Moderator: Michael Rawding, Vice President, Unlimited Potential, Microsoft Corp.
Keynote: Dr. Mari Pangestu, Minister of Trade, Republic of Indonesia
Panelists: Richard Fuchs, Regional Director, Southeast and East Asia, Canada’s International Development Research Centre; Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor, City of Hiroshima, Japan; Scot A. Marciel, Ambassador for ASEAN Affairs, Department of State, United States of America.
Keynote: Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Plenary Forum: Sustainable Economic Growth
May 08, 2008
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Vice President, Unlimited Potential Group, Microsoft Corporation, Michael Rawding. (Applause.)
MICHAEL RAWDING: Good afternoon. Let me ask everybody to take their seats. And let me also remind you again that we do have the simultaneous translation available for those of you who require that.
My name is Michael Rawding, I’m a vice president in our Unlimited Potential group at Microsoft. It’s a particular pleasure for me to be here today. I had the opportunity to spend seven years living in working in Asia, in Beijing and Tokyo, in senior management positions for Microsoft. And so it’s always great fun and a great honor to be back in the region and to reconnect with old friends.
For the next 90 minutes, we will be discussing the topic of sustainable economic growth. And to kick things off, we are delighted to have Dr. Mari Pangestu, the Honorable Minister of Trade from the Republic of Indonesia. After the minister’s remarks, I will be inviting our panelists up for what I hope will be a robust and informative dialogue.
Now, copies of the minister’s biography are in your Forum guides, and there is, indeed, a long list of accomplishments that the minister has achieved, too many for me to go through here this afternoon. Let me just mention a couple, if I may. Minster Pangestu is among Indonesia’s most accomplished and well-known economists. She studied at the University of California with Wing Tai (Ph.), who has worked with Geoffrey Sachs (Ph.), and she later collaborated directly with Dr. Sachs on the U.N. Millennium Project.
She has produced an impressive body of work during her time at the University of Indonesia, the Center for Strategic and International studies, and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council on topics ranging from agriculture to poverty alleviation to national competitiveness.
Please join me in welcoming to the stage the Minister of Trade for the Republic of Indonesia, Dr. Mari Pangestu. (Applause.)
DR. MARI PANGESTU: Thank you very much for that kind introduction. Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure and honor for me to be here to address this audience of distinguished participants, policy makers, and leaders of change from the Asia-Pacific region. It’s a great pleasure for me to be at the GLF, and I’m very happy that we are having this today in Jakarta. I did participate in a GLF in India in 2005, so this is three years ago I guess. It’s a great pleasure to be back to, again, address the GLF.
I have been asked to talk about the transformative role of IT in sustaining economic growth. And I decided that I would take a somewhat Indonesian perspective and share some of the experiences that we’ve had in Indonesia. And probably today you will hear me not talk so much as an economist, but share with you some of the sort of underground issues that we face as policy makers in the government.
I wanted to address two particular issues in the 20 minutes allocated to me. First of all, I think the question posed in this session is how IT is used as a tool for government and industry to increase productivity, efficiency, and I would like to add creativity. In particular, I would like to address how IT can be one of the important drivers for what we call the creative economy. And I will attempt to answer these main questions with an Indonesian perspective, sharing our experiences as well as challenges on the way forward. While these Indonesian experiences are not particularly Indonesia, I think you will learn from the lessons I would like to share with you that they are probably broader than just what the Indonesian experience will tell you.
I would like to begin with IT as a tool for making governments more efficient, or as a tool for good governance, because obviously a more efficient and more transparent government will mean that it is a government that will deliver the government services that are needed to its citizens in a much more effective way. And as we all know, IT and e-government are really the buzzwords and the priority of many governments, including Indonesia. Indonesia is not an exception. We do have all kinds of programs to use IT for better governance.
In reality, when you look on paper, everything looks really good. And in the last GLF that I attended, I thought I learned a lot. But then when I came home and tried to implement it, it was really not so easy. Let me share with you some of the insights and highlights that I’ve experienced in the last three years in trying to implement good governance through using IT.
Setting it up, you know, setting up whatever you call it, e-government system to deliver any particular kind of government service. Setting it up, I found that one must distinguish from the front office and the back office. The front office is actually the easiest part, and in my own ministry, as well as I’ve gone to other ministries and to local governments, most of us set it up like a bank. You know, it all looks good, we make everybody wear a uniform. We use a teller-like system, they have numbers to pick up, pleasant physical environment. This is all part of a new government that’s going to give better service. But that’s just the front office, that’s the façade. The back office is really the hard part — really hard part. You know, how to make all the government workers — or we like to change their name to knowledge workers, but that takes some time. Anyway, all the units that are involved or all the officials that are involved in coming up with whatever it is, the piece of paper or the government service that you want to deliver, they have to work as a team and things have to move smoothly between documents and databases. And how do you go from documents to paperless, from manual to online, from having something to from one table to — you hear famous stories about, okay, to get a license, you have to go to 30 tables.
As soon as you go “E” you can do it parallel instead of having to go sequential. How much time or what are the service standards? You have to post what are the requirements for you to get the license. How long does it take? How much does it cost? How do you set up the business process? Step one, step two, step three, et cetera. All of this takes time, time with a capital letter, not just the process itself, but having the mindset change of the people.
We also learned that it was very important to know what you wanted. You meaning you as the government department or the local government that’s doing it. No matter how sophisticated your system is or no matter how much you pay for an expensive consultant from one of the international companies, they can’t help you unless you know what you want. You really have to start with thinking through what you really want. What’s the vision? What’s the blueprint? What’s the clear action plan? Before deciding on what kind of system and what kind of human resources training you need. Consultants are unable to identify what you want, only you can. They can only facilitate.
This is all time consuming, but this is key. Otherwise, we found when we entered into government that, oh, this is like the fourth time we’ve tried this, and there was this consultant who did this, there was this consultant who did that and, okay, let’s throw everything away and let’s all sit down and brainstorm, what do we really want here?
Even harder, once you’ve done all that, you’ve got to monitor whether what you did was right. You’ve got to monitor customer satisfaction independently and objectively, something which is totally alien for governments. You have to put the citizens that you are servicing at the center whether it’s private sector businesses or the citizen. Any improvement initiative you have, you’ve got to measure, did you do it right, did you get it right? And this is very — you have to outsource it, you have to get someone independent to evaluate it. The central bank here has done it, the Ministry of Finance has done it, and this is the only way you can gain public trust and confidence that you are really trying to improve. And it’s also a way for you to measure the workers that are delivering this service by merit, as well as hopefully giving them better remuneration.
Still talking about the IT strategy. When I attended the GLF in India, in New Delhi, there was one whole session on how do you coordinate between departments? How do you have the same system? How do you have interoperability and all that? And the whole conversation ran with there are various models. You either choose one of the government departments to do it, or you set up an independent unit within a government, or you outsource it commercially, which is I think what Sri Lanka did.
We have tried this in various permutations and combinations. I don’t think we’ve quite succeeded, but coordination is part of the key if you’re going to have e-government. And this is, again, something which I think we’re almost there, but we as a government, we’ve probably decided that it will be at the Ministry of Information. But, you know, implementing it will be another thing.
