Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Second Minister for Education Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman attended the Group of 77 and China Summit on “Current Development Challenges: The role of Science, Technology and Innovation” in Havana, Cuba from 15 to 16 September 2023.
Minister Maliki delivered Singapore’s national statement at the general debate, sharing Singapore’s experiences in mobilising technology and encouraging innovation to develop sustainable development solutions. For example, Singapore has been building its digital public infrastructure to provide services such as digital cash transfers and e-health. Minister Maliki added that Singapore has also been supporting fellow developing countries’ digital transformation efforts through capacity building under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, and reaffirmed Singapore’s commitment to supporting their journey in realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The transcript of Minister Maliki’s speech is appended.
Minister Maliki also had meetings with Mongolian Minister of Education and Science Luvsantseren Enkh-Amgalan and Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Hajj Abubakhar Jeje Odongo to discuss a range of bilateral cooperation areas on the side-lines of the Summit.
Minister Maliki will be travelling to New York today to attend the High-Level Week of the 78th United Nations General Assembly.
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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
16 SEPTEMBER 2023
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NATIONAL STATEMENT BY
MINISTER IN THE PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE, SECOND MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AND SECOND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION
DR MALIKI OSMAN
AT THE G77&CHINA SUMMIT ON “CURRENT DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES: THE ROLE OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION”
16 SEPTEMBER 2023, HAVANA, CUBA
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 Before I begin my official statement, I wish to express condolences to the people of Morocco and Libya for the lives lost in the recent natural disasters. We stand in solidarity with Morocco and Libya during this difficult time. I am honoured to represent Singapore today at this important meeting convened by the Government of Cuba at the critical halfway point of our collective journey to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
2 Simultaneous crises ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, surging food and energy prices, and the planetary threat of climate change have derailed our progress on the SDGs. The multilateral system that we have painstakingly built up over decades is now under severe strain, as we confront the retreat of globalisation, questioning of free trade, and threat of bifurcation of technology and supply chains. The SDG Progress Report released by the UN Secretary-General in April this year showed that 30 percent of SDG targets are stagnating or deteriorating.
3 With the SDGs badly off track, it is crucial to mobilise science, technology, and innovation to accelerate action and develop transformative solutions. The benefits can be enormous. Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) can drive a 7 percent increase in global GDP and lift productivity growth by 1.5 percentage points over a 10-year period. Food technology, alternative proteins, and smart agriculture may provide the answer to a climate-resilient future. How can we harness the potential of Science, Technology, and Innovation? There are three “I”s to this that I would like to introduce – Infrastructure, Inclusion, and International Cooperation.
Digital Public Infrastructure
4 First, we must build up our Digital Public Infrastructure as the critical backbone to harness the social and economic benefits of technology. This means open, secure, and interoperable digital platforms that can provide public services such as digital cash transfers, online education, or e-health. Research by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) projected that the adoption of financial digital public infrastructure can contribute up to 33 percent of economic growth in low- and middle-income countries. Singapore’s adoption of mobile banking and digital payments systems has shown positive results. The Singapore Quick Response Code – the world’s first unified national e-payment system – has allowed us to scale up e-payment and create innovative business opportunities. This is a key pillar of SDG 9 on infrastructure, industrialisation, and innovation. Singapore has also developed a National Digital Identity system, called “Singpass”, to enable users to access more than 2,700 digital services securely and conveniently.
5 Second, we also need to ensure digital inclusion. This requires governments to adopt a human centric approach towards policymaking and work with community partners to strengthen digital access for all. This is why Singapore launched the Digital for Life movement in 2021, which aims to work on ground-up initiatives to help Singaporeans embrace digitalisation. Today, we have a 96.9 percent internet penetration rate amongst all households and all our school children have access to digital devices for their classroom learning.
6 While we embrace digitalisation, we must also address potential harms. For example, to address online scams, we can use analytic tools to identify and block suspicious websites or allow banking customers to suspend their accounts quickly if they are compromised. Central Banks and Financial Authorities must work closely with financial institutions to protect their citizens and clients. Given the organised and transnational nature of scams, governments must also work closely with each other to maximise the impact of our preventive measures.
7 This brings me to my third point, on the importance of international cooperation to nurture global digital commons that are open, accessible, and interoperable. This is crucial for developing countries’ technological advancement and economic development. To this end, the Global Digital Compact provides an important platform for Member States to forge common rules and norms that facilitate economic transactions and growth. It could also promote efforts to expand the availability of, and access to digital public goods. On our part, Singapore open-sourced ‘AI Verify’, an AI governance testing framework and software toolkit that validates the performance of AI systems and is consistent with international AI governance frameworks. We hope that the global community can join us in developing better frameworks, standards, and best practices.
8 Singapore is also happy to support the development needs of fellow developing countries through capacity-building under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, which has seen participation from close to 150,000 officials from more than 180 countries, territories, and intergovernmental organisations over the past 30 years. We will give greater focus to the digital economy, AI and cybersecurity, and emerging technologies, and work with partners such as the UNDP to support knowledge exchanges among developing countries.
9 To conclude, while Science, Technology, and Innovation can help us accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, it will require: first, infrastructure to support connectivity and interoperability; second, inclusion to ensure that everyone has equal access to the benefits; and third, international cooperation to address potential challenges.
10 Thank you.