Opening remarks by Ahmed M. Saeed, ADB Vice-President, Operations 2, at the APVN Global Conference 2022, 21 June 2022
Excellencies and distinguished participants:
It’s an honor to join you to today for APVN’s Global Conference, and to briefly highlight some areas where digital technology can be harnessed to propel Southeast Asia’s green recovery in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
COVID-19 has had an enormous toll on Southeast Asia, reversing hard-won gains in poverty reduction, exacerbating inequality, straining public services, and slowing economic growth. It’s hard to say that there has been a silver lining; but one thing that has emerged that has been beneficial is the acceleration and the expansion of digital technology utilization in many areas, including health, education, and social protection.
For example, In Makassar, Indonesia, a project supported by the ASEAN Australia Smart Cities Trust Fund, and backed by ADB and the Australian Government, utilized digital and smart technologies to help officials map out the spread of the virus and more effectively mobilize responses in hot spots, in turn helping curb the spread of the virus.
It’s important that we now turn towards leveraging digital innovations to help Southeast Asia transition to an even more green and more prosperous future.
As the region continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also address another crucial development priority—climate change. Last year at COP26, countries agreed on the urgent need to accelerate climate action. Climate action requires that we agree on goals for countries to embark on a pathway to a zero-carbon economy, and technology advancements backed by capital are needed to achieve this major acceleration.
In that spirit, last year, ADB—in partnership with Indonesia and other countries as well as other development institutions—introduced a new Energy Transition Mechanism to leverage market-based approaches to accelerate countries’ transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. This new mechanism will help “crowd in” investment in clean technologies, such as smart grids, hydrogen, and electric vehicles.
Last year, ADB also established a new Blue Southeast Asia Finance Hub based in Indonesia, which will work with countries to address the challenges in mitigating ocean pollution and adapting to climate change. In order to have maximum impact, we also have developed a pipeline of ‘blue’ projects that improve the sustainability and conservation of the region’s oceans, water bodies, and marine ecosystems.
The pandemic has placed an enormous strain on country finances, and presents a significant impediment to mobilizing climate-friendly financing. Accordingly, last year, we established the Asia Pacific Tax Hub, a platform for knowledge sharing and development coordination, which also supports countries in applying new technologies to enhance revenue generation and finance a wide range of recovery measures.
These are just some of the many areas where our institution is working with governments to help utilize technological innovation to drive forward green recovery.
Earlier this year at ADB’s third Southeast Asia Development Symposium, Google announced a new initiative that will provide grant financing for innovative tech-based solutions to address key sustainability challenges. To this end, Google.org is supporting APVN’s APAC Sustainability Seed Fund, which is now calling for proposals from NGOs in Asia and the Pacific to address critical sustainability challenges.
I believe that in the coming decade, development and decarbonization will become inextricably intertwined. Digital innovations can help lower the cost of decarbonization technologies, and this in turn can attract the capital flows we need to drive change. By forging forward with technological change, countries in Southeast Asia can create new industries and high-quality jobs, while also addressing the region’s most pressing development needs.
I look forward to today’s discussions on the means of harnessing technology to address Southeast Asia’s most difficult development challenges, and to accelerate the region’s transition to a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery.
Thank you so much for the privilege to be with you.