UNCTAD has indicated that it will convene a high-level meeting of experts to come together to explore how new technologies can improve people’s daily lives as the world heals from COVID.
According to the UN trade and development organization, the meeting will focus specifically on the use of science, technology and innovation (STI) to contribute to a resilient recovery from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the meeting led by the UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed will be held from 17 to 21 May, 2021. Discussions will focus on how STI can help rebuild health-care systems and socioeconomic structures post-Covid-19.
Other speakers at the 24th session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) include the president of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Munir Akram; the secretary-general of the International Telecommunications Union, Houlin Zhao; the President of the 75th UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkiry; a Nobel laureate in chemistry, Jennifer Doudna; and a Senior Vice President of BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals, Katalin Kariko.
Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics who also doubles as head of the CSTD secretariat commented: “The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the pressing need to prioritize STI in terms of policymaking, resource allocation and international cooperation,”
“But governments also need to make sure that the development benefits of STI translate directly into the daily lives of people all over the world,” Ms. Sirimanne indicated.
Moreover, Ms. Sirimanne emphasized that it is important for countries across the world to have equal access to the benefits of life-saving treatments. She indicated that this call includes the pandemic and extends to other poverty-related diseases, future health emergencies and infectious disease outbreaks.
Bridging the divide on good health and well-being
According to UNCTAD, the team of experts will examine the broad spectrum of opportunities offered by frontier technologies. Some of these technologies are used to respond to the pandemic such as artificial intelligence, big data and robotics.
Due to resource and capacity constraints, least developed economies do not have the systems available to apply frontier technologies. This without a doubt that the importance of these technologies when adopted can enable developing countries to leapfrog previous technological paradigms and transform their economies and societies.
Furthermore, there are glaring risks that frontier technologies may complicate and widen existing inequalities or create new digital divides between technology haves and have-nots, according to the UNCTAD Technology and Innovation Report 2021.
Speaking on the risks of increasing inequalities, “the COVID-19 pandemic has already highlighted many manifestations of profound digital inequalities within and among countries.”
Also, discussions on blockchain will feature in the CSTD meeting. Essentially, the focus will be on the means of harnessing blockchain technology for sustainable development.
In a technology driven society with faster move towards digitalization, the security and accountability of data transactions are critical elements for creating trust and enabling breakthrough innovations in the digital world.
For this purpose, blockchain technology could be a game-changer, with the potential to transform processes from finance to pharmaceutical industries. Alongside other institutions such as public services to humanitarian work and development aid.
“While we have seen a few examples of blockchain’s potential to address sustainable development challenges, we need to avoid hype and make sure we understand how the potential of blockchain can be turned into effective answers to the needs of developing countries,” Ms. Sirimanne noted.
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