A final point on delivering better government services and the role of IT. International commitments and ownership by different departments is very important for the e-government or e-services to work. Commitments, international commitments that have binding deadlines actually help you to push for a coordination between departments. Our own experience is with the national single window for processing import and export procedures. Because we have this ASEAN single-window deadline of 2008. So in 2006, we started this whole process of trying to get 35 government agencies which are in one way or another involved in import and export procedures to come up with a national single window.
We went through this whole process. It took 12 months just to get them all to sit down together and just reveal what is it that they do, what does each department do in terms of coming up with whatever regulation it is, and what was the regulation. That took a whole 12 months just to get the regulations themselves. And then the next thing to do is to standardize the requirements, the third thing to do is to get the business process standardized, then you pick the system that you want to use to have the IT work for you to make it online systemized and so on and so forth.
And we did it also in stages beginning with five government agencies first, beginning with the priority importers first, and that’s important because we wanted to get buy in from the government departments as well as from the private sector who will then be the champions who will also help us to push it. I think we’re two and a half years into the process. The good lesson about it was that the 35 government agencies are now — you know, there’s a great ownership so we hope that whoever will be running the government after next year, this will continue because there’s enough traction, there’s enough ownership within the bureaucracy all the way down to the implementation. But, of course, this is still in implementation. It’s very important to have the outside world, the private sector, the users who we are servicing also come in to support this, otherwise you have a change of government, they say, “Okay, this system is no good, throw it away, come and start again.”
I think these are just some of the lessons. They are not particularly new, it’s not rocket science, but it shows you the difficulty of implementing e-government. And the key to it is, I think, patience. It takes time. And what is important is not so much having a very sophisticated IT system, but really having ownership and champions within the system who are going to make all that work to the effect of having efficient, transparent, less costly, in quotation marks, i.e., no extra costs involved in providing government services. And what is important is the process, not so much the final outcome. So this is what I wanted to share with you.
The second thing that I wanted to talk about was something which is quite different. And I decided to do something quite different. Rather than talk about what we often talk about when we ask the question of the role of the IT industry and the role of IT itself as an industry and the role of IT as an enabler for other industries, as well as the role of IT in providing access to SMEs or rural areas as sources of sustaining economic growth. This is the standard framework that we talk about when we discuss IT in the context of sustaining economic growth.
I would like to pay special emphasis to something which is existing in all our economies, and I wanted to ask the question of how do we discuss this in the particular context of the creative industries that make up the creative economy, or how do we empower the pool of talented and creative workers, many of which are in rural areas or areas which are not accessible to IT, many of them are women who work at home, so how do we empower them and entrepreneurs as a new source for sustainable growth, and how does the role of IT play in all that?
Let me begin with some observations. Indonesia is a country which has a very rich and diverse cultural heritage, and we have inherently a very abundant pool of human resources or creative talent. It’s what we call the creative generation. And there’s a multitude of craftsmen, artists, painters, and musicians, and increasingly, in the younger generation, despite the biases of their parents, even though they have gone out and took engineering degrees or medical degrees in accordance with the wishes of their parents, as traditional parents would. A lot of them have become more entrepreneurial. They’ve steered into the more IT-based creative industries and become entrepreneurs. They’re all over. They’re scattered, and there’s no critical masses yet, at least in Indonesia. In some countries, you’ll find them.
Bill Gates himself has said that human lifestyle has already transformed to the digital decade. In other words, we are already living a digital lifestyle. I’ll give you some statistics. An average student graduating from college in the U.S. today would have spent 10,000 hours playing computer games, accessed e-mail a quarter of a million times, and probably used a cell phone 10,000 hours. And they would have read less than 5,000 hours of books.
Those of you who have teenage children will probably very much share that this is true. So in other words, technology transformation has happened. People are connected in a different way. How do you make people who are living a digital lifestyle more connected, more productive, more prosperous, and hopefully happier? And it also will change the way we sell and product products and services, and we must take into account that fact. So that’s just an observation, and we have also entrepreneurs in IT-based and creative industries which are flourishing. Ironically, they flourished after the financial crisis.
After the financial crisis, a lot of professionals lost jobs or those who graduated from college could not find jobs. So they turn into being entrepreneurs, and a lot of them ended up in the creative industries. We have lots of stories. One of the cities outside of Jakarta called Bandun is very interesting in this regard. It has mushroomed into a fashion industry, but very much high-end, selective niche market kind of fashion. Independent film and music, architects, and they all actually feed into each other.
So my question is given these observations, how can IT empower this new and potential source of growth? Creative economies actually define as the fourth wave after agriculture industry and information economy. It is premised on a very simple idea that individual creativity and innovation and the creation of economic value from that is how you create the new economic value.
So it’s very much based on ideas and creativity and innovation and how do you get value from that. Statistically speaking, in the year 2000, the value of the creative economy in the world is estimated at $2 trillion U.S. By 2020, it’s expected to be $6 trillion U.S. In Indonesia, we have just started to estimate it’s about 100 trillion Rupia, or $11 billion, and accounts for 6.3 percent of our GDP, 5.4 million workers, or 5.8 percent of our work force, 7.2 percent of our companies, and 11 percent of our exports.
Just what are these industries? They are your film, music, handicraft, fashion, advertising, design, architecture and so on. And out of these creative industries, the ones that are IT-based such as software and computer services and interactive games are still small in Indonesia, but in countries like Korea, China, Japan, they are fairly big. In Indonesia, we are not yet known as the business process outsourcing industries like India, but in the entertainment ICT-based industries such as games, animation, and interactive media, the creative talents of Indonesians are already known. We have a number of animation producers who are already being outsourced by Disney, and the Web site design of Nokia is also designed by an Indonesian.
The main industries in Indonesia are still what we would call the traditional creative industries such as handicraft and fashion, but before I say a few more words on the role of IT, I just wanted to emphasize that creative industries are important because of their economic contribution and because they are sustainable. You are not using up resources. You are using the mind, you are using the idea, it’s based on human innovation. And because it is based on human innovation, it is also normally environmentally sustainable.
I give you an example. One log used for firewood can be chopped in two hours, earning 60 U.S. cents. But if the same resource is used for handicraft, which could have been designed using Internet, you know, you download from the Internet, what is the trend now, and you find a buyer from the U.S. through the Internet and you design a wooden stapler. You use the same piece of wood, you can produce 200 pieces involving 40 work days and that same piece of log, which was only valued at 60 cents with firewood is worth $1,000. Creativity and sustainability of resources from the — creativity will ensure sustainability of resources because the same resources creates more value, and the user of the resource, because they know the value, will obviously take care of that wood so that you are going to continue to have wood.
I’m just using that as an example of how creative economy and creative industries are sustainable sources of growth. Indonesia has come up with a blueprint to develop the creative economy. We want to grow creative industries from 6 to 8 percent of the GDP. So we have been asking ourselves the question of how this can all happen between government, businesses, as well as the stakeholders in the creative industry and the role of IT.
