Digital Technologies for the SDGs

Digital Technologies for the SDGs
Overview and Background


Digital technologies including information and communication technologies (ICT) for development are cutting across many sectors. Progress on certain SDGs can be traced and correlated with ICT progress, especially in monitoring SDG 9: Infrastructure, Industrialization and Innovation, SDG 4: Quality Education and SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being, which suggests that these may be the areas with the greatest potential for leveraging ICT for sustainable development.

At its current trajectory, Asia and the Pacific is reversing its trends in achieving of many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 (ESCAP (2019), SDG Progress Report 2019.

Some countries are heading in the wrong direction for more than half of the SDGs, and the progress is stagnant. Most at risk are the countries with special needs. Limited progress has been made towards Goal 9 on supporting industry, innovation and infrastructure, while the efforts towards Goal 11 on building sustainable cities and communities have been slow in the South and South-West Asia as well as Central Asia. Goal 17 seeks to strengthen global partnerships and means of implementation to achieve the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda through digital technologies. Official development assistance for technical cooperation (17.9.1) and fixed broadband access (17.6.2) are two indicators that all subregions need to accelerate substantially. The intercountry digital divide has widened, with many countries going ahead in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) field. Another critical constraining factor in achievement of SDGs is the investment in the next generation infrastructure, which has lagged.

The role of digital infrastructure, technology and innovation for the achievement of the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific is crucial and instrumental in making progress towards SDGs. To enable and to manage the progress through the real-time tracking, the massive amounts of data needed to be collected and processed. This processing, in turn, create new demands on digital communications infrastructure. Gigabit networks ensure infrastructure connectivity, characterized by higher speed, lower latency than ever before, which is a critical link between Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

This thematic area illustrates progress made and provides an overview of the policy bottlenecks and highlights case studies with policy pathways in line with SDGs. The choice of countries on leverage points of multiple impacts is critical for the way forward. The thematic area focuses on digital solutions that accelerate achievements and, where necessary, reverse the specific SDG progress trends. The case studies, results of the capacity building efforts and the policy toolkits highlight the transformative pathways towards inclusive and digital economies. 

Useful links:

Asia Pacific-Information Superhighway

 

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In 2019 ESCAP member States endorsed resolution 75/7 (ESCAP/RES/75/7) on “advancing the implementation of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) initiative through regional cooperation”. Its Master Plan 2019-2022 (ESCAP/75/INF/5), the Regional Cooperation Framework Document 2019-2022(ESCAP/75/INF/6), and technical working groups set up at the request of member countries guide the implementation of the AP-IS initiative.

The Master Plan, as a strategic initiative 2 of the AP-IS prioritizes establishment of the sufficient number of Internet exchange points, at the national and subregional levels to minimize transit costs and improve the Internet’s speed.

Internet exchange point coordinate and link all Internet traffic locally within a country or a group of countries, reduce transit costs of Internet traffic exchanged internationally, reduce Internet traffic tromboning effect, and improving the quality of domestic users’ access through more direct connections to local and cached contents.

Please find an interactive map here

Despite the substantial gains reaped from broadband Internet across all sectors, progress has been uneven across Asia and the Pacific, which remains one of the most digitally divided regions in world. The widening digital divide is a legitimate source of concern. To address this concern, the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway concept was defined at the 1st meeting of the Working Group on the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway based on the above-mentioned research and analysis that identified gaps, opportunities and the need for regional cooperation on topics related to the four pillars: (a) Physical infrastructure upgrade and interconnection; (b) Internet traffic management; (c) Building regional network resilience; (d) Promoting broadband access in underserved areas.

Please click the sign “+” in the accordion tab format below to view a summary of each pillar.

CONNECTIVITY

APISH4
  • Physical network design, development,  management at regional level
  • Intergovernmental negotiation
  • Improving regulations based on open access

E-RESILIENCE

  • Resilient ICT networks
  • Support to disaster management systems
  • Ensuring last-mile disaster communication
     

TRAFFIC NETWORK MANAGEMENT

  • Ensuring efficient and effective Internet traffic and network
    management at regional, sub-regional and national levels

BROADBAND FOR ALL

  • Promoting applications such as e-government
  • Promoting affordable access to underserved areas
  • Policy and technical support to Governments
     

The AP-IS Steering Committee 

According to the AP-IS governance structure, the AP-IS Steering Committee addresses regional implementation related to  the four pillars of AP-IS.  Sub-regional implementation  is to be carried out by policymakers working in close cooperation with academia and the private sector. More on the ESCAP Committees on Information and Communications Technology, Science, Technology and Innovation is available here.

