring digital transformation to all.”​

While the COVID-related surge in demand for Internet access brought some 800 million additional people online, it also dramatically increased the cost of digital exclusion, with those unable to connect abruptly shut out of employment, schooling, access to health advice, financial services, and much more.

“Universal, meaningful connectivity has become the global imperative for our decade,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which produced the report. “It’s no longer just about linking people – the catalytic role of connectivity will also be absolutely critical to our success in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Still looking for the ‘missing link’ 

The Missing Link’ report, published in 1984 by the Independent Commission for World-Wide Telecommunications Development set up by ITU , identified a clear correlation between access to telecommunications and socio-economic development and urged all countries to make connectivity a priority.

Nearly 40 years on, that ‘missing link’ still persists, but has morphed to multiple digital divides:

  • The Income Divide – the level of Internet use in low-income countries (22%) remains far below that of high-income countries, which are approaching universal use (91%)
  • The Urban-Rural Divide – the share of Internet users is twice as high in urban areas as in rural areas
  • The Gender Divide – globally, 62% of men are using the Internet, compared with 57% of women
  • The Generation Divide – in all regions, young people 15-24 year are more avid Internet users (72% online) than the rest of the population (57%)
  • The Education Divide – In nearly all countries where data are available, rates of Internet use are higher for those with more education – in many cases, far higher.

The report notes that the biggest challenges in connecting the unconnected are no longer related to network coverage, but rather to uptake and use.

With just 5% of the global population still physically out of reach of a mobile broadband signal, the ‘coverage gap’ is now dwarfed by the ‘usage gap’: some 32% of people who are within range of a mobile broadband network and could theoretically connect still remain offline, due to prohibitive costs, lack of access to a device, or lack of awareness, skills, or ability to find useful content.

Youth

While young people are enthusiastic users of online platforms and services in all parts of the world, gaping divides between and within countries limit the ability of many young people to harness the online world to improve their lives.

Only 40% of school-age children have home access to the Internet, with many only able to access online services via a mobile phone with limited functionality for activities like e-learning.

As the digital environment becomes more complex, children and youth also need greater competence to critically understand the digital world in which they are increasingly immersed. Access and digital skills are key to ensuring that children and youth enhance their prospects, and there is growing recognition that all stakeholders need to collaborate more effectively to protect youth from online risks and harm.

Issues directly affecting young people’s digital access and experience were debated at ITU’s first-ever Generation Connect Global Youth Summit, which took place in Kigali, Rwanda, from 2-4 June, just ahead of the opening of the WTDC.

Access a full range of Global Connectivity Report 2022 collateral, including charts and images, here.

WTDC Webcasts 

Selected sessions, including the press conference launching the Global Connectivity Report, the WTDC opening and closing ceremonies, the Partner2Connect Roundtable sessions will be webcast and can be viewed here.​

Find more information, including media backgrounders, on the WTDC Newsroom 
here.

Commissioners meeting in Kigali outlined next steps for accelerating inclusive universal connectivity, setting the stage for tomorrow’s opening of the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development met in Kigali, Rwanda, this weekend to pinpoint new actions that can drive faster progress towards universal meaningful access to digital networks and services.

The high-level advocacy group came together for its annual Spring Meeting at the invitation of the Commission Co-Chair, H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, ahead of the landmark digital development conference held every four years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU): the  World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC).

In his opening remarks to the meeting, President Kagame told Commissioners: “We are still living in tough times, economically, politically, and in terms of global public health. The immediate future is full of uncertainties and risks. But one thing is sure: All of the challenges we face can be handled faster, better, and more equitably, by investing in universal, affordable broadband.”

Commission Co-Chair Carlos Slim also emphasized the importance of connectivity in the wake of the ongoing global health crisis. “For the adoption gap, carriers could provide the devices, and government programmes could pay the monthly subscription for families that qualify, ensuring reasonable packages with unlimited minutes and enough data. This would support remote education, e-health, and e-commerce, among many other digital services,” he said.

Commissioners and Special Guests representing government leaders, heads of international organizations and private sector companies, along with civil society and academia, discussed the power of digital transformation to create broad and positive socio-economic impact and looked at ways to rapidly increase access to broadband, foster innovative partnerships, empower youth, and build trust in online spaces.

In particular, they confronted chronic connectivity challenges and discussed how to ensure affordable, sustainable, and equitable access to digital services across regions, especially in the world’s 46 Least Developed countries, where 17% of the population is still without a mobile broadband signal, and hundreds of millions more kept offline by high prices, lack of digital skills and awareness, and a dearth of usable, relevant and accessible content.

