Technology has disrupted our societies and economies around the world. Opportunities are, or could be, abound: Whether it is pioneering direct cash transfers to individual citizens through mobile phones or using big data to solve intractable public health issues like vaccinations, a whole array of new strategies and technologies to help emerging economies. How can development actors harness these tools effectively even when they themselves might lack technological expertise?
Because, indeed, technological solutions are no panacea either, and they do come with inherent challenges. Tech companies that run many of the most promising development solutions introduce new power dynamics and dependencies. Meanwhile, even the most advanced digital solution fails if it does not address age old questions of sustainability, inclusivity and corruption. Who guarantees that mistakes of the 20th century are being avoided while the successes integrated instead of cast aside? How do we avoid a repeat of the false optimism of the past that technology alone would end poverty?
The United States and Germany are the two biggest global donors. They also have some of the most vibrant technology and start-up sectors in the world. How the two countries approach international assistance in the digital age will set the tone for the rest of the donor community. We can use our influence on both the bilateral and multilateral fronts - or we could go astray.
The panel explores how international organizations, states and private corporations will use technology to improve their own development efforts and support partner countries in unleashing the potential of digital advances. How can we assure that all actors around the world can advance innovation rather than being left behind?