Connectivity


As one of the four pillars of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway, the connectivity objective forms an integral part of the Regional Cooperation Framework. The term connectivity is in reference to physical network design, the development of regional and intergovernmental negotiations as well as the improvement of regulations concerning open access.

The emphasis on connectivity has been driven by the need to enhance the regional broadband fiber-optic connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region as well as to better balance the undersea and terrestrial networks. Additionally, the connectivity pillar also advocates for the incorporation of regional connectivity opportunities such as the development of terrestrial fiber-optic cables into trans-border infrastructure development. It also fosters the collaboration and joint development of cross-regional studies and initiatives that are in relation the AP-IS Master Plan & Regional Cooperation Framework Document.
 

The Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative advocates enhancing seamless regional broadband fibre-optic backbone connectivity by upgrading and increasing the resilience of and integrating cross-border intra- and interregional broadband backbone networks, which will lead to open access and better balanced undersea and terrestrial networks.

In addition, the initiative advocates leveraging existing regional connectivity opportunities offered by the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway networks, as well as other trans-border infrastructure, to utilize the rights of way of existing and planned transport networks and to achieve rapid, cost-effective deployment of optical fibre across and within countries. Besides developing regional terrestrial fibre-optic cables, the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative also seeks to establish operation models of terrestrial cables, facilitate the formation of trans-border terrestrial cable networks and enhance the quality and efficiency of transition, so as to put the completed terrestrial cable resources to more efficient use and to promote regional interconnectivity. It was also noted that the international, regional, subregional organizations have been conducting technical and operational studies and produced deliverables.to promote the regional connectivity.

Therefore, they are encouraged to collaborate and develop joint studies and initiatives for the implementation of the Master Plan and Regional Cooperation Framework Document. These aspects are highlighted in the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Regional Cooperation Framework Document.

 

The following list of global SDGs and related targets that can be monitored to track the progress on connectivity:

SDG 1.4:  By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership  and control over land and  other forms of property inheritance, natural resources appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance

SDG 1.4.1: Proportion of population living in households with access to basic services

SDG 5.b: Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular, information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

SDG 5.b.1: Proportion of individuals who own a mobile telephone, by sex

SDG 9.b: Support domestic technology development, research and innovation in developing countries, including by ensuring a conducive policy environment for, inter alia, industrial diversification and value addition to commodities

SDG 9.b.1: Proportion of medium and high-tech industry value added in total value added

SDG 9.c: Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020

SDG 9.c.1: Proportion of population covered by a mobile network, by technology

SDG 17.6:  Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism

SDG 17.6.1: Number of countries reporting progress in multistakeholder development effectiveness monitoring frameworks that support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 17.8: Fully operationalize the technology bank and science, technology and innovation capacity-building mechanism for least developed countries by 2017 and enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology

SDG 17.8.1: Proportion of individuals using the Internet
 

SDG icons are listed in the order starting with direct and indirect relevance to the theme, from left to right

Targets

Progress to Date

Following the intergovernmental negotiations and the physical network designs in the Asia Pacific region, the notion of connectivity is reflecting   the state of integration of co-deployment with existing transport infrastructure networks, as well as existing regional agreements of the Asian Highway Network and the Trans-Asian Railway Network. The integration mentioned above signifies the intent of member states to promote regional and sub-regional ICT connectivity.

Following the intergovernmental negotiations built on consensus during the 5th Working Group on the Trans-Asian Railway Network, all member states should further explore the notion of public-private partnerships. The high dependency of the region on submarine cables (instead of terrestrial cables) is also creating issues within connectivity pillar.  Therefore there is a need to  advocate further the sub-regional terrestrial connectivity.


 
E-Resilience

 

E-Resilience is defined as the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions through risk management.

E-Resilience is one of the 4 pillars of the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway, an initiative aims to enhance the resilience of existing/planned Information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure through methods such as enhanced network diversity, while recognizing the importance of resilient infrastructure to sustainable development and the critical role played by ICT in disaster risk reduction and management. The surge in interest in e-resilience is closely linked with the fact that the Asia-Pacific region is the most disaster-prone region in the world. Dealing with the aftermath of any type of a disaster has many aspects. Each group of actors from government entities to the private sector, to community groups and the general public have roles to play. The lack of organized support services and access to infrastructure makes response and recovery a daunting task.