Recognizing the role digital technologies play in all facets of economic activity, Commissioners shared government and business strategies that are incentivizing investment in digital literacy, connectivity, and skills.

Commission Co-Vice Chair Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, noted that “One of the challenges we need to overcome is reducing the cost of broadband subscriptions and digital devices, especially in low- and lower-middle-income economies. Affordability of broadband services in developing countries is also one of the Commission’s 2025 targets. I do hope that we can use this moment to accelerate the achievement of these targets and break down these last barriers to connectivity.”

“Digital and media literacy skills are among the most empowering of human transformations: in terms of our livelihoods, in terms of our access to quality and lifelong education, in terms of decisions guiding our health and safety, and in terms of understanding and exercising our civil rights,” said Dr Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, representing UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, who serves as the Commission’s other Co-Vice Chair. “Broadband Commissioners have a unique awareness of this. We have a unique capacity to lead change, through innovation, investment, advocacy and partnership.”

This latest Commission meeting – the first in-person meeting in two years – provided clear synergies with WTDC, set to kick off tomorrow with the theme of “Connecting the unconnected to achieve sustainable development”.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau and the Commission’s Executive Director, emphasized the urgent need for strong partnerships to step up connectivity.

“In alignment with the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and the 2030 Common Agenda, the Commission will leverage the strength of its membership and collective expertise to advocate for meaningful, safe, secure, and sustainable broadband communications services,” she said.

The Broadband Commission made an advocacy pledge to the ITU Partner2Connect Digital Coalition to help reach inclusive universal connectivity, through policy recommendations addressing broadband policy, access, affordability, use and skills and the advocacy actions to realize 2025 Broadband Advocacy Targets. Pledges were also received by 16 Broadband Commissioners and their entities.

The meeting also highlighted the new Call to Action: My Digital Future​, presented by Generation Connect Visionaries Board members as an outcome of the first-ever Generation Connect Youth Summit, calling for inter-generational efforts to build an equitable, inclusive digital future.

A video,  Broadband Transforming Lives, addressed Broadband Commission Advocacy Target 4 on digital skills for youth and adults, highlighting the work of young changemakers who are embracing technology to make a positive impact on their communities. These voices of the younger generation, together with Commissioners’ input, will be conveyed to the upcoming UN Transforming Education Summit 2022, which aims to shape the future of education and learning.

Commissioners also reported on the progress of the Commission’s four current Working Groups:  Virtual Health & CareSmartphone AccessData for Learning; and AI Capacity Building.

A preview of the forthcoming report of the Working Group on The Future of Virtual Health and Care, co-chaired by Dr Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation, and the World Health Organization, emphasized the need for sound stewardship of the global explosion in virtual health triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure it drives equitable health access and does not exacerbate existing health inequities.

Note to editors
Founded in 2010, the Broadband Commission promotes a multi-stakeholder approach to digital cooperation by seeking to align Internet and connectivity growth to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Commission is recognized for the publication of the annual State of Broadband Report and more than 30 thematic research and advocacy reports addressing such topics as digital health, education, online safety and inclusion of vulnerable populations.

About the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010 by ITU and UNESCO with the aim of boosting the importance of broadband on the international policy agenda and expanding broadband access in every country as key to accelerating progress towards national and international development targets. Led by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helù of Mexico, it is co-chaired by ITU’s Secretary-General Houlin Zhao and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. It comprises over 50 Commissioners who represent a cross-cutting group of top CEO and industry leaders, senior policymakers and government representatives, and experts from international agencies, academia and organizations concerned with development. Learn more at: www.broadbandcommission.org

 About ITU
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. Established over 150 years ago, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communication infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. For more information, visit www.itu.int.

This is the second in a series of blogs about internet access in Indonesia.

A well-functioning digital economy requires widespread access to high-quality internet. Although internet use in Indonesia has nearly quadrupled over the last decade, every second Indonesian adult remains unconnected.

In addition, almost all internet users Indonesia connect through mobile devices. Although mobile broadband (3G, but now increasingly 4G/LTE) is the most widely used internet service in Indonesia, it is not on par with fixed broadband with respect to capacity, quality of service, high bandwidth performance, and cost-efficiency. Distance learning efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic recently highlighted the limitations of mobile internet as millions of students and teachers across Indonesia found their mobile data plans inadequate and prohibitively costly for high bandwidth applications.

Such limited access to high-quality internet prevents the population from unlocking its productive capabilities to fully reap the benefits of a digital economy and points to two key challenges: how to make fixed broadband internet access universal and increase internet quality.