I always use Bill Gates, actually, as an example of a product of the creative economy because he is someone who started with a very good idea. His idea was protected because you have good IPR protection. IPR protection is a very important component of the creative industry. And he started with $20,000 if I’m not mistaken. I read that in his biography. And he was able to become where he is today because of the availability of finance such as venture capital that would normally not — these new creative industries are not bankable. They need new sources of finance. These are the role of government as capitalist, advocacy, regulator, investor, facilitator, giving incentives, providing marketplace and so on, are very important.
I can see that I’m running out of time. I just wanted to close with a few examples of how IT can lead to sustainable development as well as become the catalyst of development of creative industries. By opening up all kinds of things. First of all, it’s information. We have lots of examples of our craftsmen as well as musicians, farmers, who’ve downloaded something from the Internet, learned something from the Internet, which has lead to an increase in their productivity.
A lot of them stop there. But some have been able to take that next step further to also use the Internet to sell. You know, designing a Web site and entering into the e-marketplace, entering into the virtual e-market. This is something which is relatively new, still in Indonesia. And I learned something new the other day when one of the exporters that won an award from me last year, one of my SME exporters, he explained to me how he was able to increase his exports from 500,000 — sorry, from 29,000 in 1999 to 1.6 million by 2006, so you can count yourself the exponential increase, by using the Internet. And one of the things was this thing called search engine organization, choosing the right thing to call your domain so that you can get as many hits or more hits as possible. And that’s part of the art of online marketing.
So these are all tools which will bring in SMEs, which will bring in people from the rural areas, which will bring in women who are working from home into the world marketplace and sustain them because they are getting information on trends, on design. We have to make that next step as to how to build the marketplace. These are just some of the examples and farmers, we have lots of examples where farmers use the SMS to get prices. They use the Internet to download information on production. A good example for Indonesia is what is called the WaJan Bolic. WaJan means “frying pan” in Indonesian. From the Internet, someone had figured out how to make a parabola or an antenna from the frying pan attached to a long pole. And that antenna can access wireless up to two kilometers, and it is being used in very rural areas and has been exported to Thailand and Argentina. So these are some of the simple examples of how you can reduce the digital divide.
I think the key challenge with all those examples, they’re very good examples, but how do we scale it up? I think this is the main challenge for us to ensure that what I tried to explain to you as sources of creative people, creative industries, can be scaled up to realize a very much source of potential new growth which is much more sustainable than, if you like, the more traditional sources of growth. And this is something which Indonesia will be pursuing and developing in the near future, and I hope that we can certainly get support from all of you in this room, including Microsoft, for some of the partnerships that we’re looking forward to to develop these industries better. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MICHAEL RAWDING: Thank you, Madam Minister, for your thoughtful and insightful remarks and some very practical examples that I think will help stimulate some ideas for all of us.
I’m very excited about the discussion ahead of us. We’ve got a very impressive panel lined up. You’ll see that we’re representing a variety of perspectives on this topic.
Let me start by inviting our panelists to the stage. First off is Richard Fuchs. Richard is the Regional Director of Southeast Asia and East Asia for Canada’s International Development Research Centre, and a long-time champion of expanding access to technology for development with a particular focus on rural computing and shared-access telecenters. Please welcome Richard. (Applause.)
Next up we have the Honorable Mayor of the City of Hiroshima, Japan, Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba. Mayor Akiba has devoted a great deal of energy towards modernizing government in his city in the support of social and economic development with a very strong and practical focus on utilizing ICT. Welcome Mr. Mayor. (Applause.)
Finally, it’s a pleasure to welcome Ambassador Scot Marciel, the newly appointed Ambassador for ASEAN Affairs at the U.S. State Department. Scot is also the Deputy Assistant Secretary of East Asia and the Pacific Bureau, where he has responsibility for relations with Southeast Asia. The ambassador has had several postings in the region, a long history, and also has an economic policy background. So please join me in welcoming the ambassador. (Applause.)
Let me try and set some context before we get going with our panelists. The topic today is the role of ICT and supporting sustainable economic growth. As you can see, it’s quite a broad topic. In that vein, we have I think a good broad representation amongst our panelists. We have, as you’ve just heard from the minister, some very potent national examples from here in Indonesia. We also will be able to have some I think very practical front-line examples of the work that’s happening at the regional city level from the mayor, and we’ll get more of a multi-lateral perspective from Richard and the ambassador, and I think that that poses a great opportunity for us to get some good learnings.
There’s been enormous progress over the last 20 and 30 years in terms of sustainable economic development, particularly here in the region. But there’s a tremendous amount of work that still needs to be done. We’ve heard throughout the course of the day in earlier remarks about some of the newer technologies that are responsible for supporting economic development and how that happens. We’ve also had probably a good decade worth of experience in terms of how we can work collectively to broaden access to technology, to sectors of our communities that are not really having access and not really able to reap the benefits, and indeed, considerable success has been achieved in that regard, and we’ll be able to hear some of those examples.
As we look at I think the new set of economic challenges that are in front of us, and as we try and internalize some of the new technology trends that are present in the marketplace, it is very clear that much more work has to be done. So in that sense, today’s topic I think is more relevant than ever. And we collectively — industry, academia, government, and the civil society — must continue to strive to do better.
At Microsoft, we’ve been engaged in this dialogue for many years. We also take great pride in the broad range of activities and programs that we have embarked upon to support sustained social and economic development. A set of initiatives we call Unlimited Potential. But we too are striving to do more, to be more effective, to broaden our impact and to change our mindset so that we can work more effectively in concert with a wide range of stakeholders to harness technology and enhance our collective capacity.
In fact, to pursue these efforts, we created a separate business unit, of which I’m a proud representative. We call it the Unlimited Potential Group, and that group has the explicit charter of creating new solutions, affordable, accessible, and relevant solutions that support social and economic development and explicitly are targeted at the middle and base of the socioeconomic pyramid. Those that, to a large degree, have not yet really realized the benefits of information technology. So we’re also here in the spirit of learning, and look forward to hearing some of these wide range of perspectives.
So without further ado, let me turn to our panelists and I’ll ask Richard to start off.
RICHARD FUCHS: Thanks very much. I’ve been working with information and communications technologies for about 20 years in many different incarnations. One of them was 10 years ago as the technical advisor to the Canada Indonesia Technology Network. I came to Jakarta first in 1998. It was a very different Jakarta. When I stayed at the Meridian Hotel, I think I was the only person there during the economic crisis, and I surely could not connect to a broadband connection in my hotel. I remember working hard to use dial-up to get to the Internet. So first let me say, congratulations to Indonesia and the government of Indonesia for all the progress you have made in that period of time, it’s tremendous to see.
I’m very delighted to be here. In fact, I’m so delighted that the first word that occurred to me to express my delight was “yahoo.” (Laughter.) But I thought that word might not be appropriate, but anyway, I’m really delighted to be here, and thank you very much.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Thank you.