Information and communications technology (ICT) has been widely recognized as an indispensable development enabler that contributes to and accelerates achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, SDG9 that encompasses building resilient infrastructure is highly relevant in the context of ICT for sustainable development. Considering the significant progress in the field of ICT and its heightened potential to strengthen the adaptive capacity of critical infrastructure and systems, e-resilience has gained traction in Asia and the Pacific.
 

E-resilience refers to the use of ICT during all phases of disaster risk management —prevention, reduction, preparedness, response and recovery — towards reducing risk and impact and maintaining the gains made towards sustainable development, including through e-government. E-government has been growing in a rapid pace over the past 17 years. The UN E-Government Survey, with the overall theme “gearing e-government to support transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” underscores a persistent positive global trend towards higher levels of e-government development. Globally, there has been steady growth in enhancing e-government and public services provision online. However, the difference in e-government and digital divides remain despite some development and investments have been made. It is important to note that in the transformation to resilient e-government, cybersecurity is a crucial factor. Since there are raising questions about State security and protection of individuals and business in globally connected environment, it is important for governments to improve the management of Information and Communications Technology-driven approaches to guarantee continuity of online services as well as to safeguard people’s data and privacy.

The Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative aims to enhance the resilience of existing/planned ICT infrastructure through methods such as enhanced network diversity, while recognizing the importance of resilient infrastructure to sustainable development and the critical role played by ICT in disaster risk reduction and management.  These aspects are highlighted in the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Regional Cooperation Framework Document.  


The following list of global SDGs and related targets that can be monitored to track the progress on e-resilience:

SDG 9.a:  Facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological support to African countries, landlocked developing countries & small island developing States

SDG 9.1: Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including     regional and trans-border       infrastructure, to support economic development & human well-being with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.

SDG 13.1: strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related hazards and natural disasters in all countries

SDG 13.1.3: Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies

SDG 13.b: Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities

SDG 13.b.1: Number of least developed countries and small island developing States that are receiving specialized support, and amount of support, including finance, technology and capacity-building, for mechanisms for raising capacities for effective climate change-related planning and management, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities

SDG 17.6.2: Fixed Internet broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, by Speed

SDG 17.8.1: Proportion of the individuals using the Internet

 

SDG icons are listed in the order starting with direct and indirect relevance to the theme, from left to right

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Useful references:

https://data.unescap.org/

https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2019/The-Sustainable-Development-Goals-Report-2019.pdf

https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/sustainable/sdg-progress-reports-2019.html

https://www.unescap.org/commission/75/document/E75_INF5E.pdf

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/monitoring-and-progress-hlpf/

http://drrgateway.net/e-resilience/about

https://www.unescap.org/our-work/ict-disaster-risk-reduction/e-resilience/about

https://www.unisdr.org/files/46052_disasterriskreductioninthe2030agend.pdf

https://lirneasia.net/2018/09/unescap-apis-emcomm

 

Traffic/Network Management


A recent ESCAP study reports that the establishment of Internet exchange point (IXPs) can have positive impacts on affordability, latency and traffic capacity. An IXPs is a physical location where different Internet provider networks connect to exchange traffic with each other using a copper or fibre-optic cable through one or more ethernet switches or server.

The key role of an IXPs is to coordinate and link all Internet traffics locally within a country (or a group of countries), thereby reducing transit costs of traffics exchanged internationally, reduce Internet traffic tromboning effect, and improving the quality of domestic users’ access through more direct connections to local contents.

As a result, IXPs significantly improves the efficiency of Internet traffic resulting in cost savings. This is made possible by eliminating the routing of Internet traffics through expensive long-distance traffic routes outside the country. Also, consolidating of national traffic from different networks significantly improves national Internet traffic network management. It also eliminates the need for multiple physical links between local network operators and international operators. In addition, download speeds for websites improve significantly thereby encouraging the development of new local content and services as well as opportunities for productive use of Internet for other purposes such as e-commerce and e-government services.
 

Access to the Internet contributes to socio-economic development. However, access to affordable and reliable broadband connectivity is not universal, particularly in countries with special needs (Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Land-locked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS)). According to the latest ICT statistics from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ‘Inclusive Internet Index 2020’, the average fixed-broadband access, speed, latency, and affordability, are well-developed in high-income countries, but significantly lacking behind in low-income countries.

The Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative also promotes enhancing Internet traffic exchange and management systems and harmonizing related policies in a more efficient and effective manner, domestically as well as at the subregional and regional levels, which will lead to better quality of service. This pillar aims to establish sufficient Internet exchange points within the region, harmonize Internet traffic management practices, principles and related policy and regulatory frameworks in more open, neutral and nondiscriminatory ways, and set out general principles on Internet exchange points. These aspects are highlighted in the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Regional Cooperation Framework Document.
 
 

The following list of global SDGs and related targets that can be monitored to track the progress on traffic and network management:

SDG 9.b: Support domestic technology development, research and innovation in developing countries, including by ensuring a conducive policy environment for, inter alia, industrial diversification and value addition to commodities

SDG 9.b.1: Proportion of medium and high-tech industry value added in total value added

SDG 9.5: Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending

SDG 9.5.1: Research and development expenditure as a proportion of GDP

SDG 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreement

SDG 16.10.2: Number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information

SDG 17.6: Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism

SDG 17.6.2: Fixed Internet broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, by speed

SDG 17.8: Fully operationalize the technology bank and science, technology and innovation capacity-building mechanism for least developed countries by 2017 and enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular, information and communications technology

SDG 17.8.1: Proportion of individuals using the Internet
 

SDG icons are listed in the order starting with direct and indirect relevance to the theme, from left to right

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Useful resources of ESCAP (2018-2019): 

Broadband for All


Broadband as a form of Internet access provides high call-up speeds, and is offered via digital subscriber line, fibre optic cable and satellite. Unless stated otherwise, broadband connectivity refers to both fixed-broadband and mobile-broadband connections with high-speed access to the public Internet (a TCP/IP connection), at downstream speeds equal to, or greater than, 256 kbit/s (as defined by ITU in “Definitions of World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators” (March, 2010). Broadband connectivity has enabled technological innovations and smart applications that can help address policy challenges in a wide range of development sectors.
 

The Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative supports an environment that will lead to the promotion of inclusive access for all, acknowledging the special needs and challenges faced by least developed and landlocked developing countries. In addition to enhancing international fibre optic backbone connectivity, the initiative also drives the development of domestic ICT infrastructure in related countries, including domestic backbone and backhaul networks, access network and internet data centres, among others.

The improvement of domestic ICT infrastructure can promote large-scale broadband expansions by lowering broadband costs per capita. Effective use of Internet data centres can lead to the absorption of the demand for international bandwidth and the promotion of the development of domestic ICT applications. These aspects are highlighted in the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Regional Cooperation Framework Document.

One of the critical undertakings of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) initiative is advancement of broadband Internet for all, including both fixed and mobile broadband. The term broadband does not have a precise definition but generally refers to high-speed Internet of at least 20Mbps that is always available. With a focus on countries with challenges such as least developed and landlocked developing countries, the goal of broadband for all is to bridge the digital divide, promote affordable access to underserved areas and deliver policy and technical support to governments. This can be accomplished by enhancing international fibre optic backbone connectivity and driving the development of domestic ICT infrastructure, including backbone, backhaul and access networks as well as data centres.1

The improvement of domestic ICT infrastructure can promote large-scale broadband expansions by lowering broadband costs per capita. Effective use of Internet data centres can lead to the absorption of the demand for international bandwidth and the promotion of the development of domestic ICT applications. These aspects are highlighted in the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Master Plan Document.


ESCAP, AP-IS Master Plan, https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/Master_Plan_for_APIS_English_0.pdf

 

The following list of global SDGs and related targets that can be monitored to track the progress on broadband for all:

SDG 9.1: Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and trans-border infrastructure, to support economic development & human well-being with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.

SDG 9.C: Significantly increase access to information & communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020

SDG 9.c.1: Proportion of population covered by a mobile network, by technology

SDG 4.4: By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth & adults who have relevant skills, including technical & vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

SDG 4.4.1: Proportion of youth & adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills, by type of skill

SDG 17.8.1: Proportion of individuals using the Internet          

 

SDG icons are listed in the order starting with direct and indirect relevance to the theme, from left to right

Targets

Progress to Date

The impacts of the digital divide are extensive and include the perpetuation of poverty, gender inequality and marginalization. In contrast, basic digital access enhances opportunities for social development and the generation of knowledge economies. Thus, bridging the digital divide will play a critical role not only in members states’ socioeconomic development but also their progress towards achieving the SDGs. 

