Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Opening Remarks
Workshop on innovative solutions to finance
sustainable development: role of social media

Your Excellency, Mr. Asset Issekeshev, Minister of Investments and Development,

Mr. Alikhan Baimenov, Chairman of the Steering Committee of Regional Hub of Civil Service,

Mr. Richard Dobbs, Director of the McKinsey Global Institute,

Dr. Stéphane Monney Mouandjo, Director General of the African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development,

Dr. Eric S. Maskin, 2007 Nobel Laureate in Economics,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this Workshop on “Innovative Solutions to Finance Sustainable Development: Role of Social Media”, organized by the Division for Public Administration and Development Management of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in cooperation with the Ministry for Investments and Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

I would like to thank the Government of Kazakhstan for co-organizing this workshop with us. Our Department has an excellent record of cooperation with the Government of Kazakhstan in promoting e-Government and sustainable development and we look forward to strengthening that cooperation in the post-2015 development era.

I would like to highlight three key aspects to contextualize this important meeting:

First, our world is becoming a global setting of growing contrasts.

On the one hand, as the United Nations Secretary-General recently highlighted, we currently face many crises at once, related to refugees, armed conflicts, and the challenge to provide food, water, sanitation and education to millions who face violence, unrest or simply acute poverty.

At the same time, we see several transformative trends related to great strides in technology, including ICT, in development, as evidenced by progress in MDGs, and in the emergence of new economic centers, as well as in the optimism arising from a new post-2015 development agenda.

This brings me to my second point, in that we have never been as connected as we are now.

In a recent statement to the closing of the UN Model Conference, addressing an assembly of young people, the United Nations Secretary-General recalled the role of the United Nations as a global platform: “You do not have to be a diplomat or a politician to advance our work”, he said. Everyone with a cell phone can be a human rights monitor. Everyone with a screen name can mobilize their friends. All of you can shape the future” .

My third point relates to the potential to connect Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to the goal of finance for development, which will be a major part of the post-2015 development agenda.

All three pillars of sustainable development need ICTs as key catalysts. ICTs can be used to accelerate economic development by facilitating e-commerce. They can advance social development by overcoming critical obstacles such as social exclusion and growing inequalities.

In today’s world of global communication, the questions of sustainability cannot be analyzed in isolation from policies that affect information flows, exchange of knowledge and global trade. The importance and speed of ICTs and Internet development and their influence on economic activities, especially online, clearly require increased levels of cooperation.

Late last year the digital world reached another huge milestone; there are now more than 3 billion Internet users worldwide.

The proliferation of mobile devices, social media, cloud technologies and the staggering amounts of data they generate, have transformed the way we live and work.

In the coming years, billions of devices will be connected to the “Internet of Things”, creating a digital network of virtually everything.

For example, some private sector companies are helping to develop systems to enable communities directly affected by Ebola to fight it in Sierra Leone.

Citizens can use SMS or voice calls that are location-specific to report Ebola-related issues to government, health agencies and others for tracking the disease.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has also asked an Independent Expert Advisory Group to propose ways to improve data for achieving and monitoring sustainable development. Their report states, “Data are the lifeblood of decision-making, and the raw material for accountability.”

As we speak, according to some sources, 3 trillion pieces of data are generated daily, which includes billions of impressions, 204 million emails sent, 47,000 downloaded apps, 100,000 tweets, 300 hours of video uploaded to Youtube, Four million Google searches; some 3,740 images published in Instagram and Whatsapp with 350,000 photos shared.

We are certainly aware that the world today requires a lot of information to be recorded, sorted and classified so it can be useful. We are also certainly aware that social media and its applications such as crowd sourcing, crowd funding and big data outreach also need a corresponding intelligence in terms of capacity development, so that data can be converted into useful information and strategic resource mobilization to achieve sustainable development goals.

The Astana Economic Forum is intrinsically linked to the implementation of the SDGs. The various workshops within the Forum are tackling a number of themes under the SDGs. Our own workshop here is looking at innovative means of financing sustainable development through the use of social media, open government data and the partnership between the public and private sectors.

At the end of this workshop, we hope to generate recommendations to be used as inputs to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development that will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July 2015.

Another objective of the workshop is to identify how governments can use social media as a tool to mobilize funding towards the achievement of sustainable development through the presentation of innovative practices.

We look forward to listening to the experienced panellists listed for this workshop.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure once again to welcome you to this event and I look forward to a productive outcome.

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