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17 Nov 2019
Fostering innovative solutions for sustainable development
Fostering innovative solutions for sustainable development

The United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) is working closely with partners worldwide to develop innovative solutions to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

For example, the United Nations Technology Innovation Labs (UNTIL) network is a platform for problem-solving that collaborates with business partners, and innovators from the public and private sectors, academia, and civil society. Labs are being established in Africa, Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world.

On 5 December, Atefeh Riazi, Assistant Secretary-General and Chief Information Technology Officer, officially opened the first European UNTIL Lab on the Aalto University campus in Espoo, Finland.

“Collaborating with partners to develop open-source solutions will enable sustainable development and help the United Nations and Member States to build a better world for all,” Ms. Riazi said.

Prior to the official opening, OICT and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland co-hosted a side event at SLUSH 2018. The panel discussion, entitled “The Role of technology for the Sustainable Development Goals”, focused on how to increase understanding and awareness of the opportunities and challenges of new technology.
 
Keynote speakers included Anne-Mari Virolainen, Minister for International Trade, Government of Finland; Fabrizio Hochschild, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, United Nations; and Ms. Riazi. Watch a replay of the addresses.

“The speed of innovation is tremendous, fueled by exponential advances in digital technologies,” Ms. Virolainen said. “However, today’s change is not only exponential. It’s disruptive and often leads to dislocation, stress and even violence. Yet, it also gives us opportunities to harness these innovations and technologies as our servants rather than as our masters.”

Mr. Hochschild said the UN is working to harness new technology “both in terms of how it can be employed to reduce inequality, to pursue the SDGs and, also, to how we can strengthen global cooperation with regards to new technology to try to steer it do good, to contain unintended consequences, and reduce malicious use.”
   
Panelists included Tuula Antola, Director of Economic and Business Development, City of Espoo; Rajive Gulati, Assistant General Manager, Haryana State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd.; Afiq Johar, Chief Fintech Officer, AIFC Fintech Hub; Ilona Lundström, Director General, Department of Innovations and Enterprise Funding, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland; Hossam Osman, Innovation and learning adviser to the minister, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology; and Parham A. Vasaiely, Chief, Automated Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover.

Secretary General

"The advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including those brought on by a combination of computing power, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, are generating revolutions in health care, transport and manufacturing.  
I am convinced that these new capacities can help us to lift millions of people out of poverty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and enable developing countries to leap‑frog into a better future."

23 March 2018, New York