In terms of fixed broadband access, 17 ESCAP member states have less than 2 per cent of their populations covered; most of those countries’ growth is either flat or negative.2 As for mobile, 14 member states have less than a third of their populations covered by mobile broadband.3 This is the current reality of the “digital divide” and highlights the necessity of promoting Broadband for All.  These issues must be addressed if the digitalization gains of this coming decade are to be shared by all.


International Telecommunication Union (ITU), World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators (WTI) Database 2019 (Accessed February 2020).
3 Ibid.
 
 

 

Sub-regional Implementation


Since its founding in 1947, the membership of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific has grown to 53 members and 9 associate members.

You may review a brief summary on the SDG progress of the Asia-Pacific Information Super Highway (AP-IS) per subregion by clicking the sign “+” in the accordion tab format below.

Publications:


ESCAP (2019) The Operation of Cross-Border Terrestrial Fibre-Optic Networks in Asia and the Pacific

Recommendations for Implementation of Smart Sustainable City Information and Communication Technology Infrastructures in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Region

 

South East Asia


ASEAN countries have made extensive investments in fibre and other broadband infrastructure (domestic as well as international). However, a wide gap in the level of access and services exists among the ASEAN countries. The average Internet speed in ASEAN countries falls below the world average, except in Singapore and Thailand. Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam would require additional investments to expand their domestic networks.

International connectivity in most ASEAN countries is relatively weak, except in Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. Cambodia relies on backhaul agreements with other neighbouring countries for international connectivity. Indonesia has weak and limited interregional connectivity and strongly depends on Singapore for its transit capacity. The only landlocked country in the ASEAN subregion, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, has no direct connectivity to submarine cable networks. (source: https://www.unescap.org/commission/75/document/E75_INF5E.pdf)


Publications:


ESCAP (2020) In-depth Study of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway in CLMV Countries

ESCAP (2020) Research Report on the Network Planning for the Greater Mekong Subregion
 

Pacific Islands


Despite being separated by the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, small island developing states in the Pacific have gained a stronger sense as a subregional community to act on mutual development concerns with the advent of broadband Internet. Broadband as a form of Internet access provides high call-up speeds, and is offered via digital subscriber line, fibre optic cable and satellite. Broadband connectivity has enabled technological innovations and smart applications that can help address policy challenges in a wide range of development sectors.  This sectors cover health, food security, disaster risk reduction, natural resource management, education, trade, energy, transport, public governance and taxation and other.

However, broadband access in the Pacific Island countries has been unequal. According to a study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Artificial Intelligence and Broadband Divide: State of ICT Connectivity in Asia and the Pacific (Bangkok, 2017), there were 19 ESCAP members with 2 per cent or lower fixed-broadband penetration in 2016—of which eight were Pacific Island countries. At the same time, New Caledonia and French Polynesia had more than 19 per cent fixed-broadband penetration, while Fiji, Nauru and Tonga had mobile-broadband penetration of more than 30 per cent.

  • The benefits of submarine cables to the Pacific subregion are significant because they not only bring high bandwidth capacity, but also considerably lower costs. The submarine cables have connected Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna. However, inter-island (domestic) connectivity remains seriously constrained with a high proportion of outer islands and remote areas that are not yet connected. Thus, it is important for the Pacific subregion to continue working together with satellite service providers to address the digital gaps in the region. The working paper of ESCAP (2018) on “Satellite Communications in Pacific Island Countries” examines how the Pacific Island countries respond to the challenges and opportunities of submarine cable connectivity through the use of satellite technology to enhance the availability, affordability and resilience of broadband connectivity.
     
  • According to ESCAP reports (2020), in the Pacific, few countries have established neutral Internet exchange points. Australia and New Zealand have established Internet exchange points. Papua New Guinea and Fiji have recently established national Internet exchange points in 2017. Consequently in 2018, Vanuatu requested ESCAP to conduct a feasibility study on establishing a Pacific Internet exchange point. ESCAP collaborated with the Internet Society to conduct the study which found that a Pacific Internet exchange point is technically feasible by establishing Internet exchange points in Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa. The main findings were shared in an expert working group in December 2019, and experts recommended that an operational model of a Pacific Internet exchange point be developed. The ESCAP secretariat was requested to undertake the follow-up study and initial findings are expected to be available by the third quarter of 2020 (source: ESCAP, Conclusions and Recommendations of the First session of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) Working Group on Strengthening efficient Internet traffic management through a subregional Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Pacific Island Countries (Suva, 3-5 December 2019).
     