Increased optical fiber network coverage is a necessary but insufficient solution to meeting the key challenges. While investment by private service providers, along with government projects such as Palapa Ring[1] have steadily increased connectivity and service availability across Indonesian districts, internet subscriptions have not increased in parallel. Only 26 percent of homes with access to a fixed broadband provider subscribe to this service.

The low subscription rates are attributable to a large extent to cost and quality concerns. While Indonesian mobile broadband data packages are relatively affordable compared to similar packages offered by Indonesia’s regional peers, fixed broadband packages are not. In the 2019 ITU rankings on fixed line subscription fees, Indonesia ranked 131st in affordability out of the 200 countries and territories observed, confirming that Indonesia is one of the most expensive markets for fixed broadband. Almost half of Indonesia households — 44 percent — cite high costs as the main reason they do not subscribe for fixed broadband services.

On top of expensive fees, the quality of internet service in Indonesia is among the lowest compared to its ASEAN neighbors. Indonesia records the second slowest mobile broadband (17.24 Mbps) download speed—only narrowly surpassing Cambodia, at 16.4 Mbps—and the third slowest fixed broadband speed in ASEAN, after Cambodia and Myanmar.

Mobile and fixed broadband throughput (Mbps)

Source: Ookla Speedtest, February 2022.
Note: Mobile broadband speeds in the left panel and fixed broadband speeds in the right panel.

Why is internet in Indonesia relatively expensive and slow?

Two main factors contributing to the high price and low quality of Indonesia’s internet connectivity. While infrastructure sharing is a common practice among mobile networks, it is not prevalent in the fixed internet broadband market. Between 70 percent and 80 percent of the costs for fixed broadband are typically attributable to passive infrastructure such as ducts, poles, right-of-ways, and civil works. Sharing costs among providers would bring benefits, lower outlays for acquisition, leasing, and maintenance.

Secondly, the restrictive licensing scheme makes service providers bid for service-specific licenses instead of providing a single uniform license for all services. This reduces competitiveness in the broadband market by limiting market entry, which leads to higher prices for consumers for lower quality service, inhibiting broadband internet adoption.

While the mobile broadband space is competitive, the fixed broadband market is more concentrated, with Telkom dominating the market share

(Subscription shares of various providers)

Source: Subscription data, various sources. Estimates for subscription number are extracted from each respective company’s 2018 Q3 investor memo.

Note: Mobile broadband subscription share in the left panel and fixed broadband subscription share in the right panel by providers

To address these regulatory bottlenecks, Indonesia could consider two policy measures as suggested in the World Bank’s Beyond Unicorn report. First, the government could act to encourage active and passive infrastructure sharing. Recently enacted rules are a good start demonstrating government efforts to boost passive infrastructure sharing. Follow-up enforcement will be important. In addition, the regulation of passive infrastructure sharing and rapid and effective dispute resolution should be the responsibility of a single entity. Finally, public-private partnerships could be leveraged to accelerate investments in connectivity. For example, internet service providers could cooperate with public service providers to use already available public telecommunication poles and underground lines for fiber optic deployment.

Second, Indonesia should strengthen competition along the broadband value chain by simplifying the licensing process to encourage entry of new participants and development of more advanced products. Consumers should also be given the possibility to switch between service providers by enabling transferability of telephone numbers across providers.

Do you have any views on how to improve Indonesia’s internet access and quality? Please share in the comments box below.

This blog post is part of a series of blogs discussing the digital divide in the context of broadband internet access, mobile internet access, digital economy and digital governance, relying on results of the Beyond Unicorn report.

[1] The Palapa Ring project, a private-public partnership (PPP) led by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (Kominfo) and implemented during 2015–19, has succeeded in extending the domestic backbone to the entire country. The original Palapa Ring project was divided into a commercially feasible part and a commercially non-feasible part. The commercially feasible part (457 districts/cities) was undertaken by the private sector and included the routes from Lombok to Kupang, SMPCS (Sulawesi-Maluku-Papua-Cable-System) up to Jayapura and Merauke, and several smaller cable projects. The commercially non-feasible part of Palapa Ring (57 districts) was financed through the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund (financed by a levy on the net revenues of the telcos) and was also deployed in 2015–19.

Digital companies are playing a growing role in the race to eliminate harmful emissions from industry, transport, energy production, and other activities. By purchasing growing shares of renewable energy, investing in carbon removal, and issuing green bonds, the technology firms driving the world’s digital transformation have also come to the forefront in efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

A report to be published later this month by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) documents the emissions and energy use of 150 of the world’s leading tech companies. Beyond assessing corporate climate data and targets, the report – Greening Digital Companies: Monitoring Emissions and Climate Commitments – highlights best practices for digital companies to slash their emissions and achieve carbon-neutral operations.

