Information and communication technology (ICT) has been identified as a catalyst to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. But how can countries mobilize technology to help address the challenges laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? ITU interviewed Nasser Bin Hammad, Senior Manager International Affairs, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), United Arab Emirates, about how ICTs are supporting the UAE’s progress towards the SDG goals.
How significant is the new SDGs in terms of influencing the future direction of UAE development policies?
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an ardent supporter of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As a result of our strong commitment, we are now focusing on increasing clean energy production and consumption, quality of education and health care, and promoting the participation of women in the economy and society. We will establish a framework to monitor and report our progress on the goals, and have ambitions to sponsor and support projects in developing countries related to infrastructure development, health care provision, and renewable energy, as well as critical humanitarian assistance.
Another example of how the SDGs have influenced the UAE’s development policies was UAE Innovation Week, held from 22 – 26 November 2015, which was one of the largest nationwide celebrations of innovation in the world. It was a consolidated effort by the government, the private sector, and individuals to help create a widespread culture of innovation in the UAE and strengthen its position as a global hub for innovation, very much in line with SDG Goal 9.
Moreover, Vision 2021 and Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 are guiding principles for the UAE’s future, and have several common elements with the SDGs such as developing education, sustainability, and a well-preserved natural environment, as well as promoting a knowledge-based, highly productive, and competitive economy.
How is the UAE planning to address the SDG challenges through ICTs?
Achieving the SDGs will require a lot of resources whereby the international community will need to look beyond the traditional means of mobilization.
At the TRA, we are working on fostering international and regional cooperation in the field of ICT and organizing events such as the Smart Cities Forum and Smart Learning Forum. These forums not only enhance awareness on these topics but bring together regional experts and international stakeholders who are then able to share their vision for regional development.
How does being a Member of ITU help you to work towards achieving these SDG goals?
ICTs are an essential element and critical catalyst for the implementation of SDGs. I believe that being a Member of ITU – the leading UN agency for ICTs – gives us an opportunity to leverage technical expertise and to cooperate and collaborate with international stakeholders to help achieve these ambitious goals.
The UAE believes that focus groups should be formed at the level of the ITU Council or a similarly relevant body at ITU. This group could then facilitate knowledge sharing and help set guiding recommendations for ITU’s membership.
What is the ‘UAE Vision 2021 development plan’ and how might it help drive progress towards achieving the SDGs?
Vision 2021 will coincide with the golden jubilee anniversary of our membership to the ITU. It seeks to create a cohesive, resilient economy, with the highest standards of living in a nurturing and sustainable environment.
The vision identifies four thematic areas – United in Responsibility; United in Destiny; United in Knowledge and United in Prosperity – and underscores the fact that people are at the core of development. These thematic areas and their outcome work areas have a lot of similarities with the SDGs, including goal 3 (health and wellbeing), goal 4 (education), goal 5 (gender equality), goal 7(affordable and clean energy), and Goal 11 (sustainable cities).
What is the role that you would like to see ITU play in contributing to global progress in the SDGs?
The Connect 2020 Agenda is an excellent example of how ITU is helping its Members reach their ICT objectives. Not only is ITU setting targets, but it is also assisting the membership in meeting these goals and targets through its sectors. The ITU Council and its Working Groups, the Conferences related to the sectors such as WRC, WTSA, and WTDC, and primarily the upcoming Plenipotentiary 2018 in Dubai will all focus on enhancing the ICT development, fostering, and collaborating to create a digital society, which will indirectly help in meeting the goals of SDG. From allocation of spectrum to developing technical standards or coordinating projects for the developing and least developed countries, the ITU is playing a pivotal role with the membership and all these are ultimately helping member states to fulfill their commitments to the SDGs.