Publications:


ESCAP (2020) Pacific Internet Exchange Point Feasibility Study

ESCAP (2019) Regulatory Policies and ICT Trends, Insights from Timor-Leste

ESCAP (2019) Satellite Communications in Pacific Island Countries

Central Asia


The infrastructure connections of these 10 economies with the rest of the world mostly comprise terrestrial landing cables although Pakistan and Georgia have access to submarine cables. These 10 countries are surrounded by the Russian Federation in the north, China in the east, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan in the south, and Turkey in the west. These neighbouring countries could provide additional international bandwidth terrestrially as well as through submarine cables to the landlocked countries. Furthermore, Central Asia has a number of interconnected terrestrial cable networks running through the subregion, such as the Trans-Asia-Europe line, the Europe-Persian Express Gateway and the Trans-Eurasian Information Superhighway. These cable systems could be tapped for international bandwidth by the landlocked countries. Furthermore, these cable systems present an opportunity for alternative redundant routes to the existing choke points in the current undersea cable system. More here.

The needs of landlocked developing countries in general and in Central Asia, in particular are one of the central pillars of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative. Although the broadband penetration is generally low, the digital transformation is evident in countries of North and Central Asia. Since 2012, the countries in Central Asia have tripled the mobile-broadband subscriptions, and the fixed broadband increased by 200 per cent. The massive amounts of data will be generated, and new demands on communications infrastructure now and in the future will be created. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are leading the broadband infrastructure development in the subregion.

According to the latest ITU data (accessed 21 January 2020), some Central Asian countries still have one of the highest mobile and broadband subscription fees together with the limited international data flow. The fixed broadband service fees in Tajikistan are ten times more than in Singapore, seen through percentage of GNI per capita. International Internet bandwidth per capita in Singapore is one hundred times higher than in Uzbekistan.

As a mid-term result of the implementation of the Development Account project of ESCAP in 2019 on Addressing the transboundary dimensions of the 2030 Agenda through regional economic cooperation and integration (RECI) in 2019, the national focal points from different sectors in selected pilot countries had strengthened their understanding and institutional and human capacity needs in  improving planning approaches in cross-sectoral, cross-border co-deployment among ICT,4 transport and energy sectors, integrating with measures on the disaster risk reduction, social inclusion and sustainable financing. As a result, participants were able to identify and communicate on 5 and 6 transport corridors at the national level in Kazakhstan and in Mongolia, respectively, with a high potential for co-deployment of infrastructure from the cross-boundary perspective of RECI.


Publications:

An In-Depth National Study on ICT Infrastructure Deployment with Road Transport and Energy Infrastructure in Kazakhstan Part I

An In-Depth National Study on ICT Infrastructure Deployment along Road Transport and Energy Infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan Part I

ESCAP (2020) ICT Infrastructure Co Deployment with Transport and Energy Infrastructure in North and Central Asia

Toolkit for ICT Infrastructure Co-Deployment with Road Transport and Energy Infrastructure Part II

 

Note from ESCAP Secretariat: co-deployment in terms of infrastructure means the concomitant deployment of ducts and/or FOCs during the construction of infrastructure, such as new roads, highways, railways, power transmission lines and oil/gas pipelines.
 
South Asia


ESCAP analysis of telecommunications, Internet markets and broadband infrastructure in nine countries in the subregion in 2018 (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey) reveals a sharp disparity among the countries in terms of bandwidth availability. Such a disparity is detrimental to economic growth, social development and inclusiveness. This weak terrestrial fibre-optic connectivity has been the root cause of the subregion’s bandwidth inequality and low capacity, high cost and unreliability. (ESCAP, “An in-depth study on the broadband infrastructure in South and West Asia”. It has led to expensive consumer and wholesale pricing of bandwidth and the limited availability and penetration of advanced ICT services and applications, including broadband

In 2018, Turkey’s per capita international Internet bandwidth was more than 30 kilobytes per second, while Bangladesh’s was only 0.3 kilobyte per second, a ratio of 100 to 1. Countries such as Bangladesh, India and Nepal (which together account for one fifth of the world’s population) have per capita international Internet bandwidth at less than 1 kilobyte per second; bandwidth in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is also extremely weak, at 2.2 kilobytes per second or less, while, in comparison, the average in Western Europe is approximately 100 kilobytes per second. The annual 1 megabit per second broadband subscription plus installation as a percentage of nominal gross domestic product per capita varies from extremely affordable (Turkey), affordable (Sri Lanka), reasonable (Bhutan, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Maldives), somewhat expensive (Pakistan) to very expensive (Bangladesh and Nepal).
 

