Digital technology has boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery in much of the world. ADB's initiatives are empowering the poor to use digital technology to help lift themselves out of poverty.
Thomas Abell, Chief of ADB’s Digital Technology for Development Unit, discusses digital and information and communications technology (ICT) challenges in developing Asia and how ADB is helping through financing and knowledge sharing.
First of all, digital technology creates new job opportunities. Digital technology also improves and expands existing economic activity as a result of increased speed and reduced transaction costs. It’s also important to point out that digital technology is a key enabler of the transition to a greener, sustainable digital economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels.
Clearly, digital technologies play a major role in increasing access to and the efficiency of social, educational, and health services. Adoption of digital social protection services with digital identification technology enables more rapid and inclusive support, compared to older paper-based system. Medical services that are digitally based have been accelerated and mainstreamed in many places due to the COVID-19 pandemic, overcoming barriers that have previously limited adoption.
ADB supports digital social protection services in the Philippines. The bank is also assisting in the creation and rollout of a new digital ID system in the Philippines and other DMCs. In addition, ADB has supported digital financial services, from the modernization of central banking and treasury systems, to improved banking systems in remote areas via cloud computing.
The pandemic accelerated the transition to the digital economy, including working from home, eCommerce, digital health, remote learning and digital finance. In particular, the move to remote work has permanently shifted the workforce to a more inclusive employment model and has reduced the time and expense of long commutes, especially for low-income workers.
To address the digital divide across the region, governments need to invest in digital infrastructure, especially in expanding connectivity access and by reducing the cost of connectivity to low-income communities.
Digital connectivity enables remote working, as well as education, health access and ecommerce, all of which are instrumental in economic and social development in highly dispersed regions like the Pacific.
Big data, meaning larger, more complex data sets from many sources, improve the ability of governments and other development stakeholders to plan and manage investment in infrastructure and climate solutions. An example is the use of satellite imagery to better understand land use changes and more effectively identify climate vulnerabilities.
Access to digital connectivity will increase sharply in the Asia Pacific region, from the current rate of around half the population to near universal access. This will be good for development, but the digital divide could still expand for vulnerable populations. Secondly, there will be an increased focus on cybersecurity and data privacy. This will also impact positively on development, but adequate regulation is needed to ensure digital development continues, in tandem with digital protection.
Advisor, SDCC and Chief of Digital Technology for Development
Principal Public Management Specialist (e-Governance)
Senior Public Management Specialist (Digital Transformation)
Senior Digital Technology Specialist
Senior Digital Technology Specialist (Earth Observation)
Digital Technology Specialist (Data Analytics and Big Data)
Digital Technology Specialist (Cybersecurity and Data Privacy)