RICHARD FUCHS: I have four ideas I want to try to share, and I have four minutes to do them. That’s great. The question on the conference program: Where will the next wave go? Well, I have the answer: Asia. The 21st century belongs to Asia. This is not new and it’s not exclusive. It belongs to the whole world, of course, but Dr. Michael Spence, Canadian Nobel Laureate economist doing work for the United Nations Commission on growth did research and identified that in the whole world of more than 200 countries, there are 12 which have had what he refers to as sustained — 25 years or more — high economic growth, 7 percent annual average gross domestic product per year. There are 12 countries who have had this experience, nine of them are in east and southeast Asia.
So Dr. Surin and Asin have something very interesting to work with, and I’m happy to report that according to Dr. Spence’s research, Indonesia is among those. There’s a dynamism here, there’s something interesting going on, it’s growth, it’s going to lift the rest of the world economy up, and it’s great to see.
Second, there’s been a lot of discussion about, you know, what is the next leapfrog technology? What is the technology that’s going to jump ahead of everything else? And it kind of snuck up on us and we weren’t watching, it’s the mobile phone. 2003 is the first year when there are more mobile phone subscribers than land line subscribers. In India now, and there’s different numbers you hear from informed sources, there are 5 million — use the low number — new mobile phone subscribers every month. 5 million new mobile phone subscribers. What does that mean? What does that mean for the economy? What does that mean for sustainable development?
Sadly, literacy and school enrollment in the last 10 years has hardly changed. That’s another issue and there’s been sessions on education. Third point that I’d like to make, in North America — in fact, the idea was first promulgated at the G8 meetings in Okinawa, Japan, in the year 2000 where the idea of the concept of a digital divide was invented, although there are many who were a part of that invention. And that metaphor refers to parts of the society making progress and other parts not moving. So the digital divide is pretty much a first-wave ICT adoption, North American and European idea.
I would like to offer a different idea about what’s happening in Asia, and I would refer to it as digital divergence. In the ICT industries, there’s been lots of talk about things coming together. I think in Asia, the digital reality is diverging. On the one hand — and I think the Minister of Communications’ statistical table on who is using mobile, who’s using Internet and where the land lines are speaks to this.
On the one hand, you have people who are using the Internet, getting access, fighting hard to do it, working hard to pay it. On the other hand, you have all of these people who are using mobile phones that are not connecting to the Internet. This is going to change at some point, but it’s not changed yet. So you have a taxi driver in New Delhi who can now afford, because of useful policy and affordable prices and technologies that are usable, to have a mobile phone. How will that taxi driver connect to the Internet? Where will he or she go to take this handheld device to connect to all the other things that are going around in cyber?
The fourth point I’d like to make, and it’s probably the last point I’ll have a chance to make in this round, is that I believe the future is shared-use computing in Asia. That people will go to places like the taxi driver will go to a gas station. People will go to places to take their device, their memory that’s portable and plug it into shared-use facilities whether in the temple, the mosque, the church, the school, the local municipality, or the local enterprise. Thank you.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Great. Thank you very much, Richard. Right on time, I might add. I appreciate that. Let’s turn it over to the mayor to hear a different perspective, as we say, from the front lines.
TADATOSHI AKIBA: Thank you very much, Mr. Rawding, I’ll try to stick to my time. It is my pleasure to be invited here to speak about topics which the City of Hiroshima has embraced enthusiastically for many years. Actually, it’s 10 years ago that I visited Jakarta as part of the Prime Minister Hashimoto’s mission as a national-level parliamentarian. I am really pleased to be back here as mayor. So I can compare what national governments do versus the city government. And the first thing I would like to say is to set the context of cities, and I hope you’ll be there with me a little bit about that.
In many ways, we tend to perceive cities as a small scale nation, but it is not. As one example, cities have football teams, baseball teams and other sports teams, nations usually do not. But that’s not all. Cities and local governments are really close to their people and we resonate with the heartbeats of the citizens in which we live together. Mayors generally arise from the collective consciousness of their city. We smile when they smile and we suffer when they suffer. We are generally closer to reality because we cannot deny facts.
For example, when the garbage is uncollected and left on the curbside, or a pothole is left unfilled, then we cannot deny the facts. We have to get there and fix them. And in a similar fashion, we are relatively neutral in ideology and also other values. To do our job under these conditions, it is necessary for us to be rational and inclusive in terms of our world view. Given closer relationship of cities to reality, it is obvious that we are keenly aware of global issues that affect the real life of our citizens. Global warming, food shortages and rising prices of food and other life-sustaining commodities, peak oil production, and the list goes on.
Proper responses to all these issues are essential to sustaining city lives, especially our economic lives. But, unfortunately, national governments are often too slow to address them. Let’s take global warming, for example, because national governments have been too slow to set numerical goals for reducing CO2 emissions, many cities, states, provinces and other local governments have risen to the occasion. The exemplary leadership that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other leaders have exhibited is proof that local governments are among, if not principle players in this field.
The situation is exactly the same with regard to another issue with a direct bearing on the survival or extinction of the human race. The City of Hiroshima leads on the international organization called Mayors of Peace that now has more than 2,200 city members in 128 countries and regions working toward abolishing nuclear weapons by the year 2020. Every day, two to three cities join us, which is a reflection of the non-partisan nature of this movement, as well as the grassroots desire to be liberated from the growing threat of nuclear catastrophe.
I dare to assert that the role cities can play in general should be perceived on the par with the examples I have just given. The opinions and actions of cities should be taken seriously, and we cannot simply wait passively for national governments to solve national or global problems. In a sense, this is the paradigm shift that’s necessary to so many, if not all of the global problems we face.
For this purpose, Hiroshima has been struggling to become a model city in the 21st century by applying science and technology, especially information technology for truly human purposes. Formal details of our science and technology policy guidelines are available on the Web.
Modesty aside, Hiroshima has been formally recognized as one of the most advanced cities in Japan in applying information technology for the benefit of our citizens. What we are trying even better, we are striving to revamp our old information system with the help of Microsoft and many other companies and people who are present here. There is a long list of accomplishments which I will skip for the sake of time, and I’d like to go on to describe one project which is very, very important at this point for us.
That is, we are seeking to transform what many perceive as socially challenged or underserved groups of people into what I call information elite. They utilize their newly acquired expertise to benefit the city and inspire others to emulate them. The City of Hiroshima would like to launch a program to build a comprehensive audio library of important written documents which will then be available for downloading and news by everybody. In promoting this project, we are focusing on three objectives: First, we want to help our senior citizens enjoy life more. Well, as you go older, you know, your eyesight gets weaker, and getting information through your ears would enrich their lives and also prolong their productive years.
Second, we want to boost the social standing of the visually challenged and help them lead the new IT age. We are just beginning to utilize communication technology to help communication challenged people. And after securing a fund, we in Hiroshima would like to provide hardware, instruction, volunteer coaches in the use of technology and audiotize the information to more than 3,000 visually handicapped.
This will turn some of this group into an information elite that will benefit our city. I’m confident that many visually challenged people will be among the most sophisticated users of technology and among our most informed citizens. Thus, they will be available to provide valuable services to the city in various fields. My confidence comes in part from the fact that some of them have the ability to process audio information 16 times to 32 times faster than most of us.
