Innovation Driving the City

By Ms. Theresa Mathawaphan and Ms. Yaowarat Kekina, National Innovation Agency (Public Organisation), Thailand


Check out the 28 March 2019 EMnet meeting on
“Global Challenges for Business in Emerging Markets”
with a special focus on Smart Cities in Asia


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Bangkok CyberTech District Development

Innovation and technology currently play an increasing role in developing the urban city by tackling multiple challenges. Many cities in the ASEAN region have set-up urban development strategies by creating an innovation ecosystem to elevate the area’s economy and investment, reaching a global level. This makes the “innovation city” concept more recognised and used as a new way of driving the development of cities.

Proof of this is the Innovation Cities Index 2018. This report evaluates the city innovation ecosystem capability of 500 cities worldwide, reflecting the vision that a city can grow and be sustainably driven when citizens and corporations are capable of generating innovation. This index measures three main aspects, namely cultural assets, human infrastructure and networked markets, and has a total of 162 indexes. Continue reading

Can digital technologies really be used to reduce inequalities?

By Tim Unwin, Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, Royal Holloway, University of London1, and Co-Founder of TEQtogether2

Digital-technologies-inequalitiesThe numerous initiatives created over the last 20 years using Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) have transformed the lives of many people living in poorer countries. However, at the same time, they have also greatly increased the economic power and wealth of the owners and shareholders of large global technology corporations. In 2017, Oxfam reported that eight men owned the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity; five of these men made most of their wealth directly from the technology sector.3 Of course, such technologies can reduce inequalities, but the hidden, ugly secret of “digital development” is that instead of improving the lives of the poorest and most marginalised, such technologies have actually dramatically increased inequality at all scales, from the global to the local.

Few people and organisations emphasise this, focusing instead on the glass being half-full rather than half-empty. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and countless others have thus recently praised the achievement that 51.2% of the world’s population were using the Internet by the end of 2018.4 However, this means that 48.8% are still not using it. If the Internet brings benefits, then just under half of the world’s people are being structurally disadvantaged. Yet, this need not be. If we have the will to do so, we can indeed work together with people with disabilities, children at risk of living and working on the streets, refugees, women and girls in patriarchal societies, ethnic minorities, and those living in geographically isolated areas to help empower them through the design and use of relevant technologies. Continue reading

Digital economies at global ‘’margins’’

By Mark Graham, Professor of Internet Geography, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford; Turing Fellow, The Alan Turing Institute; and Research Affiliate, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

digital-economies.jpgBillions of people at the world’s economic ‘’margins’’ are experiencing a moment of changing connectivity. In Manila, Manchester, Mogadishu, the banlieues of Marseille and everywhere in between, the world is becoming digital, digitised and digitally mediated at an astonishing pace. Most of the world’s wealthy have long been digitally connected, but the world’s poor and economically marginal have not been enrolled in digital networks until relatively recently. In only five years (2012–2017), over one billion people became new Internet users (ITU 2016). In 2017, Internet users became a majority of the world’s population. The networking of humanity is thus no longer confined to a few economically prosperous parts of the world. For the first time in history, we are creating a truly global and accessible communication network.

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Towards a Human Rights Based Approach to Bridging Africa’s Gender Digital Divide

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By Nadira Bayat, Programme Director, Global Economic Governance (GEG) Africa1


This blog is part of a special series marking the launch of the updated
2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)


SIGI-Digital-Human-RightsThe rapid rise of the Internet, together with emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), advanced robotics and drones, Blockchain, the “Internet of things” (IoT) and 3D printing, are unleashing new opportunities and transforming the global economy. While these technological advances can address some of the most pressing 21st century challenges – from education, health care and public services to agriculture, economic inclusion and the environment – the benefits are not being shared equally. Despite Internet connectivity having finally reached 50% of the world’s population in 2018, the rate of Internet access growth has slowed down considerably.2 In Africa, specifically, only about 20% of the population has regular Internet access3 – a challenge with significant implications for harnessing the transformative power of the technology-driven Fourth Industrial Revolution for inclusive and sustainable development.

