Deputy Secretary-General Urges Public-Private Leveraging of Technology, Avoiding Pitfalls, at Economic and Social Council-Second Committee Joint Meeting

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks to the joint meeting of the Economic and Social Council and the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), in New York today:

I would like to thank Ambassador Chatardova (Czech Republic) and Ambassador Jurgenson (Estonia) for convening today’s joint meeting on the opportunities and challenges of recent and ongoing technological advances. We believe they offer profound potential for accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

But, if technological progress is not managed well, it risks exacerbating existing inequalities. So, what will it take to make artificial intelligence a force for good? And how can we ensure no one is left behind in this age of rapid technological change?

These questions will not be solved in a three-hour meeting, nor by a single Government, entity or company. They require us � individually and collectively � to learn about how to harness the power of technology and think creatively how to use this tool to address the complex challenges of our time. Academia, Governments, civil society and the private sector need to partner to leverage the power of technology and be aware of the many pitfalls we must avoid.

New technologies can benefit lives throughout the world. For example, they can improve food security, reduce waste and help local economies to grow by enabling access to markets and financing. I am pleased that two of the panellists will speak to this important topic today.

In Zambia, the first Virtual Farmers’ Market is being piloted. This app based e-commerce platform permits farmers’ surplus and buyers’ demand for crops to be matched, advertised and traded.

In other parts of the world, seed-planting drones are being tested to enhance agricultural productivity, curb deforestation, and by extension, mitigate climate change.

In infrastructure, Mobilized Construction is a technology company that is changing how dirt roads are built, monitored and maintained across Kenya, Africa and eventually the developing world. By using a software platform, Governments can use labour-based road construction in place of heavy machinery. This not only creates hundreds of jobs in local communities, but reduces the costs of road construction by 80 to 90 per cent.

Many other examples exist of the potential of innovation, data and new technologies for the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. However, we need to ensure we do not treat technology as the silver bullet. We must identify the root causes of development challenges and address them in a multidimensional manner.

Technology is a key tool. Last March, I had the privilege to engage young entrepreneurs and innovators to find solutions to global problems at an event organized in partnership with MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], called Solve at the United Nations.

Students presented solutions on climate change, on chronic diseases and on new ways to reach out to refugees and people in crisis situations. The creativity and the imagination of youth needs to be nurtured to find solutions for old and new development challenges.

As you have seen in the opening video, we are fully invested in harnessing technology for reaching the SDGs. We must ensure the gains are broadly shared and that displaced workers receive support. If technology changes the nature of work, we need to protect workers and help them adjust.

We need to close the digital divide between developing and developed countries, between the poor and the wealthy and between women and men, girls and boys. We must at all cost avoid exacerbating inequalities.

Teachers must be trained and curricula in schools and universities need to be constantly adapted and improved to equip our children with twenty-first century skillsets. Life-long learning opportunities will be equally important in the age of rapid technological change. The influence of technology on our societies should be determined by the actions of us, humans, not by machines.

Technology is here for us to explore and use for the benefit of all. The Secretary-General is strongly committed to fostering global cooperation on frontier issues stemming from progress in science and technology. The United Nations stands ready as a platform for discussion, knowledge exchange and mutual learning on this important topic. I wish us all a fruitful discussion and look forward to hearing your insights. Thank you.

Source: United Nations

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