Dear colleagues and friends,
In ten years’ time, when the world looks back at the progress made against each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, 2020 will be seen as a defining moment in our degree of success. As we take action to fight and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must use this opportunity to change, innovate and evolve our approach and build more sustainable and resilient economies for the future. We must now utilize all the tools we have at our disposal, including equitable digital technologies, proven inclusive business models, and complementary partnerships with the private sector, to overcome this crisis and set our tracks back on 2030.
Digital disruption and innovation
COVID-19 has forced much of the world online. In doing so, it has exposed the digital divide like never before. In 2019, 87 per cent of people in developed countries used the Internet, compared with just 19 per cent in the least developed countries.Closing this digital divide plays a critical role in pandemic response and recovery and achievement of the SDGs, not only because connectivity expands access to information and essential services, but also because the digital economy is expected to account for 25% of global GDP within the next decade.This transition offers the potential to expand access to – and lower the cost of – a wide range of development-promoting goods and services, and place vulnerable and low-income populations at the center of the innovation. BCtA member companies like eKutir and ClickMedix demonstrate the power of technology to rapidly scale and connect smallholder farmers to stable markets and families to quality, affordable healthcare, respectively.
In addition to using technology to deliver quality and affordable products and services, a successful global digital transformation in which no one is left behind must ensure that technology-based innovations are used to achieve social equality, such as by reversing the trend of a widening gender internet connectivity gap within the world’s poorest countries.Here too, BCtA members like Bluetown are connecting the unconnected and making use of groundbreaking tools like the BCtA Impact Lab to understand how their business activities are contributing to the SDGs and impacting women.
Financing for development
With the private sector at the center of digital transformation, and as a key player in COVID-19 response and recovery, it is difficult to overstate the importance of business for achieving the 2030 Agenda and of inclusive business in safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable on the ground. However, businesses cannot achieve impact alone, especially when they currently face their own severe threats. Equitable and sustainable recovery necessitates multilateral alliances that channel financing where it’s needed most and into developing resilient, scalable and replicable development solutions.
At both the global and regional levels, UNDP has set up programmes and platforms that boost private sector engagement in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Private Sector COVID-19 Facility, for example, builds partnerships with governments to sustain the private sector and guard important job-creators like SMEs, whilst developing capacity for a resilient and inclusive low-carbon recovery. And Business Call to Action supports inclusive businesses to understand the social and economic impact of their business models and to form new alliances to scale their business-based development solutions.
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this afternoon’s session of the BCtA 10th Annual Forum, which convenes BCtA’s many inspiring member companies and key development partners to share effective approaches for fostering inclusive innovation and building resilience for economies and societies alike for years to come.
Thank you and enjoy.