A committee on digital technology, science and innovation in Asia and the Pacific endorsed a "master plan" and regional cooperation framework for the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS).
The AP-IS is expected to establish and strengthen a regional network of land- and undersea-based ICT infrastructure.
The initiative was first discussed at the 69th session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in 2013.
7 October 2016: A committee on digital technology, science and innovation in Asia and the Pacific endorsed a “master plan” and regional cooperation framework for the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS). The AP-IS is expected to establish and strengthen a regional network of land- and undersea-based ICT infrastructure. The initiative was first discussed at the 69th session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in 2013.
ESCAP convened the inaugural meeting of the committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), in Bangkok, Thailand, from 5-7 October 2016, with more than 35 countries participating. According to ESCAP, senior government representatives at the meeting overwhelmingly supported developing seamless regional connectivity to increase the availability, reliability and affordability of broadband internet for all.
Opening the meeting, Prajin Juntong, Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Thailand, underscored the need for Thailand to create an innovation-driven society, given that ICT and STI serve as engines of economic growth and sustainable development. ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar noted that the region, while having some of the world’s most technologically advanced economies, is also home to some of the most technologically deprived.
ESCAP’s ICT and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Division reported that East and Northeast Asia account for three-quarters of fixed broadband subscriptions in the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, small island developing States (SIDS), the least developed countries (LDCs) and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) have considerably less access to broadband, and the region overall has a lower rate of access to broadband than do Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America.
Governments discussed ways to foster STI cooperation among the sub-regions, and how to ensure no one is left behind in the innovation and technology revolution. They reviewed progress toward the AP-IS, including through an open-ended Working Group that met in Incheon, Republic of Korea, in September 2015, and Guangzhou, China, in August 2016. The AP-IS master plan for 2016-2018 seeks to promote regional broadband connectivity, address high transit costs, and promote inclusive broadband access. Its strategies will include improving regulatory frameworks and market practices, and fostering competition in the broadband market.
The meeting also discussed conducting a regional review of implementation of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) objectives. The WSIS aimed to: build an inclusive information society; place knowledge and ICT at the service of development, and promote the use of ICT for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Delegates noted the need for appropriate financing mechanisms and multi-stakeholder approaches, as well as for better data collection, data availability, methodologies that can measure the impact of ICT on economic growth and sustainable development, and mainstreaming of ICT into national strategic development policies. The meeting heard a proposal to revitalize national WSIS committees and their interface with national institutional mechanisms for SDG implementation.
Other issues addressed at the meeting included the use of space applications in promoting resilience, regional capacity-building on ICT for development, and setting up of an Asia-Pacific Innovation Forum for knowledge sharing among countries.
Several side events took place on the sidelines of the Committee meeting, including an Expert Group Meeting on Digital Connectivity for Sustainable Development, the 11th session of the UN Asian and Pacific Training Centre for ICT for Development (UN-APCICT), the Asia-Pacific Regional Internet and Development Dialogue, the Regional Meeting on Open Government Data, and a meeting on the regional review of the WSIS Action Line Implementation. [ESCAP Opening Press Release] [Meeting Agenda] [Meeting Webpage] [Presentation on AP-IS] [Presentation on Regional Review of WSIS] [ESCAP Closing Press Release]