We have already begun another important ambitious program of teaching young citizens how to start a global business over the Internet. This program has been quite successful, so by combining these two programs together, I’m sure we will have an economically viable project and we’d like to share this experience with the rest of the world, of course.
I have run out of my time, so I will stop here, but in the end I’d like to ask you that you make sure that your city that you live in or you come from will become members of Mayors of Peace. Thank you very much.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Thank you, Mayor Akiba. Thank you. (Applause.) Mister Ambassador?
SCOT MARCIEL: Thank you very much. It’s really an honor for me to be on such a distinguished panel. I’m not an IT expert, I’m just a simple diplomat, so I’m not going to try to offer great high-tech solutions, but what I would like to do is maybe just offer a couple of observations that are based on what I’ve seen in more than 20 years of diplomatic service, and much of that time in southeast Asia focused on economic growth and economic development issues, and really just make two points.
One is, in my experience, one of the keys to successful economic development and growth is, at the risk of stating the obvious, good governance. Good governance, you can’t have good economic growth without good governance. And IT can play a crucial role here in a couple of ways. Certainly by promoting transparency so that businesses, individuals all have access to information.
Second related — consistency. Consistency of the information. So that person who is going to pay taxes, or a business that’s going to file registration papers to start a business, everybody knows exactly what they’re supposed to pay, what the procedure is supposed to be. There’s no guesswork, and there’s fewer opportunities for government entrepreneurship, if you will. And, of course, efficiency, the obvious. If you can do your customs filings online, as the minister was talking, or pay your taxes online, or do orders online, you have tremendous efficiency. So good governance, e-government is a tremendous I think catalyst for economic growth.
I’d like to switch to a completely different idea, the idea of IT and rural development. There’s a couple areas where I think information technology and providing access to individual technology in rural areas is obviously helpful: one, education. To the extent that children have access to computers and information, it makes education much more complete and much easier. Second, communication. When I started my diplomatic career in the Philippines, it would take the average family in Manila, let alone in rural areas, a year or two to get a phone line. Now, all over the country, people have cell phones. So it’s greatly facilitated communication in urban areas as well.
Third, this is just based on a conversation I had this morning talking about the food prices and agricultural production. And the question came to me as I was thinking about this panel: How can IT play a role in promoting agricultural production and trade as we face around the world this — I don’t want to call it a crisis, but severe problems on the food production trade front.
It strikes me that key to any kind of economic development is good market information. And in rural areas, small farmers often don’t have good market information. And so seems to me that one thing to think about in these areas is providing access to information so that farmers can take advantage of the latest information, whether it’s weather, it’s what types of seeds to use, and what market prices are in the world so farmers know if rice prices are going up or if they’re likely to go up, and they can respond to that. I think in a lot of areas, you don’t have that kind of market information.
The obvious question is, you know, do you have to supply every farmer with a laptop. And I think in most cases, that’s not very practical. But it goes back to Richard’s point about shared access. You can use cooperatives, information cooperatives. You can do some sort of virtual agriculture extension service. We have something in our service in the diplomatic service, we call it America Corners where we set up computers in universities in various towns where people can go and have public access to information.
You can do the same in small towns and rural areas or in villages so that farmers can go and get access so not every farmer has to have a computer. And, of course, going again back to Richard’s point, cell phone technology increasingly will allow farmers to access this kind of market information. Thank you.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Okay. Thank you very much.
Well, good. We now have a good 20, 25 minutes to have a dialogue. I will ask the lights to be brought up, and we will open up the floor for questions from the audience. As you prepare your questions, let me kick things off.
Richard, in your remarks, you talked about the shared use computing concept. You talked about also some ideas you have around where that might go in the future. I know that many of the delegates are in the process of evaluating projects that they have underway in terms of supporting universal shared access and shared use. Can you share some success stories that you’ve seen, particularly in the region, and also some ideas around where we might take these concepts?
RICHARD FUCHS: Yes. Quickly, I’m so delighted that Ms. Pangestu mentioned the frying pan antenna because the fellow who developed that also developed the Pringles can antenna, Dr. Onno Purbo. Dr. Onno Purbo is a former associate professor of engineering and computer science at the Institute of Technology, Bandu, and I refer to him as a liberation technologist, as opposed to a liberation theologian, because he has a passion for what he does.
An interesting success story which combines policy and social entrepreneurship is that when Prime Minister Bambang Yudhoyono was first elected in the fall of 2004, he looked around and said, “Let’s see, 100 days, 100 new policies.” One of the new policies they adopted was to deregulate the 2.4 megahertz spectrum. Now this is for those of us, and I am one of those, who don’t understand technology very well, the last mile. Rather than keeping this not generating revenue for anyone, this policy change was to open it up for everyone to use. The consequence being — this cost no one any money and didn’t lose anyone any revenue, thousands of people in Indonesia now — principally in Java Province in the cities — can get access to the Internet because they don’t have to pay to get to the spectrum. It didn’t cost money, it’s created value, and that didn’t happen by itself. That happened because Dr. Onno Purbo and many others like him have worked hard to build capacity among Indonesians to understand why this is important, to communicate through the political processes that this is a priority, so when the new president gets elected, he knows that there’s people who understand this and will take advantage of it. I think it’s an interesting example of policy meeting practice and a transition government and something interesting happened.
Two other quick examples of success: A colleague from Sri Lanka from the Information and Communications Technologies Agency of Sri Lanka are sitting over there. They have in three years established 600 new “nanasalas” — village knowledge centers. Well, this can’t be easy. My comparison would be an example I heard on the radio yesterday of Honda wanting to set up new retail distribution in China, and they’re going to be setting up 700 new retail outlets in China.
Now, compare the new ICT agency in Sri Lanka setting up 600 new telecenters, and the Honda Motor Corporation of Japan setting up 700 new retail outlets. Who has the world ecosystem to help them? Who has the history and capacity and governance and ways of doing things to help them be successful? Well, Honda has the advantage of an established corporation, but in three short years, the Information and Communications Technologies Agency of Sri Lanka, ICTA for short, has established 600 telecenters. They’re in NGOs, they’re in temples, they’re run as small businesses. Maybe five years from now 200 of those will still be in business. They’ve integrated and innovated a new system of offering those who have never come into a telecenter before and used a computer free vouchers. I think it’s $125. So if someone gives me a voucher for $125, I’m going to go and see what value it has. And that’s one of the ways to animating the market.
Another example I use, and again, colleagues from the Philippines who are in the room, the Commission on Information and Communications Technologies has now in the fourth year of its e-community centers program done very interesting things in how they reach out to the communities to bring people in who never would have used these technologies before.
I’ll go back again to the Minister of Communications’ presentation. He made reference to those people who don’t know what they don’t know. Remember those four quadrants he had? Well, there’s a lot of people who don’t know what they don’t know. Someone has to be the digital missionary. Someone has to be the digital town crier to help people understand why this is important, to make the market, to build the market, and then the private sector can come in.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Great. Thank you very much.
I’m looking around to see if we have any questions from the audience. Continue to bring forward your questions, but I will direct a question to the Minister as well as the Mayor. You both talked about the importance of the combination of providing a specialized access, in the case of the Mayor, to visually challenge people and seniors, in the case of the Minister, talking about both the combination of rural, and in particular women. As well as skills related to entrepreneurship and supporting the idea of creating new businesses.
