Singapore to help small states with digitalisation, COVID-19 recovery

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Singapore will run programmes from 2022-2023 to help small states with digital transformation and COVID-19 recovery, Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Saturday.

The programmes, under an initiative called Forum of Small States (FOSS) for Good, will cover themes such as digital transformation, digital economy and smart nations.

Issues such as pandemic preparedness and education transformation could be included. Singapore established FOSS in 1992 as an informal platform for small states to discuss issues of mutual concern. FOSS currently has 108 members at the UN.

Dr Balakrishan is in the United States (US) to deliver Singapore’s statement at the UNGA, before heading to Washington DC until Wednesday for a working visit, where he will meet senior officials from US President Joe Biden’s administration and members of Congress.

Through FOSS for Good, officials from FOSS can take part in executive or customised programmes to exchange experiences, best practices, and solutions to tackle common challenges.

FOSS for Good is in line with Singapore’s call for a global framework to overcome challenges or maximise opportunities related to digitalisation.

Such a framework can also close the digital divide among nations, where 3.8 billion people worldwide remain digitally disconnected and thus lack access to education, healthcare and other essential services amid the pandemic, Dr Balakrishnan said.

“The goal is both simple and singular: How can we enhance multilateral cooperation to leverage digital technologies for sustainable development,” he said in his UNGA speech.

“There are many paths that we can take. The Secretary-General’s proposal for a global digital compact, or perhaps a new UN convention on digital transformation for sustainable development, or a framework of norms and principles.”

Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan addressing the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly. PHOTO: AP