Give priority to youth when developing, formulating ICT policies – Sophia Bekele

On May 15, 2018, Sophia Bekele, the founder and CEO of DotConnectAfrica alongside other distinguished speakers sat in a high level panel at the twenty-first session of the UN’s Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) that took place mid this month at the United Nations HQ, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

A key focus of the forum and roundtable was the impact of rapid technological change on the achievement of the SDGs under the overall conference theme: “Impact of rapid technological change on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”.  

(TOP: Sophia Bekele).

At the forum, participants drawn from academia, business and government, all gathered to probe the social and economic benefits of scientific progress on people living in developing countries.

The rapid technological change in recent years is catapulting a broad, and sometimes disruptive, impact on the economy, society and the environment. The high-level round table examined the opportunities and challenges brought about by new and emerging technologies in a number of fields.

The panelists sent a strong message on the importance of accelerating and diversifying the benefits of ICT’s to promote and accentuate tech-preneruship especially in the global south. They also had an opportunity to identify effective policies and strategies in the area of science, technology and innovation (STI) to prepare societies for rapid technological change.<

The forum comes at a critical time when the role of big data, blockchain technology, mobile technology applications are taking center stage in promoting the development of eCommerce, agriculture, education, health governance among other facets of ICTs.

In her statement, Ms Bekele stressed on the urgent need to ensure that the youth, also known as #TeenPreneurs, are given a priority and prominence when developing strategies and competencies of advancing the use of technology to solve local needs.

Making her presentation, Bekele emphasized on the need to enhance Digital Competencies, by ensuring that people  benefit from existing and emerging technologies with focus on gender and youth dimension. She also addressed positive and negative impacts of rapid tech development.

Said Bekele: “The global South has best opportunity to leapfrog in the digital economy instead of reinventing the wheel,” while on policy, she noted that there is always a fear that legislating policy is left behind technology development than it does in reality.

She implored start-ups on the need to stridently move from talking the blue-print to tangibles in the tech space,  adding that the next generation of tech-preneurship will be led by #Teenpreneurs who have it in their DNA .

On big data and other effects of technology, “Opaque algorithms can ‘bake-in’ bias and exclusion,” said Shirley Malcom, head of the directorate of education and human resources at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

On gender divide, Helena Dalli, Malta’s European affairs and equality minister, said “The more we let the gender divide grow, the more economic disparities will grow,” These were some of the recommendations.

(For more about proceedings at the forum, read the UNCTAD CSTD blog here).

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