Give us some perspectives on things that you’ve done in your cases, if you don’t mind, and also some ideas on how that might be brought to scale, because I think the scale question is very important here.
DR. MARI PANGESTU: Well, on that front, I think if you look at the whole process from the time you start creating to production and how you sell, you sort of ask the question: What’s the role of IT in each of those steps? And we as government, we’ve tried a couple of pilot projects to facilitate the small scale. We’ve been working with handicraft mainly at the moment, but we’ve also tried to look for some of the more interesting types such as IT-based animation, for instance. We are supporting one of the animators to come up with a film for domestic consumption.
So if you start from the creative process, you have to teach them how to use the Internet to get information on trends, information on design, and how to link to other creative communities. That’s also one part of it. On the production, how to get information on production using the information to get design and how to develop the production process. That part is actually the relatively easier part. When you come to the part of using the Internet to commercialize and sell, that’s the part where we’re really still struggling. We’ve only found a few examples where they have been able to succeed. And because it’s much more difficult. You have to set up your own Web site. So we’ve come to the point where the government probably should think about coming up with a Web site to help all these — to pool all these SMEs together. But it maybe shouldn’t be the government, maybe it should be outsourced to the business sector. Some kind of like an Ali Baba.com kind of concept.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Sure.
DR. MARI PANGESTU: I think that model has worked so well, and how to design the Web site, how to pick your domain name, et cetera, et cetera. That seems to be a totally new world that has not really reached Indonesia, and that’s something I think we have to make a leap.
And the final thing I’ll mention is that in a country like Indonesia, actually what you do need to do is grow your — we have a huge domestic market. So export market is only one part of it. It’s also how do you get your domestic market to be more interconnected, you know, to buy through the Internet. And that involves a cyber law being there, it involves you being interconnected in the first place. And I would say I would agree with the point made by Richard that I think the mobile phone is, at the moment, you know, the one that will be — the technology that will make us interconnected because in Indonesia you already have — you can buy your satay calling on the hand phone, and they have this network where — it’s just like taxi. Where is your house, you know, my house is in south Jakarta. Okay. And then they’ll get the nearest satay vendor to come to your house, you know? Through the mobile phone. Similar with the motorcycle and the bike riders. I want to order going from here to here, you know, it’s all using mobile phone. And even our president, he has a number, I think it’s 9949. You can call 9949 and register your issue and complaint. And your idea about shared use is also I think something — you didn’t mention the post office. I think the post office in many, many countries — we have also used it for posting market information and what you were talking about, the farmers.
MICHAEL RAWDING: We’ve seen certainly examples where governments have set very ambitious goals in terms of the percentage of small businesses that actually have their own Web sites. And rather than something mandated but just the combination of some simple steps to get there and some service providers within the private sector that are really enabling that to happen quite quickly, I think there’s something to be said for that.
TADATOSHI AKIBA: I have to start by telling you a favorite topic that mayors discuss whenever — at least two mayors get together. Worldwide, this is not limited in Japan. You know, we talk about the national governments anywhere. So giving local governments, cities, more responsibilities but at the same time pulling funds away from us. Therefore, we are in a dire fiscal crisis. That’s what our favorite topic. And part of that consequence is that the plight of the weak, the sick, and also there is bipolarization of income within our society. And the cities have the responsibility to take care of this situation.
Now, there are many different ways of doing it, but one way that we have been doing in Hiroshima is to create, as I mentioned, a new business, for example, there is a very successful kind of a niche business which sort of sprouted out of Mazda. Hiroshima is the home of Mazda Corporation. But some of the parts makers decided to create a new company that designs and does all the engineering work and even create mass production facilities in order to create derivative cars for any auto makers in the world. This has been quite successful, for example.
We are creating, at the same time, we are encouraging young people to start new businesses, especially through Internet. We have some successful people who have become rich through utilizing the Internet. And one thing good about Hiroshima is that we still have old neighborhoods alive. We are a city of one million, but local neighborhoods are alive and thriving, relatively. And these people want to share their success with the young people within the city.
So we have set up a school, and in this school they are coaching, for example, as the minister mentioned that it is important for Internet business to succeed, you have to have your company listed at the top when you have a Google or Yahoo search. And then when anybody gets to your site, you have to entice them to click so that they buy. All these things require know how, experience, and really knowledge, expert knowledge. And these are taught in the school.
But at the same time, these people are trying to make these young people who would like to succeed a social entrepreneur. They really want to make their contribution to society. So, for example, one important segment of this school is to help the working places for the handicapped in many different ways. There are approximately 100 to 200 small workplaces where handicapped people are hired, but their wage is meager. So there’s a group of people who are trying to utilize this Internet business to make these small handicapped workers, institutions, economically independent, for example.
I mean, that’s the kind of efforts we’re making concretely. And as an offshoot, for example, one small company is producing strawberries locally. Initially, they tried to sell that through the Internet, but by several coincidences, the local department store wanted to see those strawberries fresh from the field every morning, delivered every morning. So now a new business sprang up. But it’s not directly a use of information technology, but through our efforts of trying to utilize information technology in order to succeed and in order to help, the new business was born. And this kind of example, actually, abounds just everywhere. And we like to continue helping young people work in that direction.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Great. Thank you. How about a question from the audience? Yes.
PARTICIPANT: Actually, I did want to ask examples that Mr. Mayor wanted to explain about the idea of starting global business, helping Hiroshima citizens to start global business. He doesn’t have time to finish, but if Mr. Mayor can finish that part for us.
TADATOSHI AKIBA: Okay. The kinds of global business. Well, I can’t really give names, but one successful case is a motorcycle helmet seller in Hiroshima. That’s a very tight market. But it so happens that the Japanese motorcycle helmets are really excellent. And as a result, the prices overseas are really high. In Japan, the market is really tight. The margin is very slim. So we coached this company, this person, to sell internationally. Now, the inquiries came from Hong Kong, Germany, India, and so forth and they recently received a huge order from one of those inquiries. But the key here was it so happens that the transportation cost was minimal. It was cheaper to ship them overseas than within Japan. All these things, and you really can’t find these things until you really start doing it.
Actually, also scaling up. In the case of the cities, one thing which is really, really great about the city is that the first thing that different cities get together, we talk to each other. We try to share experiences. We are not necessarily in competition, we want to sort of cooperate. We want to just adopt good examples of other cities immediately so that our citizens will be happy. So that way of communication will spread a good example in one city to another city. And I think rather than trying to sort of design a nationwide or worldwide plan of doing something, I think it’s important that one city does something that’s good and tell the other cities that we’ve succeeded in this way, and other cities will just jump into it. I think that’s one of the quickest ways that we can spread the information.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Great. Thank you. So if you’re in the market for a motorcycle helmet, if you’re a motorcycle rider, you can ask the mayor afterwards about that particular company.
I think we have a gentleman here that would like to — thank you.