To mark World Environment Day (5 June) and this year’s #OnlyOneEarth campaign, here are five key takeaways from the report:

1. The 150 digital companies consumed 1.6 per cent of global electricity production in 2020

Operational GHG emissions of the companies accounted for 239 million tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 0.76 per cent of the world total. The overall footprint of digital companies is estimated to be much higher, but it cannot be determined precisely as not all companies calculate their upstream and downstream emissions. The 150 digital companies in the study consumed 425 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2020, accounting for 1.6 per cent of global electricity production.

2. A few companies account for the bulk of digital company emissions

Just 20 companies account for three quarters of the operational emissions, while 9 companies headquartered in East Asia accounted for half of all the emissions of the 150 reviewed in the report. Compared to others, East Asian-headquartered companies use relatively little renewable energy. They have delayed adopting climate-friendly strategies, and will largely not reach carbon neutrality until after 2050 or around two decades later, on average, than companies headquartered in other regions.

3. The purchasing power of digital companies helps scale up renewable energy markets

Digital companies are helping to build viable markets for renewables and accelerate global progress towards carbon neutrality. Seven of the world’s top ten largest corporate purchasers of renewables in 2020 were digital companies, and the digital sector accounted for almost half of the renewables purchased that year. Digital companies are also working with their suppliers to encourage them to use renewables and reduce emissions. But reflecting solar and wind use correctly in power bills can get complicated. Although the companies pay for their renewable electricity, constraints in electrical grids mean it is not always delivered to them. Google is partnering with UN Energy and Sustainable Energy for All to boost the availability of renewables to purchasers over the grid 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

4. Sixteen digital companies report they are already carbon neutral

In all but two cases, firms reporting carbon neutrality are headquartered in Europe or the United States and are offsetting remaining, unavoidable emissions through climate-friendly projects, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. Along with helping to reduce emissions, such projects can achieve positive spill-over effects for sustainable development. Examples include solar and wind farms, reforestation, providing sustainable cookstoves, and pay-as-you-go solar power schemes. Forward-looking firms plan to move beyond carbon neutrality to net zero, where unavoidable emissions in a company’s footprint are removed from the atmosphere. Digital companies are investing over USD 4 billion in carbon removal technologies.

5. Digital products and services are making an impact by enabling wider emission reductions

The products and services of digital companies have become crucial to enable emission reductions in other sectors, including through video conferencing, as well as smart metering for buildings and transport systems. Telecommunications operators report that their services are enabling customers to avoid emissions more than six times what the operators generate in their operations.

Join the report launch webinar on 23 June to discuss key findings and hear from experts across civil society, the private sector, and governments. Register here.

Youth in Gaza collectively tackled digital challenges, enhancing their problem-solving skills and innovative abilities.

Almost 150 trainees of the International Trade Centre’s Go Digital project in Gaza recently faced off against each other in a hackathon, honing their collaborative and innovative skills while competing for cash prizes. The three-week hackathon culminated in a three-day competition during which they had to tackle four challenges involving a food delivery app, a personal finance app, a digital resource platform and an e-learning platform.

A hackathon is an event where participants get together for a short period of time to collaborate on a project. Participants work quickly to develop novel solutions and achieve their tasks. The four Go Digital hackathon challenges simulated the experience of delivering real work projects under tight deadlines. They enabled the trainees to put the skills they gained during their Go Digital training into practice and increase their own job readiness, so judges – including technical trainers and owners of tech companies in Gaza – could assess their employability and reward individual high achievement.

The trainees were asked to network and form teams of 5–8 people, each from different Go Digital training groups, namely, SEO, Translation, Bookkeeping, React.js, Flutter, WordPress and e-learning and UX/UI trainees from the former cohort of the ITC intervention in Gaza (Work Online 2). The 13 competing teams were asked to develop creative solutions for each challenge, using their expertise alongside innovative ideas to develop digital and virtual outputs that were new in Gaza. A networking session helped the trainees adopt a collaborative problem-solving approach.

The first challenge asked the trainees to design and develop a food delivery mobile application listing nearby home-cooked meals that could be delivered or picked up and the second was to create a personal mobile app that allows financial planning, review, expense tracking and personal asset management. The third challenge was to develop a digital resource centre featuring tools for start-ups, freelancers and entrepreneurs, while the fourth asked the trainees to design a self-paced online course based on a software simulation programme and using a learning management system.

