27 September, 2023
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Dhaka-Bangladesh; 26 September 2023: Representing a significant milestone in the global effort to combat the digital divide, Bangladesh has inaugurated the “e-Quality Centre for Inclusive Innovation”, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and People-Centered Internet (PCI). The official unveiling of this pioneering project took place on September 25th during a high-level side event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The event was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aspire to Innovate (a2i), and the ICT Division.
The e-Quality Centre was inaugurated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh H.E. A.K. Abdul Momen, MP. The Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations in New York H.E. Muhammad Abdul Muhith, has delivered a warm and welcoming address during this esteemed high-level session. The event concluded with closing remarks and a vision for the future by H.E. Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, State Minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division, Bangladesh. The launch of the e-Quality Centre for Inclusive Innovation signals a bold and significant stride towards a world where digital opportunities are accessible to all, promising to make the #ZeroDigitalDivide a reality.
In his remarks, the Foreign Minister highlighted Bangladesh’s journey towards digital empowerment, inclusive growth, and evolution from ‘Digital Bangladesh’ to ‘Smart Bangladesh’. He also emphasized the necessity of technology transfer, cooperation between the developing world, digital empowerment of all walks of society and the eradication of the digital divide. He described the e-Quality Centre as an embodiment of Bangladesh’s aspirations and a symbol of its commitment to a world where technology is an equalizer, and progress is a collective endeavour. He also stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its ICT and ITIT Wing has taken all measures necessary for fostering international collaborations, enabling the seamless integration of technology and innovation – so that the initiative becomes truly global in context and inclusive in nature. This Centre will facilitate robust partnerships, usher in investments, and champion the adoption of cutting-edge technologies.
Mr Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor of Aspire to Innovate (a2i), elucidated the centre’s operational framework. He said, ‘The e-Quality Centre strives to focus on marginalized communities, gender equality, disability inclusion, and support for the extremely poor as well as small businesses. Together, we commit to creating an inclusive digital world where technology opens doors for everyone, leaving no one behind. In our pursuit of a world with #ZeroDigitalDivide, we have a clear roadmap: First, rigorous research to understand disparities, aiming to cover the G77 by 2027; second, supporting LDCs and developing nations with innovations, expanding to 50 countries by 2027; third, establishing a USD 20 million fund to catalyze change; and by 2025, facilitating South-South transfer of innovations globally. In 2026, we aim to create a comprehensive e-Quality Index for measuring disparities.’
This launch event brought international attention to critical global digital challenges. Attendees engaged in discussions about identifying the root causes of digital exclusion, exploring a worldwide equality index, fostering collaboration among countries, and examining the role of the International ICT Innovation (i3) facility.
Mr. Amandeep Singh Gill, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, emphasized the crucial role of technology in addressing global challenges. He highlighted the UN Secretary General’s emphasis on addressing the digital divide at the UN Digital Compact forum and the need for collaborative efforts to promote digital inclusion. He reiterated the United Nations unwavering commitment to offering comprehensive guidance and support for the implementation of initiatives associated with the e-Quality Centre, with the goal of establishing an inclusive digital landscape that does not discriminate and aligns with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Awards were presented to innovative projects supported by the International ICT Innovation (i3) Facility during the event. Ministers from recipient countries, including the Republic of the Gambia, Uganda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Ghana, and Somalia, shared their remarks.
The initial concept of ‘e-Quality Centre’ was put forward during the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development earlier in July, followed by the Global #ZeroDigitalDivide campaign’s launch in September 2023 in collaboration with Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
Mr. Robert Opp, Chief Digital Officer of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) moderated a panel discussion during the last part of the event. The distinguished guests who shared their insights and perspectives on advancing digital inclusion on a global scale included, Mr. Joshua Setipa, Senior Director of the Strategy, Portfolio, Partnerships and Digital Directorate at The Commonwealth Secretariat; Ms. Dima Al-Khatib, Director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC); Mr. Hassan Nasser, Chief of Global Partnerships at the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO); Ms. Ursula Wynhoven, Head of UN Affairs Division at the International Telecommunication Union; Ms. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance at the United Nations Capital Development Fund; Mr. Claude Dyer, Acting Head of Digital Inclusion at The EDISON Alliance of the World Economic Forum; Ms. Mei Lin Fung, Chair & Co-founder of People-Centered Internet; and Mr. Shubh Soni, Head of Partnerships and Administration at the Observer Research Foundation.