PARTICIPANT: Hello. From Thailand. I wonder if the panel will mention one of the necessary infrastructures that might have been left out from our discussion here in the session, that is of the legal infrastructure necessary to actually promote all these economic growth examples. I think that without the proper cyber laws, so to speak, it inhibits all those things that you’ve said. I wonder if you can comment, thank you.
DR. MARI PANGESTU: You’re absolutely spot on on that. In our national window exercise, we found that we couldn’t use electronic documents because there was no legal basis. So basically we had to come up with a temporary regulation. But, fortunately, the cyber law has just been passed just a few weeks ago. So now we have the legal basis, but obviously the next step is to come up with the implementing regulations and that normally takes a lot of time. And just getting people used to doing everything electronically. So electronic signature, electronic transactions, and this, apart from the government documentation that now can be done electronically, I think what I mentioned earlier, having cyber law in place and having a secure trade is going to be a very important part about growing your domestic market so that you can really have the scaling up that we talked about earlier, because certainly in Indonesia, people — a very small proportion of people would actually shop on the Internet, those who know how to do it, and it’s normally outside. It’s probably increasing now, but there’s no security and there’s no legal basis for it.
I was just asking my SME exporter the other day, I said, “How does the cyber law effect you?” And he said, “Well, you know — ” He’s been selling his goods on the Internet. He said, “Well, the biggest difference is that now if I have a dispute or somebody doesn’t pay me, I can sue because I have a legal basis. Before that, okay, if somebody doesn’t pay me abroad, too bad, you know, I don’t really have the legal basis.” So I think the cyber law is absolutely key to this.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Please.
TADATOSHI AKIBA: Yeah, I just want to mention another aspect of cyber law. It’s about mobile phone use by children that in Japan that even elementary school kids, some of them use mobile phones. And contrary to what Richard said, they are basically small computers. You can access anything through the Internet. And children quite often access sometimes criminal sites. And also there are sites called sort of back-ally school sites, you know, where school children communicate with each other and give slander remarks and bullying and everything else. And in some cases, unfortunately, you know, there have been suicide cases that resulted from this.
So in the City of Hiroshima, we are passing an ordinance, the first city in Japan to limit to make it obligatory for the vendors and also the service providers to set filters. Now, the important point is that we are — the city, that means the parents in the areas, neighborhoods I talked about, will decide the standards of the filter. It’s not the companies that will do it, but the area we live in is going to control that. Actually, it’s following the Supreme Court of the United States when they ruled that the freedom of expression basically should be a reflection of the local value, the area value. And, basically, that’s what you are finding in Hiroshima.
People in the area should decide what contents that the children are allowed to see, and the area parents and school teachers and everyone else will be involved in making sure that the children’s use of mobile phone will be a healthy one. So that’s another aspect of cyber law.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Well, thank you for the question. Another great example of the importance of the right policy framework as well as the carrying out of that policy in a practical way.
Do we have any other questions or comments from the audience?
Maybe I would ask the ambassador a question. I know that you’ve had exposure across the region and wanted to ask your perspective on the opportunity for regional cooperation with respect to this area and also thoughts on the evolving public-private partnerships between the donor community, local governments, private industry, and civil society. Some perspective on that as we try and think about creative ways to continue to use ICT for economic development.
SCOT MARCIEL: Sure. Well, certainly, I can comment a little bit about the ASEAN experience and the Minister may well know more about this than I do. But ASEAN has an ambitious economic integration program, but it includes trying to have integration on information technology. So there’s an e-ASEAN program or initiative, which is a region-wide approach to making use of information and communications technology, promoting interoperability and it’s an area in which the public and private sectors have been working very closely together.
I think it’s also an area of great challenge and it goes back to one of the big challenges of ASEAN, which is the huge development gap between the richest and the poorest countries. And I’m not sure that there’s any — I don’t think there’s any real easy answers to this other than — going back to IT — that some of the poorer countries or less developed countries can leap ahead on the technology front and skip a generation. So going directly to cell phones in rural areas and so on, to catch up a little bit faster. But it’s an area where governments play an important role, but where the private sector has to be involved, absolutely.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Great. Thank you. Yes, please.
PARTICIPANT: Yes, I wanted to ask you a question about another important impediment to economic growth, and that is the issue of access to energy. There is today in the Asia-Pacific region about one billion people who have no access to electricity. There’s another 1.7 billion who have only as a source of energy, biomass, which has major impact also for their health and wellbeing.
I guess the question is in this context, does ICT have a role to play in increasing access to clean energy to the bottom million, bottom billion in the Asia-Pacific region? Thank you.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Anyone want to take — yeah, please, Richard.
RICHARD FUCHS: I can’t respond to your question on a mega scale, but I can give you an example where it did. In southern Uganda, there’s a midwife, her name is Veronica. She has an old PDA, Palm PDA. She used to have to give the PDA, through which she kind of synchs health information and epidemiological information — she used to have to give the PDA to a colleague who drove his bicycle to a place where there was electricity. Forty dollars later, she has a solar-powered charger for her PDA, and she doesn’t need to spend that human energy being without her PDA and having someone go and drive to get electrical charge.
That doesn’t answer your example on a mega scale, but yes, I believe there is a solution.
MICHAEL RAWDING: Let me also make a couple of complementary remarks. I do think absolutely that the industry has an opportunity, and indeed an imperative, to think about combining some of the innovation that’s happening in renewable energy with the continued innovation in information technology and to come up with scalable models of examples, the likes of which Richard just mentioned. And it’s something that we want to be able to be continuously part of that dialogue.
There’s another component which is the energy consumption of information technology. And there is I think a very, very strong imperative globally now on continuing to make advancements on being more efficient in terms of the way information technology hardware and software utilize energy in a less power-consumptive way. There’s also a tremendous continued pressure on innovation in batteries and battery life, and I think that there’s a lot of innovation that needs to continue to happen, but is happening on a global scale there.
I think finally, there’s a great opportunity for software to enable more information about the ways to use energy more efficiently. There’s a tremendous amount of things happening now with respect to in developed markets, better metering through digital technologies of the consumption of electricity, and I think there’s a great opportunity to think about how that can be applied to some of these scenarios as well. So thank you very much for bringing that up.
I’m afraid our time is over for this particular panel. I think it’s been very, very helpful and valuable for me and I hope for you as well. I think a couple of closing remarks. Particular, I thought the comment by the minister about the combination between the creative industry being inherently more sustainable, and because it’s inherently more sustainable, there’s an ability to create and attract value. That was very, very noteworthy. And Richard’s comment about the need for digital missionaries and digital town criers, catalysts that are out there that are showing how this can happen and how it should happen at scale was also very, very potent for me.
Please join me in thanking all of our panelists for their remarks and their contribution. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
I’ve got one more job this afternoon, and I’m very happy to have that, and that is to introduce the closing speaker for the day. We are delighted to welcome Noeleen Heyzer. For the past nine months, Noeleen has served as the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for the United Nations at the level of Undersecretary General. She’s the first woman to occupy this position. Since being appointed to this position by the Secretary General, Ms. Heyzer has championed institutional change and development effectiveness, positioning SCAP as the regional hub, assisting countries to build the economic and social foundations for inclusive and sustainable societies in the region.
