UNCTAD wants “global discourse” on technological change for development

GENEVA, May 14 (Xinhua) — The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Tuesday called for an inclusive global discourse about setting the direction of rapid technological change to accelerate progress to the 2030 Development Agenda.

UNCTAD said that 22nd annual session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), from May 13 to 17 in Geneva, addresses some profound questions on the implications of rapid technological change for sustainable development.

“We need to develop tools that all countries can use to understand how technological change is relevant for their own development and assess its economic and social benefits, consequences and feedbacks,” UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant said in a statement here.

UNCTAD said the global community has unprecedented possibilities to eliminate hunger, poverty, ignorance, disease, environmental degradation, and thereby accelerate progress towards the 2030 Development Agenda.

The rapid and accelerating speed of technological progress sometimes outpaces the ability of societies to adapt to the ensuing social and economic changes, said the UN agency.

“This is not an issue of only understanding the designs, characteristics, and functions of specific scientific and technological applications,” said Shamika Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s division on technology and logistics.

“Rather, it involves analyzing how frontier technologies are adopted, adapted, and implicated in complex social, political, and environmental settings,” she said in a statement here

UNCTAD noted that social media platforms were designed to connect those sharing existing affiliations and to others with different locations, perspectives, and ideas.

“Instead, these platforms are being manipulated to divide communities further and to make it difficult for different stakeholders to find common ground,” said the UN agency.

It said that “arguably one of the most transformative technological developments of our time — artificial intelligence (AI) — could be used to help identify solutions to our most intractable economic, social and environmental challenges.”

AI’s applications, however, in public and private sectors could counterintuitively scale inequality and make the world less secure.

Beyond understanding innovation and its potential impacts, the international community needs to define the shared values that define the direction in which rapid technological should proceed, said UNCTAD.


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