Opening Remarks for UNDP & Baidu Big Data Joint Lab Launch Ceremony

18 Aug 2014

By Mr. Xu Haoliang, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, Director of Regional Bureau of Asia-Pacific, UNDP

Beijing, China

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. It gives me great pleasure to be here today for the launch of an initiative that will help tackle some of the most pressing issues facing sustainable development and environmental protection in modern times, issues such as pollution and e-waste.

Over the last 15 years, the world has made remarkable progress on many development issues. Today, as we arrive at the 500 day countdown till the end of the period defined by the Millennium Development Goals, we can look back with pride on what has been accomplished in poverty reduction, education and health.

The progress we have made rests upon a foundation which must be strong enough to support long term development. This foundation is environmental sustainability, which underpins human development as a whole.

Our modern age brings with it new and greater challenges. Combating these global challenges needs new ways of thinking and the forging of new and innovative partnerships. One partnership model in particular that shows great promise in helping to address these challenges is Public Private Partnerships. For UNDP, these partnerships usher in a new era of CSR whereby enterprises’ technical expertise is used alongside our strategic development work. Together, we can influence an even greater impact on sustainable development.

We welcome Baidu’s commitment and contribution to the UNDP’s development work and are grateful for their efforts. Indeed, Baidu has been really innovative in utilising their competitive strength of big data analysis to help us pave the way for future technological solutions to societal and environmental problems.

The UN recognizes that big data technology has tremendous potential to drive social innovation in the area of sustainable development, and we welcome partners like Baidu to contribute their technology expertise. This Joint Lab addresses the real desire to see practical solutions to sustainability issues. The launch today represents a new approach to development issues and creates the mechanism for continued facilitation of cross-industry collaboration. 

Collecting, analysing and processing big data is a large and difficult task. Never before in human history has so much information been generated on a daily basis and this new dispensation brings new challenges to overcome and new possibilities to explore.

Possibilities like Big Data contributing to the bettering of vulnerable groups’ work and life, providing a means for income generation as well as giving hope to entrepreneurs and inspiring them to continue dreaming, never give up and ultimately realise their goals. 

Big data needs big partnerships. Today marks a new stage in the very innovative and strong partnership between UNDP and Baidu as we celebrate the start of our Big Data Joint Lab. Indeed, given the UNDP’s renewed focus on innovation for sustainable development, we are pleased to launch our Joint Lab as testament to our conviction that great change can only come about through new and innovative thinking. Moreover, we are happy to be able to share with you all the first concrete outcome from this partnership, a global first in the form of a light app.

The launch of this light app, ‘Baidu Recycle’, is a defining symbol of what can be done when innovative and inquisitive minds meet. It will tackle E-waste, which is a threat not just to China but to the world.  Discarded and obsolete electronic devices, which form growing mountains in many countries, contain levels of poisonous substances which, when improperly disposed, release highly toxic fumes and harmful chemicals to pollute land, air and water. China is the second largest e-waste producer with 160 million units of different categories of e-waste each year. This is what the app “Baidu Recycle” will help address.  Although just a beta version right now, in the near future even more functionality will be added as we continually update and tweak it for the best possible user experience. But this launch was only possible through the determined cooperation between UNDP and Baidu.

The link between Big Data and e-waste will also generate valuable information for e-waste management as well as the whole life-cycle of electronic products, thus contributing to a sustainable circular economy. We also hope that the innovations that UNDP and Baidu are leading will inspire many other developing countries and will help to solve similar problems they face.

In conclusion, I would like to thank again everyone at Baidu and UNDP for their hard work in making this vision a reality, as well as to Ms. Zhao Wei, who will be the first official user of the world’s only e-waste disposal app, ‘Baidu Recycle’. Our hope is to see this app and our message spread further and wider than ever before, as we join together to forge a new way of thinking, of doing, and of being.

Thank you.