The COVID19 pandemic with its accompanying socio-economic, political and environmental reverberations has brought about exacerbated technological adoption, which in turn serves to steepen the curve of innovation development even further. That said, with the Decade of Change upon our generation to reiterate and reinforce the urgency to address the progressively more dire issues of sustainable development in our diverse stakeholder capacities (academia, government, business practitioners, civil society, etc.), the pandemic lockdowns have both adversely affected global efforts for greater sustainability, as well as, conflictingly, introduced a boost to certain pillars of the sustainability agenda.
For instance, 3D printing of disposable PPE and single-use items have limited production cost and supply chain strain, but also introduced an additional volume challenge to waste management and peaked plastic pollution, notwithstanding the complex implications for the policymaking realm attempting to manage the tilting of the job market and the changing dynamics of the placement of the economic entities and individuals along the global value chains.
With emerging technologies simultaneously unfurling as de facto inhibitors and enables of the realisation of certain sustainable development targets, it is imperative we understand their conflicting impact in order to effectively identify mechanisms to curtail their potential as conduits of threads currently under very limited legislation as well as to employ them as promising means for instating positive change.
The session on “Technology and Infrastructure”, aims to engage the participants with robust multi- and cross-disciplinary presentations and an open, constructively provocative discussion on (1) the growing developmental impact of innovative technologies (namely ICT, AI, IoT, IoB, Big Data, ML and Blockchain) in the context of Asian countries, (2) the policymaking process for industry-tailored and regionally specific regulations in relation to technological design, development and deployment, (3) the realities of business practices that have largely put Asian economies at the forefront of industry 4.0 but have also come to raise legitimate concerns, and (4) the evolving global role of Asia and the Pacific in relation to society, the private and public sector consumption and development of disruptive technologies.
The above exploration allows for an in-depth analysis with very practical, real-world implications for the building of more environmentally friendly, resilient, inclusive, just and equitable societies in the New normal. Advances in technology innately accommodate the aptitude for process optimisation and greater accessibility, productivity, profit maximisation, promulgation of human rights and legitimacy in environmental protection and climate change, renewable energy and waste management, healthcare and well-being, education and knowledge generation, public administration and governance, finance and banking, agriculture, cultural heritage protection, smart mobility infrastructure, food security, labour market and global supply chains, culture, media and entertainment, etc.
With the advance of technological innovation, the generation of digital natives is currently not only witnessing but rather experiencing an intense interest in and high expectations for smart solutions on both an individual consumer and community level. One initiative that has been gathering momentum and garnering the attention of policy-makers, investors and developers, and civil society alike is smart urbanisation. The session takes a step further into the practical aspects of smart urban development with its fast underpinnings in education, R&D and infrastructure. Innovative ideas, more often than not, necessitate robust physical prerequisites, namely- an infrastructure that can support the impact-defined framework correlating with the 2030 Agenda through the creation of smart city ecosystems with a self-sustainable habitat infrastructure and integrated smart solutions (e.g. mobility, energy, multi-applications for finance, big data management of resources and processes, etc.).
Taking into account the regional specificities, Asian countries have been making headway to overcome the structural challenges (e.g. connectivity infrastructure) that have been the source of the lagging behind in terms of sufficient capitalization on opportunities for deployment of smart city initiatives in a timely and cost- efficient manner with varying success and exhibiting tangible differences at the stages of realisation. Furthermore, the different regional contexts within the Asia Pacific provide invaluable insights into the discrepant approaches that prevail in the deployment of the innovative drive- from top-down government incentives and federal function provisions to bottom-up citizen centric and middle-out organic innovation growth that strive to provide for a better lifestyle, enhanced eGovernment and other e-serviced public provisions, more environmental sustainability and boosted entrepreneurial operational efficiency. The session also welcomes discourse on up-and-coming trends, the structure and agency of project implementation, governance patterns and legal frameworks.