11 April 2022
Int’l Cooperation, ICT Ministers Launch UN-JTDI Initiative

The Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat and the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat have launched the United Nations Joint Team for Digital Transformation and Innovation (UN-JTDI) initiative, in cooperation with the United Nations (UN).

The initiative was launched during the First Joint Government of Egypt-UN Ideation Workshop on Technology and Innovation, in the presence of the UN Resident Coordinator in Egypt Elena Panova, and the Director, Regional Office of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for the Arab States Adel Darwish, with the participation of representatives of 18 UN agencies and nine ministries.

The aim is to enhance the participation of the representatives of national authorities, government institutions and UN agencies operating in Egypt to plan unconventional and innovative technology-based government projects. The workshop was within the framework of the extended partnership and close cooperation between the two sides and the efforts exerted for strengthening development cooperation relations with multilateral and bilateral development partners.

In her remarks, Al-Mashat stated that technology and innovation are key pillars for achieving 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She added that modern technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality (VR) and Blockchain play a vital role in all development aspects, including eradicating poverty, promoting sustainable agriculture, ensuring food security, combating the spread of diseases and epidemics, improving the quality of education, accelerating the transition to green economy, increasing productivity, raising the competitiveness of the private sector, developing smart cities, and others.

The Minister of International Cooperation pointed out that the workshop is the first fruit of the cooperation between the government, represented by the Ministry of International Cooperation, and UN-JTDI, with the aim of strengthening coordination and dialogue mechanisms among relative parties, including the government, development partners, the private sector and civil society, to ideate a joint framework of cooperation in digital transformation.

The initiative came in fulfillment of the presidential directive to prepare for UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) 2023-2027, which is the cornerstone of development cooperation between the UN and the Arab Republic of Egypt, Al-Mashat added.

Al-Mashat explained that the ability of economies to face challenges and achieve comprehensive and sustainable growth is tied to their ability to integrate the concept of innovation and harness technology to serve development projects and carry out unconventional ones based on the principles of partnership, resilience, and creativity. She added that the Ministry of International Cooperation is working in line with the government work program and with all development partners to promote technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship as development enablers. This is within the vital role that Egypt plays in digital transformation and with the aim to leverage it in various aspects of life.

The Minister of International Cooperation indicated that the development cooperation portfolio includes 36 projects focusing on innovation, digital transformation, and entrepreneurship. These projects contribute to achieving 11 of the 17 SDGs, with development funding amounting to $1 billion, representing 4% of the development funding portfolio in Egypt.

Al-Mashat stated that the Ministry of International Cooperation is developing future country strategies with all development partners, while ensuring that three main pillars are integrated into such strategies. The first of these pillars is to build an inclusive yet digital and green economy. She stressed that the workshop is the first step of cooperation between the government and UN-JTDI in Egypt to drive digital transformation efforts.

For his part, the ICT Minister highlighted that the initiative is aimed at encouraging partnership with the Egyptian government and the private sector to enhance the technology and innovation pillar as one of the main pillars to achieve 2030 SDGs at national, regional, and international levels. He pointed out that the innovation and entrepreneurship pillar has been serving the pillars of digital transformation and human capacity building in the strategy of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), seeking to encourage research and development (R&D), creativity and entrepreneurship in ICT.

Since 2010, MCIT has been eager to develop creative solutions and innovative ideas with a tangible impact on the national level to transform Egypt into a leading regional and global hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. This helped the country rank first in Africa in terms of the number of investment and venture capital deals in Egyptian startups in 2021, according to Egypt Venture Investment Report by MAGNiTT.

The ICT Minister highlighted that the ICT sector, along with transformative industries and agriculture, is one of the sectors selected to implement a successful second phase of structural reforms, which were announced in May 2021.

Talaat stated that seven CREATIVA Innovation Hubs were established as a first phase. Currently, 14 new Hubs are being established as the second phase to support and assist students, entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and startups. Furthermore, the Applied Innovation Center (AIC) was established in the Knowledge City in the New Administrative Capital to provide opportunities for successful partnerships that bring together specialists, academics, beneficiaries, and leading companies in specific technologies to work together to devise effective solutions to the challenges facing Egyptian society.

The ICT Minister referred to various projects that reflect the creative employment of emerging technologies in improving citizens’ lives effectively and beneficially. Implemented by AIC, those projects included using AI to early detect diabetic retinopathy to avoid blindness, and using AI in the field of agriculture to capture satellite images to examine different crops through the spectral fingerprint. This is in addition to developing an Arabic smart assistant to provide agricultural extension to farmers, in the form of a mobile application.

Moreover, the ICT Minister underlined that at the regional level, the African App Launchpad (AAL) presidential initiative was launched during the closing ceremony of the World Youth Forum (WYF) in November 2018 in Sharm El Sheikh. AAL witnessed three years of tireless efforts to share capacity-building programs in app and digital game development with 22 African countries. The initiative contributed to creating job opportunities and startups. This is in addition to forming Africa-wide learning networks in leading technologies to act as platforms for fostering technology innovation and entrepreneurship, along with training nearly 10,000 students through 27,377 courses, as well as empowering more than 100 startups. Women’s participation in the initiative reached 23% of the total trainees.

Talaat highlighted that at the international level, MCIT was eager to make the innovation and entrepreneurship pillar one of the joint work priorities between Egypt and the UN within UNSDCF, with the aim of supporting national efforts to encourage youth and startups to participate. He called for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, especially in areas of global interest, most notably attracting innovative technological solutions to address the needs and challenges posed by global climate change.

For her part, UN Resident Coordinator Panova said that advancing digital transformation is one of the priority efforts undertaken by the UN in Egypt. Through UN-JTDI, the UN is working to promote technology and digital transformation to enhance comprehensive and sustainable growth and achieve the UN goal of leaving no one behind, she added.

Panova said that UN-JTDI first workshop came as an attempt to foster progress, as part of the collaboration between relevant parties to strengthen cooperation in digitization and innovation among the UN, the Egyptian government, the private sector, the civil society, and international institutions, to accelerate the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.

The workshop discussed developing ideas and joint projects between the Egyptian government and the UN agencies operating in Egypt through UN-JTDI. Those innovative ideas and projects are based on the latest technologies and can attract funds from development partners to establish a framework of close partnership between national and UN agencies to achieve the objectives of the partnership framework with the UN to fulfill UNSDCF 2023-2027 and exchange best practices and build on them.

Relations between Egypt and the UN go back to 1945, and Egypt is one of the founding countries of the UN organization. In 2006, United Nations Partnership Development Framework (UNPDF) was launched, and some of its stages were implemented. The latest of those stages was UNPDF 2018-2022, which supported the achievement of the national development goals outlined in the Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt Vision 2030. The UNPDF was composed of four outcomes: Inclusive Economic Development; Social Justice; Environmental Sustainability and Natural Resource Management; and Women's Empowerment.

The UNSDCF is the cooperation tool between Egypt and the UN for the period 2023-2027. It is implemented through a governance framework, where the Ministry of International Cooperation and the UN Resident Coordinator co-chair the National Joint Steering Committee responsible for overseeing its implementation. Members of the Committee include concerned government and UN agencies. Groups for UNSDCF outcomes are jointly formed with the UN, and are chaired by concerned government agencies. The groups coordinate technical work to monitor the outcomes of the projects agreed upon within UNSDCF and monitor the achievement of the desired result.

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