‘The word hackathon reminds me of the word marathon,’ said Noor Alagha. ‘There’s a competition, there is running (metaphorically) in a tight time period. The challenge for us was how to form our team properly and how to develop the idea in the fastest way and the shortest time to present our product to the audience and the evaluation committee in the best way possible.’

That product was Tools Gate, a website that gives freelancers and entrepreneurs the tools to facilitate their work, shows them how to use these tools and explains what tools they may need. The website, which is in both English and Arabic, won the third challenge and a cash prize.

‘The competition was intense’

The evaluation committee of experienced judges from different fields assessed the results based on six specific criteria, ranging from the capabilities of the team and the pitching quality to the solutions the trainees developed and whether there was a clearly defined target market. The solutions that were developed have become real products, opening the door for more jobs in Gaza.

Four winning teams were selected (one for each challenge) and they divided the prize money of $1,000 per team.

‘The competition was intense and the challenge was considerable,’ said Mohammed Algoul, whose team developed the prize-winning Fino App, which helps people manage their finances. ‘The competing teams worked really hard.’

But the hackathon was about more than money, Alagha said.

‘It has been a great opportunity to network with colleagues from other majors, to broaden our horizons and to develop not only in our major, but in others, too,’ she said. ‘I am really glad I was part of the hackathon as I adopted new viewpoints and met new people, a valuable addition to my life.’

About the project

Go Digital is an International Trade Centre initiative in partnership with the Business and Technology Incubator in the State of Palestine, funded by the Government of Japan. The project seeks to enhance the self-employment opportunities of refugees and youth in Gaza through digital channels.

The first-ever Generation Connect Global Youth Summit opened its doors today at Kigali’s Intare Conference Arena to more than 500 young people aged 15-29 from around the world to discuss a wide-ranging ‘tech for development’ agenda ahead of a landmark digital development conference.

Organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with host country Rwanda, the three-day summit aims to drive meaningful youth engagement, consultation, collaboration, and participation in determining policies that will shape our increasingly digital world.

With a total of more than 1500 delegates from over 115 countries and 5,000+ joining online, it brings young leaders, entrepreneurs, social change-makers, engineers, policy specialists, and students together with today’s regional and global business leaders, decision-makers, and community advocates in the run-up to ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC).

“The United Nations system needs to become more inclusive as we strive to build a better world for our children to inherit,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhou. “Among the concrete steps taken to address this, the ITU Youth Strategy calls for supporting youth empowerment, bringing young people together for direct engagement, and fostering youth dialogue and participation in decision-making processes.”

Key topics at the three-day Youth Summit include the global digital divide, youth access to online education and digital skills, the digital gender gap, online safety, e-waste management, the future of work, digital entrepreneurship, the role of technology in climate change, and more.

Addressing young delegates gathered at the Intare Arena this afternoon, Rwandan Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dr Édouard Ngirente, said: “The extent to which our economies can grow will depend on the ability to ensure equitable access to technology as well as upskilling and reskilling our populations, especially the young people. These are global opportunities that require global cooperation. It is in this spirit that the Generation Connect Global Youth Summit is kicking off, because young people around the world are central to the vision to connect the unconnected.”

The high-level representatives welcomed at this morning’s opening ceremony also included Hon. Rosemary Mbabazi, Minister for Youth and Culture, who told assembled delegates that “The advancement of technology in today’s world is a constant factor, and youth are the early adopters, developers of these new technologies. Given an enabling environment, youth can bring the change and transformation needed in the world.”

Preparing a Call to Action

The summit programme, co-designed with young people from ITU’s global Generation Connect Youth network, will culminate with a consensus-based Call to Action on ‘Our Digital Future’.

This will comprise recommendations to enhance youth engagement in building an inclusive, sustainable digital future for all. Key aims include direct participation of youth in devising government digital strategies, as well as in the work of ITU and the wider UN system.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), encouraged young delegates to be bold, and be creative. “As the first true generation of digital natives, your youthful perspective, combined with your digital skills, offer us a real chance to navigate a new and better path, to break down old barriers, and to finally create that elusive, equitable, ‘World We Want’,” she said.

Youth envoys will present the Call to Action to leaders and decision-makers at WTDC – the main development-oriented conference held every four years by ITU, the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). See what young people are saying at the summit​.

Addressing diverse needs 

ITU’s Youth Strategy is aligned with the vision and objectives of the United Nations Youth Strategy: Youth 2030 – ‘working with and for young people’. As part of this, summit participants will share the positive and negative impacts of technology on their lives.

The programme features a special focus on the needs of young women, young people with disabilities, and young indigenous people. It also highlights the challenges of young people who are not yet connected to the Internet, or who struggle with connectivity that is too limited to help them flourish and realize their dreams and ambitions.