Publications:


ESCAP (2018) Fibre-Optic Co-Deployment along the Asian Highways and Trans-Asian Railways for E-Resilience: The Cases of India and Bangladesh

ESCAP (2019), ICT Co-Deployment with the Electricity Infrastructure, The Case of Bhutan

North East Asia


North East Asian countries, including China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, have over the past half century experienced a remarkable pace of growth in the ICT sector, experiencing technological development with advanced broadband networks and widespread broadband access.

China is going through a distinctive transformation of traditional industries via digital technology and has become one of the largest ICT markets in the world. Capitalizing on the extensive telecommunications networks, Japan is now widely known as a country with well-established e-government and proactively involves the public in decision-making through ICT related channels. The Republic of Korea, a country where it was difficult to access even basic telephony until the beginning of the 1980s, now consistently ranks as one of the most advanced countries in the ICT sector since 2000s.
 

Publications:


COVID-19, Testing time for resilience in recovering from COVID-19: Korean experience

ESCAP (2020) Research Report on ICT infrastructure Co-deployment with Transport and Energy Infrastructures in Mongolia

 

Research and Analysis


ESCAP promotes digital inclusion through its analysis of the economic and social impacts of future and near-future ICT trends. From cloud computing and the power of big data to the latest Internet applications that simplify everyday tasks, cutting edge technologies on the horizon offer opportunities to accelerate economic growth, increase social inclusion, and provide new tools in the fight against poverty and climate change. 

ESCAP supports communication technologies for inclusive and sustainable development through a range of policy analysis, capacity building, and partnership engagement activities. Developed and administered by ESCAP, in partnership with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, the Asia-Pacific Gateway for Disaster Risk Management and Development is an interactive web platform that provides a range of tools and products that enable government ministries, civil society and national development planning authorities to mainstream disaster risk reduction principles, concepts and practices into development processes. ESCAP also analyzes regional trends related to smart cities, cybersecurity, and e-resilience.

ESCAP studies highlight the widening digital divide between and within the countries in the region. Thirty-six member states in Asia and the Pacific region are classified as countries with special needs which comprise of least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS). Fourteen out of 26 Asia-Pacific countries with special needs where data is available, have fixed-broadband penetration rate below 2 per cent of total population.

With an emergence of Internet bandwidth intensive technologies, the countries with low bandwidth capacity may be find it increasingly difficult to capitalize on the opportunities presented by such innovations. Even for those that have access to broadband connectivity, the access may not be affordable.

At least 29 Asia-Pacific countries had unaffordable fixed-broadband subscriptions in 2017 according to the latest ITU data. In addition, some countries also suffer from limited speed and high latency. Some broadband infrastructure initiatives have been delayed, due to complicated multi-stakeholder negotiation processes and high investment costs of deploying fiber-optic cables. ITU Transmission Map was used as a basis for regional and sub-regional policy dialogues and consensus building when the need for broadband networks and Internet traffic management were discussed. Such dialogues led to the formulation of co-deployment projects in Central Asia and initiatives to establish IXPs in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.”


Policy Briefs: 
 

  Connectivity
  Artificial Intelligence and Broadband Divide in Asia and the Pacific
  Broadband Connectivity in Pacific Islands Countries
  East Asia Study (1) E-resilience
  East Asia Study (2) Infrastructure Sharing
  Satellite Communications in Pacific Island Countries

 

  Traffic Network Management 
  Enhancing Cybersecurity in Asia and the Pacific

 

  Broadband For All
  Connecting the Last Miles: Accelerating Inclusive Broadband in Asia and the Pacific
  Estimating the Effects of Internet Exchange Points on Fixed-broadband Speed and Latency
  ICT for Development Education for Digital Inclusion in Asia and the Pacific
  Universal Access and Service Fund

 

  E-resilience
  Enhancing E-resilience for Digital Economy in Central Asia
  Enhancing the Role of ICTs for Disaster Risk Management
  E-resilience through E-government
  Testing time for resilience in recovering from COVID-19: Korean experience

 

 

Digital Technologies for the SDGs