Ms Farzana Zahir, Deputy Permanent Representative
on Information and Communication Technologies for Development (AOSIS)
13 October 2017
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). We align ourselves with the statement delivered by the distinguished representative of Ecuador on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. We wish to thank the Secretary General for his report on the progress made under this agenda item. However, we would like to take this opportunity to ask that future reports specifically address the special circumstances of small island developing states, and that the findings and analysis enhances our knowledge of the current state of ICTs in SIDS.
The issues of ICT for development is an important one for my Group, as evidenced by our active participation in this Forum as well as in the WSIS + 10 review process. As countries that have many development challenges that stem as a direct result of remoteness and communication barriers due to geographical factors, the necessity of advancement in information technologies in our societies is immense.
In this regard, the Group would like to place on record its appreciation for the operationalization of the Technology Bank for LDCs, the holding of the second Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation forum earlier this year and the advancements made in the implementation of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism as a whole. However, we remain concerned about the progress in operationalization of the online platform for the TFM, and call for its speedy and full implementation.
ICTs are key in supporting measures and policies in all phases of development – innovations in disaster risk management and reduction, healthcare, e-governance, financial services, natural resource management, to name just a few – all present tremendous opportunities for transformative and progressive change.
However, the speed and intensity with which ICTs have propagated through and shaped our societies has created new challenges as well. The digital divide between developed and developing countries, and further the gender digital divide, remain a challenge as highlighted in this year’s report as well. Unequal access to information technologies in many cases has exacerbated the inequality gap within and between countries. Therefore, coordinated and informed policies are required to increase equitable access and use of ICTs.
For island states like ours, ICT deployment has been a source of unprecedented opportunity to address enduring challenges. As a group of countries that are most vulnerable to environmental hazards, the role of ICTs in every phase of disaster risk management is paramount. From early warning during the pre-disaster period, one-way and two-way communication during the actual disaster, to recovery in the immediate aftermath – communication technologies are the most critical factors in reducing mortality rates during hazards.
In this context, current and updated data and statistics serve as the foundation of effective ICT deployment. Data is not only required to understand the impacts and costs of disasters, but are of even more importance to provide access to accurate and real time information before, during and after disasters in a targeted manner. In this regard, we call for enhanced support and technical assistance of the international community to help SIDS in strengthening domestic institutions for data collection, gathering and analysis.
While we have made progress in some priority areas and leveraged the use of ICTs in service of those issues, island states face other development challenges that can potentially be solved through innovations in STI. For instance, inclusion and access to financial services is an area that SIDS will deliver vast potential economic benefits, but require additional assistance with. SIDS generally have very low access to financial services. The Pacific, for instance, is one of the least banked regions in the world, with less than 20 per cent of the low income population having access to formal or informal financial services.
Financial inclusion is hindered by the geography and isolation of SIDS and our dispersed populations, high levels of poverty and extremely high transaction costs. Efficient payment systems and safe savings and credit institutions for rural populations are virtually absent in SIDS. However, mobile phones and broadband services have progressed considerably within SIDS. Linking financial services with communication technologies can be a way to bring these critical services to rural populations, and can go a long way in promoting financial inclusion – these could be through helping micro finance institutions provide loans, diaspora populations to easily remit money back home, or even help governments provide access to critical financial services.
ICTs can be leveraged for achieving many of the sustainable development goals. The role of these technologies, coupled with impetus to science, technology and innovation can truly bring about a revolutionary shift in our development discourse.
Thank you Madam Chair.