Central Asian countries advance cooperation on innovation and technology to promote digital transformation for sustainable development

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit hard the countries of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) and highlights the need to diversify from current, resource-dependent models of economic development. This will mean putting ‘innovation and technology that focus on green and digital transformation’ at the centre of their recovery processes.

To achieve sustainable, innovation-led economic development requires the broad and systematic experimentation with innovative ideas across the economy, together with Government policies that play a catalyzing role. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have committed to stepping-up their efforts to enhance national innovation policies as well as regional cooperation and integration on innovation and technology under the “SPECA Innovation Strategy for Sustainable Development” (adopted in 2019) and the “Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Action Plan 2022-2026”.

During 19 – 20 July 2022, the SPECA government representatives as well as experts and private sector representatives, gathered to take stock of the progress made on these commitments and discussed the way forward, at the Expert Group Meeting on Innovation and Technology for Sustainable Development, organized by ESCAP and UNECE in Almaty, Kazakhstan and online.

In follow-up to the outcome of the Expert Group Meeting, the third session of the SPECA Working Group on Innovation and Technology for Sustainable Development, held in Almaty and online on 20 July 2022, which was attended by the SPECA member countries, adopted a set of important decisions in the area of innovation and digitalization, such as: confirmation of their support to the implementation of the “Asia Pacific Information Superhighway Action Plan 2022-2026”, and the proposed establishment of a Digital Solutions Center for Sustainable Development in Kazakhstan to promote digital cooperation and integration in the sub-region.

In addition, the Working Group welcomed the launch of a pilot SPECA Network of Business Incubators and Accelerators for Sustainable Development, based on UNECE work on business incubators. In this connection, the Working Group expressed its support to the innovative high-growth firms in the sub-region, and the recent “Innovation for Sustainable Development Review” of Uzbekistan. Participants from the SPECA countries expressed their strong interest in engaging with this Network to enhance support to their innovative entrepreneurship.

UNECE and ESCAP have been providing extensive capacity-building and policy advisory support to SPECA and continue to support their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals through ‘innovation and technology’ as one of the key drivers towards their structural economic and social transformations.

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