Developed nations were urged to assist in the technological advancement of more vulnerable nations to enhance their connectivity and capacity to innovate, while also helping them to transition to greener economies, the president of the United Nations General Assembly said.
Abdulla Shahid highlighted the stark discrepancies in technological capacity between the global North and South, which has exacerbated the challenges faced by developing nations in their attempts to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Covid-19 caused massive disruption in manufacturing and supply chains. But this was on the horizon before Covid-19 and was mainly driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution [4IR], climate change and the reconfiguration of globalisation," he said at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit in Dubai on Tuesday.
“The good news is 4IR technologies are playing a major role when it comes to cutting emissions, water and material consumption and the optimisation of waste management."
Climate change has become a sticking point among countries as the world grapples with its ill-effects. The Glasgow Climate Pact at the recent Cop26, approved by almost 200 countries, came after a long list of promises and announcements aimed at reining in global warming.
Aside from those, there were important promises on greenhouse gas emissions and a surprise deal between the US and China, two of the world’s largest polluters.
"I call upon countries to invest in climate-friendly technologies that will spur recovery efforts by respecting out planet’s health and share these technologies with developing countries," Mr Shahid said.
The Prime Minister of Namibia, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, highlighted the issue of delivering government services and how technology can provide both a solution and a challenge.
“The need to use digital platforms didn’t only come with the Covid-19 pandemic; maybe it was amplified by it because we went into lockdown, so we needed to provide services online. But it’s a huge country and quite expensive to reach out to communities wherever they are with government services. We had already decided to automate government services to improve government administration,” said Ms Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said.
Coronavirus was a stress test for the governments and health systems of many countries, said Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister of Italy. But he did see the positives from the past 18 months, particularly technology, which can emerge as a driver of change, he said.
“It’s important we use new technology with a different approach,” he said. "Manufacturing 5.0, new technology, these new ideas are the future of my country – and they could be helped by Covid. Covid was a tragedy that destroyed a lot of life but we could come back stronger than before.”
The former prime minister of France, Dominique de Villepin, said technology has big potential for governments but in Western societies, trust and consensus is a huge component that needs to be respected.
“The citizen in liberal democracies do have a say. And they must be a part of the decision-making process. And that’s where technology must always deal with the question of trust. We cannot impose technology on people without their consent. They need to understand why it is being applied. You need to be able to discuss and convince," he said.