Foreign Minister Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen speaking at a Dialogue on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its implications on Bangladesh in Dhaka on 12 March 2019
Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) had been one of the major highlights in the ongoing technological advances discourse at the UN. As for Bangladesh, there are both opportunities and challenges depending on how it responds to 4IR. The mission remained highly engaged with the various science and technology initiatives of the United Nations. On 13 December 2018, it organized a brainstorming session at the Mission on the topic where colleagues from the Consulate, UN DESA and friends from Academia participated. The outcome of the session was shared with relevant Ministries in the country.
Following is a highlight of some of the initiatives taken at the United Nations to open a strategic and inclusive discussion about the modalities of global governance in the era of frontier technologies:
a. SG’s strategy on new technology: Since the technologies possess immense potential for fostering growth, prosperity and environmental sustainability, they are likely to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Keeping this in mind, the UNSG has undertaken a strategy on new Technology. The goal of this internal strategy is to define how the United Nations system will support the use of these technologies to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and to facilitate their alignment with the values enshrined in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the norms and standards of international law. The strategy has committed to supporting dialogue on normative and cooperation frameworks and enhancing UN system support to government capacity development.
b. As mandated by the SG, the UN University has created “AI and Global Governance Platform” as an inclusive space for researchers, policy actors, corporate and thought leaders to explore this public policy challenge. It is hoped that the ideas shared, debated, and discussed through this Platform will help UN member states, multilateral agencies, funds, programmes and other stakeholders consider their own roles in shaping the governance of AI.
c. Group of Friends on Exponential Technological Change: At the initiative of the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN, “Group of Friends on Exponential Technological Change”- a forum was instituted in 2017 to regularly discuss challenges and opportunities of Exponential Technological Change and automation on sustainable development. Bangladesh is an active member of the Group.
d. As a result of discussion between the “Group of Friends on Exponential Technological Change” and the UNSG, the UNSG has constituted a “High-Level Panel of Digital Cooperation” comprising leaders from the public, private and civic sectors in July 2018 to offer independent recommendations on how to ensure a constructive use of digital technology now and into the future. The panel is co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma and expected to present its report by April 2019. They met for the first time during the high-level week of the 73rd UNGA earlier this year.
e. PGA’s informal plenary: In October 2018, PGA convened an informal dialogue at the plenary to discuss about the “New technologies and its consequences”. The purpose of the informal meeting was to get an idea of the opportunities and challenges brought about by new and emerging technologies in a number of fields such as artificial intelligence, big data, Internet of Things, nanotechnology, block chains, synthetic biology, satellite and drone technologies.
f. UN resolutions: Mexico sponsored a resolution (A/RES/73/17) at the Plenary on “Impact of Rapid Technological Change on the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals” which was adopted by consensus on 26 November 2018. Bangladesh co-sponsored the resolution along with 41 other countries. The resolution calls on all UN Member States and agencies to implement public policies and share best practices so that the new technologies help achieve the 2030 Agenda. It incorporates the 169 targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals into the analysis of the impact of rapid technological change; establishes, for the first time, coordination between the Technology Facilitation Mechanism created by the 2030 Agenda and its three components with the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and other forums; points to artificial intelligence as one of the emerging technologies with the greatest impact on sustainable development; urges members to consider technological change in the quadrennial review of global progress on the 2030 Agenda; and issues an invitation for a leaders’-level debate on the subject during the 74th UNGA in September 2019. Meanwhile, in the Second Committee a draft resolution on “Information and communications technologies for sustainable development” is also adopted by consensus. Bangladesh was the facilitator of the negotiation on behalf of the Second Committee chair.
g. Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, H.E. Masud Bin Momen moderated the first panel of the Fourth International Day of Women and Girls in Science Forum titled “Assessment of Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth”. Bangladesh also co-sponsored the Forum. Bangladesh also actively participated in the fourth annual Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on May 14 and 15, 2019.
h. Cyber security: ICT is a key driver of Bangladesh’s sustainable development efforts led by Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who envisioned Bangladesh’s transformation into a digitally advanced middle-income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041. Towards that end, Bangladesh has taken several steps to secure its hard-earned gains from the ICT sector such as building a safer ICT ecosystem, strengthening cyber resilience in financial sectors and promoting cyber-security culture across various administrative, legal and business continuums. Considering that multilateralism is the key to ensuring cyber security and no single government can manage its security on its own, the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh is engaged in various initiatives of the UN and its member states in digital cooperation, ICT and cybersecurity related issues. During the 73rd UNGA, Bangladesh organized a side event on Cybersecurity in collaboration with Estonia, Japan, Singapore and the UN office on Disarmament Affairs.
The need for faster technological development is increasingly felt in Bangladesh. Development plans of Bangladesh have emphasized science and technological research to develop technologies through adoption of imported technology as well as development of indigenous technologies. As the country is heavily dependent on imported technologies, proper planning is required for its effective transfer through acquisition, assimilation and adoption. In this regard, Bangladesh updated its National Science and Technology Policy ensures application(s) of science, technology and innovation (ST&I) for achieving sustainable economic growth with due attention to employment generation, poverty alleviation, gender equity and environmental sustainability. The major area where this mission can work is promoting international cooperation to facilitate more investment and collaboration with other countries by using many forums that the UN organizes for technology transfer and sharing of S & T innovations.