She’s been cultivating regional cooperation and strong partnerships to mobilize support and harness new energies to address shared development concerns, striving for common prosperity, social progress, stability, and ecological sustainability in a region challenged by high growth with growing inequalities and persistent poverty.
She’s had a long and storied career, and throughout her career, has been a strong supporter of women’s rights, children’s rights, human rights, and focused on making an impact. And she’s been widely recognized through the years for her work, including a Nobel Prize nominee back in 2005. Please join me in welcoming Noeleen Heyzer to the stage. Thank you. (Applause.)
NOELEEN HEYZER: Very good evening, excellencies. Ladies and gentlemen. The 21st century is marked by growing interdependence of people in a globalizing world. This is a message that I’m sure you’ve heard the whole day today at this meeting. It is a world where opportunities are opening up for millions of people, for new technologies, expanding media, Internet connections, trade, and investment.
All of this offers enormous potential to eradicate poverty and reduce suffering. But this is possible only if the growing interdependence of people’s lives is accompanied by shared values, shared commitments, and shared solidarity for inclusive and sustainable development where progress is seen as progress for all people.
If all citizens are to be served through the transformational power of IT, the theme of this conference, we need globalization and growth with ethics and what I call e-quality. We need a globalization that reduces disparities within and between nations, empowers people, and responds to the needs and priorities of vulnerable groups and individuals.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the opportunities and benefits of globalization and growth need to be shared more widely and wisely because, as you have heard, we are indeed one of the world’s most dynamic regions, but Asia Pacific is still a region of great disparities, economic, social, and environmental imbalances are still the hallmarks of this region.
In a region characterized by rapid and impressive economic growth, income inequalities have, in fact, increased in 14 out of 20 countries that were surveyed in a recent report produced by SCAP, UNDP, and Asian Development Bank. Now, in a region where medical tourism hubs have attracted patients from all over the world, one quarter of a million mothers die in childbirth each year, while four million children die every year before reaching the age of five. Close to one billion people in Asia Pacific lack access to electricity, while one in every six persons lack access to safe and sustainable water supplies.
These harsh realities are not inevitable, and it is our collective responsibility to bring about change. Stronger systems of governance and accountability are needed at national, regional, and global levels to ensure that the advancements in technological innovation can be transformed into advancement in human wellbeing. For this to happen, we need string commitments, partnerships, and policies built on a common set of values. These values must be based on principles of justice, equality, participation, and rights as enshrined in the U.N. charter, and must be shared by governments, private sector, and civil society alike. In other words, we need the multi-lateral system in order to have a globalizing world.
Communication technology sets this era of globalization apart from any other. The Internet, the mobile phones that we heard a lot about in the last panel, our satellite networks have indeed shrunk space and time, unleashing new ways of communicating across the globe. There have been fundamental leaps in innovation, not just better ways of doing old things, but as we’ve heard again, radically new ways of doing previously unimagined things.
Old economic boundaries have given way to new centers of power, especially in the private sector. At the same time, communication technology has also opened up new opportunities for small players to enter the global stage. Cutting across national communities, online communities have arisen, drawn together by politics, ethnicity, interest, gender, social causes. Using the networks, they initiated debates and brought new power to previously silent voices. Network communications have also forged closer local communities, providing community information and making local government more effective and transparent, something that we’ve also heard at the last panel.
Now, if we want to use information technology for inclusive and sustainable development, we need to focus, I argue, on four Cs: connectivity, capacity, content, and collaboration.
Let me start with connectivity by telling a story of women in a local community, a rural community in an area outside of this continent in Guyana. Ten years ago, there was no telecommunication infrastructure in the village as it cost too much for the government to bear alone. Eventually, the government decided to turn to the private sector to develop a public-private partnership to provide communication services to the local community. The telephone and telegraph company installed an innovative satellite system in the village and provided $12,000 worth of computer equipment and free Internet access to women weavers.
The company paid to have a young member train in the Internet, and created a Web site. A year later, through this connectivity, the women successfully developed a virtual market for handmade hammocks, selling them for approximately $1,000 U.S. each to an external market and generating new wealth for their families and their communities. Information and communication technologies have enormous potential to link remote communities to global markets, to make tele-medicine and tele-work available to communities in need. To create a democracy of decision making, to support distance learning. But if the global community and national level policy makers are not proactive about ensuring that the benefits of ICT are equally available to and shaped by both men and women, we will fail to reap the full potential of these powerful tools.
The second C stands for capacity. Current access to information technology runs along various thought lines dividing the educated from the less educated, rich from poor, young from old, urban from rural, men from women. We need still to bridge this divide by building capacity of those still excluded from excess to the benefits of information technology.
The third C is content. The information highway cannot be a one-way street. Web sites need to be created locally, adding new voices to global conversation, and making content relevant to communities everywhere. Local content can enhance local participation and institutional transparency, leading to better and more accountable governance. For example, in India, the state government of Andhra Pradesh set up a network to connect tele-center access points for government offices and services, allowing social audits of these services by local communities.
The fourth C is collaboration. Collaboration is needed to harness the power of technology, to respond to the needs of poor countries and communities at risk. In addition to poverty and increasing inequalities, humankind now faces unprecedented risks from natural disasters, climate change, and ecological degradation. Without effective collaboration and preparedness, there will be greater loss of life and livelihoods, greater destruction to property, and greater damage to our resource base and to our environment, and even extinction of some of the small island states. We cannot afford this devastation.
In the face of this alarming scenario, the importance of technology transfer cannot be underestimated. True collaboration, preventive measures and technologies can be used to prepare communities living in disaster-prone areas to enhance the capacity of governments and civil society to respond to emergencies, and help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. By so doing and being proactive, we can reduce the risk of a climate hazard escalating into a major human disaster.
ESCAP, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, where I work, is a regional arm of the United Nations. We are pleased to have an ongoing partnership with Microsoft. Since 2006, Microsoft has supported the ESCAP center for information and communication technology for development. This facility is a regional resource for policy markers and trainers from developing countries across all our regions to learn from and share good practices in the area of ICT development, helping in the transition to the knowledge economy.
This center provides ICT skill development and capacity building, bringing technology to governance in the Asia-Pacific region, and in addition, ESCAP has three other regional organizations which facilitate knowledge sharing and technology transfer, including technology for renewable energy, serving as a place where we keep best practices with respect to technology capacity building and national and local innovation systems that can foster inclusive and sustainable development. We look forward to building partners with governments, private sector, and other stakeholders, so that together we can make a difference.
Let me end by repeating my main message, which is that commitment, partnerships and policies are, indeed, urgently needed to turn the advances in new technologies into advances of all of humanity. We can, indeed, make a difference. Thank you. (Applause.)
MICHAEL RAWDING: Thank you very much Madam Under-Secretary for inspiring us to think more broadly and putting the discussion in an important global context.
Let me add the fifth C to your four Cs, and those are the closing remarks for the day. We want to thank you for your participation throughout the day. It’s been a long day, and hopefully a valuable one for you.
(Break for direction.)