Women from developing countries comprise the majority of the unconnected. The gender divide has narrowed in most regions since 2013, but it has widened in Africa. The proportion of women using the Internet on the continent is 25% lower than the proportion of men.4 Notwithstanding the significant potential of mobile phone technology to spur women’s entrepreneurship through mobile banking and payment services as well as improved access to information and finance, sub-Saharan Africa follows South Asia with the second largest average gender gap in both mobile ownership and mobile Internet use.5 A widening gender digital divide concerning the availability, affordability, accessibility, and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) negatively impacts women’s economic empowerment. It further undermines full gender equality that lies at the core of human rights and is integral to the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Technological change raises the stakes for action to leave no one behind

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By Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator


To read more about this topic, check out the upcoming release
of the
Development Co-operation Report 2018: Joining Forces to Leave No One Behind on 11 December 2018


growth-technology-people.jpgThe 2030 Agenda presents a historic opportunity to set the world on track to a sustainable future. In twelve years’ time, a litmus test for its success will be: have we made good on the promise to ‘leave no one behind’? The answer will depend, in some measure, on our responses to the fourth industrial revolution.

The speed and ubiquity of technological change offers unparalleled opportunities for sustainable development, but it also comes with the risk of rising inequalities within and between countries. It is up to policy makers to leverage this transformation for good, and to mitigate their risks.

Artificial intelligence can improve the quality and reach of health care with half of the world’s population still not having access to essential health services. Digital technologies can boost agricultural productivity. Satellite imagery can help combat deforestation. Big data analytics can identify needs and help track progress in real time. Drones can deliver essential supplies. And digital finance can enable new models to deliver basic services. Continue reading

Tracing our roots: Understanding African innovation

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By Youssef Travaly, PhD MBA, Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Vice-President of Science, Innovation & Partnerships, and Acting President, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Senegal


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
18th International Economic Forum on Africa


Africa-digital-technologyCan you name a famous African scientist?

Barely no one can answer this question, even with some thought. And yet, Africa is the cradle of humanity, and therefore logically, the cradle of science and innovation. So why can’t we name any famous African scientists? The simple answer is that we don’t know much about the history of innovation in Africa. The world’s technologically driven human progress can be divided into two parts: the “Africa” time with major discoveries, including tools, fire, mathematics and steel, and the more recent “industrial” read “western Europe and North America” time with major discoveries such as the steam engine, vaccines, antibiotics, computers and much more. In between the two, the world transitioned from more “informal” homegrown knowledge-based innovation to more “formal” scientific knowledge-based innovation. Within that context, Africa’s research and innovation, which often occurs outside the so-called “formal” innovation framework, completely disappeared from the global map of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). Since then, “playing catch-up” has been the cornerstone of the strategy of every single African nation intending to adopt a knowledge-led economy. But do we really need to catch-up? What does catching up even mean?

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Make AfCFTA a reality

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By Abdoul Salam Bello, Advisor to the Executive Director, Group Africa II, World Bank Group; Visiting Fellow, Africa Center, Atlantic Council; and Author of “La régionalisation en Afrique: Essai sur un processus d’intégration et de développement” (L’Harmattan 2017)


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
18th International Economic Forum on Africa


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The March 2018 signing of the framework agreement to form a continental free-trade zone throughout Africa is raising a lot of expectations. In fact, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) would be the largest free trade agreement since the founding of the World Trade Organization. It will include 1 billion people and up to USD 3 trillion of cumulative GDP.

Amongst the AfCFTA’s expectations is a significant boost in intra-trade. At just an 18% share of total trade, Africa has the lowest levels of intra-continental trade in the world. While the continent’s trading blocs have helped to improve these figures, the level of intra-trade in Africa is a far cry from the levels witnessed in Latin America (35%) and Asia (45%). Furthermore, Africa’s intra-continental trade has been substantially outpaced by trade with the rest of the world – often by as much as 90%.

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