The Generation Connect Global Youth Summit’s global footprint reflects preparatory activities at over 70 hubs in over 40 countries. Hosted by academic institutions, not-for-profits, and private-sector companies, these hubs have mobilized close to 5,000 youth, who will connect live throughout various summit sessions.

In this research paper, we attempt to estimate the tax revenues to be gained (or lost) by the South Centre and African Union’s Member States under the Amount A and Article 12B regimes. Our analysis relied on sources of information available to private sector researchers but did not involve review of any information that taxpayers provide to tax authorities. Our research demonstrates that the comparative revenue effects of the Amount A and Article 12B taxation regimes largely depend on (a) design details of the Article 12B regime, (b) whether the country hosts headquarters of MNEs that may be in scope of Amount A or Article 12B taxation, and (c) what relief from double taxation, if any, the country will grant to domestic taxpayers subject to taxation under either the Amount A or Article 12B regimes.

Download the research

During their transformation from a network distributing correspondence (letters) to a network distributing goods (parcels and small packets), Posts are facing increased competition and smaller profit margins. The exchange of data is critical to maintaining a competitive quality of service; however, electronic advance data (EAD) compliance can be costly. UPU is working to facilitate that data exchange in an efficient yet affordable way through its EAD Customs Declaration Mobile App.

The key to EAD compliance is collecting good quality data and submitting it to an item’s destination Post as soon as possible. However, organizing this data in an efficient, secure and cost-effective way can be challenging for the Post of origin. For this reason, the UPU’s Postal Technology Centre (PTC), which manages and coordinates the UPU’s telematics and technological activities, has developed a number of tools available to help posts capture and transfer reliable, quality data to partners across the postal network.

One of the latest technologies developed by the PTC is the EAD Customs Declaration App, which is available through the Apple and Google Play stores and provides postal customers and MSMEs an easy means to input any Customs information related to their postal item before sending. This then helps ensure the Post can capture all required data to ensure timely Customs clearance.

The process is simple: when the customer hands over the mail item to the Post of origin, the Post can call the draft directly from the CDS database, or scan the QR code on the mobile device of the sender, and retrieve all information for validation before sending.

The benefits of using the App are evident across the supply chain. Having an application right in the palm of their hand saves the customer precious time when depositing their item at the post office. The sending Post also minimizes time spent with each customer in order to key in the necessary data. As a result, Customs receives good quality data monitored and validated within the App itself.

With the App and the other technical tools provided by the PTC, Posts can better organize to reduce their compliance costs. In addition, such technologies contribute to modernizing and digitizing the full postal supply chain from end to end, offering to customers an experience that is competitive with other logistics networks.

In addition to this, it also ensures that data is safeguarded through the PTC’s secured Post*Net network. With the EAD App, Posts and their customers can be sure that their personal data is protected from end-to-end.

These benefits were recently recognized by the World Summit on the Information Society, which awarded the App as a champion project during its 2022 conference in Geneva.

A postal perspective: Correios Cabo Verde

The EAD Customs Declaration Mobile App helps post offices in the process of digital transformation and diversification, like Correios Cabo Verde, transform their operational models and processes, as well as helping them develop a new way of interacting with their customers.

According to our experience, the EAD App has helped optimize the end-to-end digital supply chain process, improve partner relationship management and increase the effectiveness of our service. It has also helped us implement paperless transactions between the Post and Customs, increase transparency by ensuring all items are handled the same way, and given us more control throughout the shipping process. This digital tool has also helped us improve our enforcement of and reduction of tax evasion as all transactions are recorded digitally. This digital mechanism has also led to cost reductions and improved our statistics.

We cannot forget another crucial benefit of implementing this App: security. The EAD App has helped to prevent security gaps, ensuring a secure postal supply chain through built-in mechanisms that help control prohibited and restricted goods before they enter the postal stream.

The App is a great contribution to the development of e-commerce worldwide.

See how Correios Cabo Verde is using the UPU’s EAD

Mobile phones generate a staggering amount of data, allowing researchers to address previously unanswerable questions, and answer existing questions with new depth and granularity. How are researchers making use of mobile data to address global development challenges? We discussed this question at Measuring Development 2022: The Role of Mobile Data in Global Development Research, the 8th edition of a conference co-organized by the Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) department, the Development Data Group’s Analytics and Tools (DECAT) unit, and the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) at the University of California, Berkeley. Below, we share a roundup with links to recordings.

Session 1: Mobile Data for Development (video)

Melis Guven, Global Lead for Social Protection Delivery Systems, highlighted the great promise mobile data holds for social protection, jobs, and resilience programs.

