13 September 2022:  On the occasion of the 2022 Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo), the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), launched three research papers under the South-South Ideas papers series, developed with partners of the South-South Global Thinkers initiative.

The three papers cover a broad aspect of digital transformation, including the potential opportunities and challenges of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and digital transformation. They also provide policy recommendations to strengthen and deepen South-South cooperation as a tool for addressing the widening digital divide, scaling up digital capacities and solutions, and promoting the expansion of the digital economy, particularly important in the context of the post-COVID-19 economic recovery and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

Click the video to watch the video recording of the Launch event

At the launch event, Mr. Zanofer Ismalebbe, (Incoming) Chief of Knowledge Management, UNOSSC welcomed the participants and acknowledged the partnership with UNDP and the member think-tank networks under the South-South Global Thinkers Initiative, enabling the exchange of a diverse range of knowledge, pooling multidisciplinary expertise, and conducting collaborative research and convening policy dialogues on scaling up South-South and triangular cooperation. He further highlighted the role of think tanks and how strongly it is anchored in the BAPA + 40 Outcome Document.

"The South-South Ideas Papers series present an important opportunity to disseminate the extensive and cross-disciplinary breadth of knowledge and evidence-based analyses on the topics of South-South and triangular cooperation", said Mr. Zanofer Ismalebbe.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Babatunde Abidoye, Global Policy Advisor and Team Leader for Integrated Policy and Analytics from UNDP welcomed the participants. He reiterated the importance of the theme i.e. digital connectivity, especially in the context of COVID-19 response and recovery and the role of think tanks. 

"One of the indispensable actors is a think tank community that bridges academic knowledge and government practice, so it is a great opportunity to not only reaffirm our commitment to the South-South and triangular corporation to building inclusive, ethical, and sustainable societies but also to highlight the  contributions of think tanks on these endeavors", Mr. Abidoye added.

He further reaffirmed UNDP's commitment to supporting the South-South Global Thinkers initiative, being a unique initiative bringing a network of networks contributing to cutting-edge thoughts and evidence-based research, mainly from a southern perspective for informed policy work and also helping progress towards the SDG. 

From the think tanks, Professor Dr. Samia Satti Osman Mohamed Nour from the Economic Research Forum for the Arab Countries (ERF), Egypt (Member of GReCEST network), Dr. Wen Chen from the Department of International Development Cooperation of the Institute of New Structural Economics (INSE) at Peking University, China (Member of GReCEST network) and Dr. Vaqar Ahmed from Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan (Member of Southern Voice) presented the key finding and the policy recommendation from the papers launched (presentations attached).


In wrapping up the discussion, Mr. Hany Besada, the Moderator for the session summarized that the technologies are transforming global development on a large-scale introducing potential for institutional reform and inclusive growth. Technology has the power to unleash crucial development capacity for globalization and improve access and inclusion for many marginalized groups in society, particularly women and children. Despite these potential advantages, southern economies' impending structure shifts must include digital advancements more comprehensively. As examined through the vast research covered here, the digitalization of the global economy is imperative for future development.  In terms of expanding access to these technologies increase Internet adoption, promotion of public spending on ICT infrastructure and creating a more favorable regulatory environment for the private sector investment in the digital sector. This work has thus attempted to better understand how S triangle corporation is situated not only to engage but also to facilitate engagements of various global development actors to fully utilize and benefit from digital economic integration.

The meeting ended with a vote of thanks.

Papers launched: 

.1. Cooperation, Technology and Digital Transformation: The case of Arab countries

This global South case study discusses the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and digital transformation in the Arab region2. In particular, the paper explains potential opportunities and challenges and the positive and negative impacts of ICT and digital transformation in Arab countries and offers recommendations for South-South cooperation.

The paper uses descriptive and comparative approaches and employs the most recent secondary data obtained from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) ICT Indicators database and other relevant sources. Trends in global ICT use and digital divides among world regions and the Arab region during the period 2005-2021 are shown. Specifically, the paper’s results are drawn from information based on five observations: 1) increasing trends and the rapid diffusion of ICT indicators in the Arab region and world regions during the period 2015-2021; 2) the incidence of the global digital divide in ICT indicators between the Arab region and other world regions during the period 2005-2019; 3) increasing trends and widening digital divides in ICT indicators between the Arab region and other world regions during the period 2015-2021; 4) differences in the growth rate and diffusion of different modes of ICT indicators in the Arab region during the period 2005-2021; and 5) incidence and trend of digital divides within the Arab region (defined by urban/ rural area 2015-2019.

.2. Cooperation On Technology and Digital Transformation through the Establishment of Science and Technology Parks under the Belt and Road Initiative

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plays a pivotal role in promoting South-South cooperation (SSC) in technology and digital transformation in the contemporary world.

The aim of this research is to explore the avenues of cooperation between China and other countries in the global South on setting up science and technology parks (STPs) under the BRI, which may serve as a cornerstone for contemporary South-South cooperation in scaling up technological transfers and innovation, as well as bridging the digital divide with advanced countries and accelerating digital transformation in the global South. Furthermore, this endeavor could contribute to the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as the promotion of SSC in science, technology and innovation is identified as a specific target under Goal 17.

Thus, this study is both timely and critically important for developing countries in an era of innovation- and digi- tal technology-driven growth. This research draws on the theory of New Structural Economics (NSE) and combines desk research with field research (i.e., interviews with representatives from the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China) for analysis. Although it is not exhaustive, a set of targeted policy recommendations are provided to key stakeholders, aiming to set the scene for a closer and more successful SSC on technology and digital transformation under the BRI.

.3. Digital Trade Integration: Role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated an urgency to look at digital trade integration as a measure that could help governments and the public pivot better. For example, improvements in digital connectivity at home and across borders are helping trading firms cut their costs and enhance export volumes, which in turn positively impacts job market outcomes. Common and harmonized rules to assist cross-border digital trade, especially a provision creating a trusted environment for digital exchanges, provide swift and timely knowledge-sharing. These potential benefits are sometimes also overlooked by governments due to perceived online security threats and high costs associated with the mitigation of such risks.

This report provides recommendations on exploring the potential ways in which South-South and Triangular cooperation could help digital trade integration. In that regard, the authors have examined bilateral and multilateral cooperation in South Asia and how such cooperative arrangements help the digital trade integration process. They have studied the current state of digital trade in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. A review of provisions in domestic policies related to digital trade integration and the impact of digital platforms has been conducted for these countries. A set of policy recommendations is to be developed to strengthen South-South and Triangular cooperation at the regional level.