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News article18 September 2019

International conference highlights the potential for digital technologies to address global challenges

International conference

Digitally enabled development for a sustainable future in Eastern Europe image

18 - 20 September 2019, Vrdnik, Serbia – Climate change adaptation and mitigation, rapid urbanisation, increasing natural disasters, migration issues, and unresolved humanitarian conflicts... how can digital technologies, data, related policies and legislation help address these complex challenges that today’s world is facing? More than 200 experts from 21 countries and 12 international organisations will meet in Vrdnik, Republic of Serbia, to discuss this question and its particular relevance for the region at a conference on “Digitally enabled development for a sustainable future in Eastern Europe”.

The two-day event will brings together a variety of experts from the public sector, civil society, academia, intergovernmental organisations and the private sector to discuss challenges and opportunities in the implementation of digital technologies, exchange good practices in digital transformation, establish partnerships, and learn from each other.

Particular emphasis will be on technological enablers of digital transformation, digital data, good tenure governance, and innovative services and applications combined with a focus on regional and national spatial planning, next generation farming, smart cities and governance of land tenure.

The conference is jointly organised by the Serbian Republic Geodetic Authority, the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (EC JRC), the World Bank (WB), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management in Europe (UNGGIM-Europe), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The use of digital data and technology

The development community’s focus on the 2030 Agenda emphasises the urgent need for reliable data and enabling tools to measure, monitor, evaluate and report on the implementation of the Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Transformative technologies, computing capacity, machine learning, the internet of things, and cloud technology are continuously increasing, and connectivity is constantly improving and transforming the way we do almost everything. More than seven billion mobile SIM cards are registered globally, and drones and satellites can now acquire and deliver high-resolution imagery in a very short time. Geospatial data, analytics and services such as automatic change detection, machine learning, and artificial intelligence have opened new opportunities for effective decision-making to address a plethora of social, environmental, and economic issues.

Still, access to reliable and up-to-date data is not standard in every country. In many places, there are limited usable geospatial datasets. Those that are available, are often badly structured, duplicated, or are in forms that cannot easily be accessed. Rapid changes in technology bring new opportunities, but also additional challenges, requiring integrated approaches to meet the new demands. However, due to the disruptive nature of digital transformation, many governments lack a clear picture and understanding of their future data and technology requirements, especially when needed to address the SDGs and national to global development.

As next steps, changes in legal frameworks, updating of existing business processes, measures to ensure systems sustainability, and cybersecurity, together with the need for a balanced approach between public access to data and personal data protection, as well as developing sustainable partnerships with the private sector, will be necessary. This conference contributes to political understanding, will and coordination at multiple levels to ensure that we are able to leverage the best of our data, technologies, skills and resources to address these aforementioned challenges.

Global and regional initiatives

Participants will learn about the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF), Expert Group on Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) and its Implementation Guide and Country-level Action Plans. Adopted by the United Nations in 2018, the IGIF has been developed as a strategic reference guide and ‘plan of action’ for developing and strengthening arrangements in national geospatial information management. It supports establishing of new and innovative approaches to national geospatial information management, implementing integrated evidence-based decision-making solutions, and maximising and leveraging national information systems tailored to each country’s national situation and circumstances. Over the next few years, several donors, including the World Bank, will support countries to prepare and implement geospatial strategies and action plans.

In addition, European Union Member States countries are in the process of implementing the INSPIRE directive, aimed at creating a pan-European spatial data infrastructure for environmental policies and policies or activities with an impact on the environment. INSPIRE enables sharing environmental spatial information among public sector organisations, facilitates public access to spatial information across Europe, and assists in policy-making across boundaries. Countries from Eastern Europe and Central Asia can learn from INSPIRE to make better use of the available standards, technology, and lessons learned from the implementation of proven international initiatives.

Participants will also learn about how the Republic of Serbia is working towards a brighter future by promoting UN and World Bank initiatives and implementing EU directives.

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Publication date
18 September 2019