Emily Aiken (UC Berkeley) discussed using mobile phone data to target social assistance programs when recent data on socioeconomic status is not available. Working with the government in Togo, researchers used machine learning, combined with phone and survey data, to identify low-income individuals among all six million mobile subscribers.

Emily Aiken presents her research using mobile data to predict poverty and target aid in Togo.
Emily Aiken presents her research using mobile data to predict poverty and target aid in Togo.

 

Daniel Putman (UPenn) presented research in Haiti, showing how mobile phone data can be used to document activation of the social network in a time of crisis.

Xiao Hui Tai (UC Berkeley) showed how mobile phone data can be used to measure seasonal migration in Afghanistan. She uses location data from call detail records to estimate migration, combined with measures of poppy yield (derived from satellites), to remotely measure seasonal agricultural labor flows.

Mobile Data for Health (video)

Session 2A, chaired by Olusoji Adeyi, President of Resilient Health Systems, featured research on the use of mobile data to improve global public health.

Kibrom Tafere (World Bank) shared a paper suggesting that access to mobile technology correlates with substantial decreases in infant mortality, both directly (increasing access to health information and health services), and indirectly (improving welfare).

María Díaz de León Derby (UC Berkeley) discussed how her lab used machine learning to develop a unique mobile-based tool (LoaScope) to test for neglected tropical diseases. The LoaScope allows field staff with minimal training to identify diseases such as schistosomiasis without expensive equipment like microscopes.

María Díaz de León Derby describes a mobile device to diagnose neglected tropical diseases
María Díaz de León Derby describes a mobile device to diagnose neglected tropical diseases.

 

Heather Amato (UC Berkeley) presented research on the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Mobile data collection allowed the team to map bacterial loads in stool samples to risk factors from high livestock production areas.

Mobile data and COVID-19

Session 2B, chaired by Norbert Schady, Chief Economist for Human Development at the World Bank, focused on the uses of mobile data for research related to COVID-19. Watch the session here.

Victor Orozco (World Bank) demonstrated the value of educational technology apps and social media to amplify the effect of social behavioral change campaigns. He noted that the distribution stage is often the most important but neglected stage of public health interventions (as was the case with COVID-19 vaccination).

Arman Rezaee (UC Davis) discussed a social media platform experiment in Pakistan, testing how moderation impacts the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and subsequent engagement. Moderation reduced engagement, but aggressively disseminating accurate information counteracts this effect.

Lorenzo Lucchini (Bocconi) presented on the disparate impact of COVID-19 in developing countries, specifically on self-isolation, commuting patterns, and migration. Wealthier people reduce their mobility more than poorer people in response to COVID-19 restrictions.


State of Play: Mobile Data in Global Development Research (video)

 

Sveta Milusheva gives an overview lecture on the use of mobile phone data in development.
Sveta Milusheva gives an overview lecture on the use of mobile phone data in development.

Sveta Milusheva (World Bank) discussed the challenges of mainstreaming mobile data for global development research, including data access, privacy, data limitations, and interpretation. Access to mobile data is restricted due to the sensitivity of the raw data. Mobile data is not research-ready: limitations include incomplete data and anomalous data points. Interpretation of mobile data is not straightforward: the way people use phones changes over time. To truly mainstream mobile data, capacity must be improved at all levels of the ecosystem. Sveta proposed a call to action: open-source tools and trainings would allow mobile network operators to produce aggregate indicators themselves; sharing aggregated indicators facilitates access and addresses privacy concerns at the same time.

Mobile data for transport (video)

Session 3, chaired by Nicolas Peltier, Global Director for Transport at the World Bank, focused on the use of mobile data in transport.

Girija Borker (World Bank) presented on the use of mobile technology to report violence against women. Her research team created a smartphone app to encourage reporting of sexual harassment and violence in public transport. The pilot showed that incidence (measured by the app) was 59%, but only 1% was formally reported.

Robert Marty (World Bank) discussed how mobility restrictions from COVID-19 policies impacted road safety in Kenya. The team combines administrative police data with traffic reports and congestion data. They find that COVID-19 restrictions reduce mobility and congestion, but there is no proportional decrease in crashes, suggesting even greater incidence of crashes for the vehicles remaining on the road.

Alice Duhaut (World Bank) shared early-stage research on the impact of adding bus rapid transit in a highly congested city (Lagos). This collaboration with the Lagos transit agency, explores whether bus transit reduces congestion, and whether commuters value it or prefer cheaper informal options.

