15th EU-China Business & Technology Cooperation Fair (BTCF)
11, November, Chengdu, China
Ms. Liao, Deputy Secretary-General, Chengdu Municipality Government,
Mr. Zhang, Deputy Secretary-General of CCOIC,
Mr. Massimo Bagnasco, Vice President of EU Chamber of Commerce in China,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme, it is my great pleasure to have the opportunity to address you all here today at the 15th EU-China Business and Technology Cooperation Fair.
This is my very first time visiting Chengdu. Here I can even smell the "spicy" in the air, which is "truly nice".
2020 has been a difficult year for all of us. The devastating consequences of COVID-19 have been felt the world over. By the end of this year, as many as 100 million people worldwide could be pushed back into extreme poverty. Even before the pandemic, the world was not on track to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – the global goals to end poverty and protect the planet – and COVID-19 has made this challenge even greater.
However, despite these setbacks, this crisis has also offered us an opportunity, which we cannot afford to waste: In the post-pandemic world, we have the chance to rethink how we can grow our economies more sustainably, and build back better for our planet and society.
A key part of this will be technology. In the midst of the pandemic, digital platforms have proven to be a lifeline for hundreds of millions– from widening the reach of health systems, to safeguarding jobs and access to basic goods through e-commerce. Within the next decade, the digital economy is expected to grow and make up 25% of global GDP.
Innovative technologies offer new means of addressing complex global challenges, with the potential to increase resilience and unlock long-term, sustainable prosperity for people and planet. From cloud computing and big data to fintech and blockchains, digitalization can expand access to a wide range of goods and services that support development and place vulnerable and low-income populations at the center of innovation.
Technology is also critical if we are to transition to low-carbon, green development pathways in response to the threat of climate change. This year, we have seen, for example, how relying on digital tools for telecommuting and working from home have become part of a new normal, proving that we can remain productive, while at the same time reducing carbon emissions by reducing daily commutes.
At UNDP, we are working to harness the potential of technology in countries around the world. Using blockchain, we are piloting efforts to bring trust and transparency to land registries in India, ensuring that land owners obtain the correct land and rights. In Serbia, blockchain has enabled a less expensive way for remittances to be sent home or to pay utilities. In Mongolia, it is being used to help track sustainably sourced cashmere and assist cashmere producers to bring their goods to market at a more competitive price.
We have also used satellite imagery and geospatial analysis in 50 countries for disaster recovery and to monitor droughts, floods and coastal erosion.
Here in China, UNDP is supporting municipal governments to develop tech for good. In Shanghai, we are exploring ways to direct innovation and financing towards sustainable development, and help incubate technology that can accelerate SDG achievement. Today, here in Chengdu, we just launched a new joint project with the Chengdu Hi-Tech Zone to experiment with policy innovation and leverage tech-based development solutions.
The transformative potential of digital technology for sustainable development is undeniable. However, we must also be cautious. Great care is needed to ensure that new technologies support, rather than undermine, human development by exacerbating inequalities. Last year, 87 percent of people in developed countries used the Internet, compared with just 19 percent in the least developed countries. Here in China, internet penetration in Chinese rural areas stands at around 52 percent, while in urban areas, it is 76 percent.
In the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and the changes that artificial intelligence and automation are already bringing, policy makers must be forward-looking. This calls for investments not just in digital infrastructure, but also education to ensure people have the tech skills needed for the new world of work. Technologies – and the skills necessary to use them – should be available to everyone, to avoid new divides opening up.
Ladies and gentleman,
The Sustainable Development Goals are goals for everyone. If we are to overcome the enormous challenges brought by the pandemic and put the world back on track to fulfill the promise of the SDGs by 2030, we have to embrace the digital transformation, and do it in a way that can benefit everybody.
This is why I am thrilled to see so many representatives from government, private sector, academia, and international organizations coming together today to exchange experiences and forge partnerships for greater cooperation between the EU and China. I look forward to the many inspiring ideas by companies and key development partners to foster inclusive innovation and build the resilience of our economies and societies for years to come. I want to express my sincere thanks to our hosts & organisers– the China Chamber of International Commerce and the European Chamber of Commerce in China.
Let’s remember that while technology may provide us with the tools, it means nothing without the will, commitment, and perseverance of people, including everyone here today, to use them to make the world a better place. Together, we can shape the future we want and leave no one behind.