Sophia Bekele on Big Data, TeenPreneurs, IoTs & Tech-Innovation at UN CSTD 2018, Geneva

On May 15, 2018, Sophia Bekele Founder & CEO of DotConnectAfrica Group alongside other distinguished speakers sat in a high level panel at the twenty-first session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) that took place from Monday, 14 May to Friday, 18 May 2018 at the United Nations HQ, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

In response to this call, and to contribute to the General Assembly discussion, the Commission held a High-level Roundtable on the impact of rapid technological change on the achievement of the SDGs.

The forum saw great minds from academia, business and government, gather to probe the social and economic benefits of scientific progress on people living in developing countries. The theme aptly chosen by the organizers was “Impact of rapid technological change on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”.

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-preneurship 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, #TeenPreneurs are given a priority and prominence when developing strategies and competencies of advancing the use of technology to solve local needs.

Ms. Bekele also spoke on the panel: Digital Competencies to benefit from existing and emerging technologies with focus on gender and youth dimension. She also addressed positive and negative impacts of rapid tech development.

Bekele recommended to the forum and the governments saying, “The global South has best opportunity to leapfrog in the digital economy instead of reinventing the wheel,”. On policy, Bekele noted that there is always a fear that legislating policy is left behind technology development than it does in reality. She added that, “We can lead in Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning and Big Data”.

She implored that Start-ups need to stridently move from talking the blue-print to tangibles in the tech space and that next generation 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.

You can also download Ms. Bekele’s statements here.

Read the UNCTAD CSTD blog that summarizes the panel statements here

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