Florence Kondylis (World Bank) presented research using crowdsourced data from the Brazilian metro to measure women’s willingness to pay for the metro car reserved for women. They find that use of the gender-reserved car reduces incidence of harassment by half.

Methods for Mobile Data (video)

Session 4, chaired by Aart Kraay, Director of Development Policy and Deputy Chief Economist at the World Bank, covered the challenges and limitations of mobile data.

Vanessa Frías-Martinez (UMD) shared work using CDR-based measures of spatial dynamic and social ties to predict individual internal migration decisions. This can be used to create migration flow maps in contexts where primary data collection is not feasible.

Oscar Barriga Cabanillas (World Bank) spoke about testing use of CDR data for targeting or program evaluation for an emergency cash transfer program in Haiti. Only 34% of the target population had phones, and those that had phones rarely used them, which imposed strong data limitations.

Megan Lang (UC Santa Barbara) presented studies in Rwanda and Uganda on whether SMS surveys are sufficiently informative given low response rates, and showed that complimenting SMS with infrequent in-person surveys can reduce bias.

Dan Björkegren (Brown) discussed whether smartphones are informative about how people move. Smartphone penetration is still low, and smartphone owners are different from other phone owners, in terms of both who they are and how they use their phones. Smartphone owners use data, and make more transactions, so their location is observed more in CDR data; downsampling data users is important for comparability.

The conference ended with a round of short Lightning Talks by several researchers and industry experts, which you can watch here.

In a world where information travels within seconds and a single data breach can threaten national and individual security, multistakeholder engagement and regional cooperation have become the only way to reap the benefits and address the dangers of omnipresent technology. Founded in 1989, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is one cooperation channel with a mission to harmonize ICT policies and practices and create a single yet diverse and prolific Caribbean ICT space. Supporting the single market, driving investment, and modernizing government services are only few of the critical issues that comprise the Caribbean digital transformation agenda, of which Posts are both drivers and beneficiaries. In a new episode of Voice Mail, Rodney Taylor, CTU Secretary General, shares his experience of leading digitalization in small island developing states (SIDS) along with his thoughts on the role of the postal sector in ensuring the growth and the security of post-COVID Caribbean digital economies.

Artist Feruz Temirov from Uzbekistan creates hand-painted miniatures for the global market, selling through eBay.

Feruz Temirov is an artist and painter from Bukhara, one of Uzbekistan’s ancient cities. It was a prominent stop on the Silk Road trade route between the East and the West, and a major medieval center for Islamic theology and culture. It still contains hundreds of well-preserved mosques, madrassas, bazars and caravanserais, dating largely from the 9th to the 17th centuries.

After his graduation from the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts at Bukhara State University, Feruz decided to specialize in Uzbek miniature and teach this art major at the same university. During his academic career, Feruz opened a private gallery in the old city of Bukhara, creating miniatures and compositions on various topics: the Great Silk Road (caravan), famous scientists and travelers in history, the Tree of Life, and more. The painter uses a variety of materials, including ancient silk paper, modern Samarkand mulberry paper and brushes made of natural materials. The process of creating miniatures is complicated and time-consuming: it requires perseverance, great patience, a steady hand and keen eyesight, as well as the artist’s boundless imagination.

“It is a great achievement and a great happiness for me if the miniatures I create will please not only modern art lovers, but also future generations,” says Feruz.

The artist has participated in international exhibitions around Europe, travelling to Austria, Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland, where he sold many miniatures.

In 2020, Feruz Temirov joined the International Trade Centre’s European Union-funded Ready4Rade Central Asia programme that supports small businesses in e-commerce.

“Being part of the programme gave me the opportunity to learn, explore new business opportunities and discover new markets. I now know how to build an e-commerce strategy, do market research, identify potential customers and audiences, create e-commerce content, evaluate and select payment and logistics providers, and promote my business online,” says Feruz.

He goes on to explain: “With the support of my coach and ITC’s ecomConnect experts, I learned how to operate and sell online through virtual marketplaces. Now, I can sell online from Uzbekistan using my eBay store and provide international customers with 24/7 support and service. In addition, through ITC’s partnership with DHL, we receive preferential rates for our international shipping which makes us more competitive.”

After completing the training within Ready4Trade programme in 2022, Feruz is planning to create online stores on Amazon Handmade and Etsy next to participating in international exhibitions.

About the project

Uzbekistan is one of the five beneficiary countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project, funded by the European Union with €15 million, and implemented by ITC. The e-commerce trainings were also launched in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and include up to 200 participating small businesses.

The Ready4Trade Central Asia project is a joint initiative of the European Union and the International Trade Centre. It aims to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations.