Just how important is telecom to global development? This summer, one influential channel – the World Bank – propelled it into top tier alongside water and power infrastructures. In a major thought leadership report, World Bank emerged to say more resilient critical infrastructure in the face of natural disasters would save USD 4.2 trillion currently wasted in terms of global lost economic opportunity.
Resiliency proved to be a keyword during the month. Being smarter in terms of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery seems a good idea for many reasons. In the Pacific, some of the most disaster-prone areas on earth have been challenging expectations in terms of a systemic approach. We continue to see good ideas emerge, some in the area of corporate collaboration in the satellite sector.
Resiliency apart, the wider development picture sees much the same potential – and challenges – more or less, everywhere. One report emphasized the potential of harnessing digital technologies in Africa, but noted the complexities involved. Asia-Pacific, likewise, remains a conundrum: leading edge network build may be surging forward but sits alongside predictions that still more connectivity is needed for economic growth and greater empowerment. With 1.1 billion young people in the 15-29 age bracket, Asia-Pacific is the most “youthful” region in the world, but the question hangs on exactly how to power this potentially enormous human capital into activity.
For many countries in Asia-Pacific, however, targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remain problematic. Uncertainties abound with current trade tensions. In July, policymakers mulled the problem of underachievement and asked if we can really turn the digital revolution into a development revolution. There is no shortage of ideas: improve agribusiness to lift communities, get smart to avoid a global water crisis, and build trust in digital financial services and digital currencies.
But problem-solving may need more flexibility still, and a wider dialogue. Outreach and education are important. With a view to improving engagement, the World Bank launched Econothon, a round-the-clock online debate discussing the challenges of global development. There were renewed calls to make global, but fragmented, initiatives much better aligned. Helpfully, an interactive toolkit to visualize ICT policy progress globally is now available.
Dealing with complexity may be producing its own ironies: one agency cautioned against overcomplication and using technical jargon if we really want people to understand what we can do for them, perhaps the salient point in realizing tomorrow’s promise.