Kshama Fernandes is the managing director and CEO of Northern Arc Capital, a leading non-banking finance corporation in India that invests and connects underbanked institutions and businesses to capital markets investors. Over a decade, the company has enabled USD 10 billion of financing for the underbanked in India, unleashing the power of finance where it is required the most. Kshama has played key policy and advisory roles in the past, and consulted for the World Bank, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, India’s Ministry of Finance, and NSEIT. She is also the recipient of Accion’s Edward W. Claugus award for leadership in financial inclusion.
Premila Kumar was appointed minister for industry, trade, tourism, local government, housing, and community development in November 2018. She started as a teacher, an investment manager with Fiji's Trade and Investment Bureau, then went on to become CEO of the Consumer Council of Fiji, council member of Consumers International and ACP-EU Follow-up Committee, European Economic and Social Committee. She won the 2015 Executive Woman of the Year Award and Fiji Times named her the 2010 most influential woman of the year.
With over 30 years of experience in the telecommunications system supply industry, Mr. Tokioka has always been working closely with world-class telecommunications service providers as well as governments. He has served as vice-chairman for the Program Committee at SubOptic, a nonprofit association for the global submarine cable community.
Woochong Um leads ADB-wide knowledge management and innovation in various thematic and sector operation areas. He is responsible for developing sector and thematic policies, strategies, frameworks, and operational plans; encouraging vibrant sector and thematic communities of practice; and developing new business ideas. He also looks after ADB’s compliance with environment and social safeguards. Mr. Um has master’s degree in business administration from the New York University Stern School of Business, and a bachelor of science degree in computer science from Boston College.
Shinya Kukita joined NEC Corporation in 1981, engaging in the development of various optical transport and network management systems. Currently, he is responsible for establishing international business and technical strategies for cloud computing, software defined networking, big data, internet of things, and smart cities. He is a regular speaker in various international conferences. Mr. Kukita received his degree in electrical engineering from Tokyo University in 1981.
While the traditional economy is physical and materials-based, the digital economy is essentially dependent on “soft” resources and capabilities: digital data and human skills such as creativity and innovation. Digital infrastructure includes high-speed connectivity, cloud computing, and data analytics, among others. These provide opportunities for developing countries to make quantum leaps in economic development, social inclusion, improved efficiency, and empowerment.
In this context, the reliable connectivity that submarine cable systems provide can be a great tool to boost countries’ economies, to promote equality and improve quality of life. Premila Kumar cited Fiji’s connectivity experience as a society changer: digital platforms improve government services and enhance delivery, and facilitate information transparency. Connectivity directly affects the ease of doing business by reducing approval process periods and leveraging universal access to information.
Along the same lines, Kshama Fernandes presented two initiatives as examples to explain how technology has been transforming Indian society. The India Unique ID, Aadhaar, is part of the India Digital Programme and provides identification, credit profiling, and digital platforms to all its citizens. Innovations in finance, like the ones provided by Northern Arc, allow highly complex payment methods that serve millions of people, including the unbanked. Woochong Um linked the importance of connectivity to achieve ADB's Strategy 2030, being a cross-sector tool that touches all seven operational priorities related to poverty, gender, climate change, livable cities, rural development, governance, and regional cooperation and integration.
Finally, to fully enjoy the digital transformation and all its benefits, the quality of connectivity is crucial. According to Motoyoshi Tokioka, data network capacity needs to remain sufficient to satisfy increasing demands, and equally low latency of connectivity is important. In addition, in today’s societies where the connectivity is vital for their proper functioning, networks need to be robust, often requiring diverse routes in the case of submarine cable systems.