As prepared for delivery
3 June 2019
Fairmont Hotel Baku, Nizami Ganjavi Hall
SALAM, HORMETLI RAMIN MUELLIM (Mr. Ramin Guluzade, Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies)
Dear Mr. Ulvi Mehdiyev (Chairman of the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President)
Dear Mr. Vusal Gasimli (Executive Director of the Centre for Analysis of Economic Reforms and Communication)
Dear Mr. Orkhan Mammadov (Chairman of the Board of the Agency for Small and Medium Entrepreneurship Development)
Dear Mr. Vitaliy Ponomarev (Founder and CEO at “WayRay”)
Distinguished guests, dear delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I join you today for the opening of this truly unique platform –the innovation and technology forum that puts national production and local producers at the heart of the country’s development priorities. Let me first of all acknowledge the crucial role of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies for advancing these priorities in Azerbaijan. I would like to specifically thank Minister Guluzade for leading Azerbaijan’s ambitious innovation development agenda, for his personal commitment and dedication to establishing a number of inaugural initiatives on innovation that were launched for the first time in Azerbaijan.
Examples of such initiatives are too many to list.
Azerbaijan hosted the first ever Innovation Week in the country in the fall of 2018.
The first ever Idea to Business I2B nationwide startup tours started last year allowing aspiring youth with business-minded approaches to advance their startup ideas.
And of course the InnoFest 2019 happening now, which features a number of remarkable events, from innovation symposiums to eSports event, robotics learning platforms and UNDP’s very own first ever Youth Internet Governance Forum in Azerbaijan –are just a few examples to name.
It is no coincidence that that the InnoFest has actually brought us all together to the opening of the MAINTECH 2019 – Made in Azerbaijan innovation and technology forum today.
I am delighted that in most of these first-time initiatives UNDP has been the Government’s trusted partner. We will continue to provide all the support and expertise that are needed to implement numerous exciting innovation programmes together.
UNDP’s own approach to development builds on the notion that solutions should come from within, be locally made and tailored to the needs of end users all over country, from a farmer who cultivates endemic crops in Shaki and looks for ways to use the land plot and irrigation water sustainably to a teacher in Jalilabad who teaches conceptually new curricula to the new generation of industrial and agricultural faculty students at the Vocational Education and Training Schools.
Or take women in Masalli, Salyan, Zaqatala or close to Baku –the Khazar region where we help women establish their business startups and make their local produce available in the markets. We do all of this together with the Government of Azerbaijan and thanks to our longstanding funding partners: the Global Environment Facility, the European Union, USAID, and the governments of Switzerland and Austria.
In Balakan, for example, we also help local communities and –most importantly –the IDPs from the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan to advance their capacity to grow local produce and through our partner ABAD help these people establish prosperous businesses of their own that are able to distribute and sell their local produce in a chain of supermarkets and export them. These local producers tackle various sectors of economy –from businesses producing the dried fruit of persimmons to dairy products made of wholesome organic milk, to the local artisans using centuries-old weaving techniques, patterns and design of authentic Karabakh carpets.
And yet in spite these interventions, it is clear that the outside world is moving faster than many of our development solutions are adapting.
The impact of artificial intelligence on unemployment. Migration due to climate change. Rising inequalities and gender gaps. The speed, dynamics and complexity of today’s challenges are fundamentally different from previous eras in history.
Effectively addressing these challenges doesn’t just require new solutions. It requires new approaches that fit the complexity of current development challenges.
In response to these challenges, UNDP has launched a groundbreaking network of 60 Accelerator Labs around the world. UNDP Azerbaijan is one of the 6 country offices in the CIS and Europe to have become one of these 60 pioneer AccLabs. Why are we doing this? Because we want to re-imagine development for the 21st century
I talk about this in more detail in my recent blog on innovation called Accelerating economic diversification in Azerbaijan: can the 4th Industrial Revolution help?
Innovation and technology needs to be centre stage in all we do. And this, often referred as the 4th Industrial Revolution, can help accelerating economic diversification. This is what Azerbaijan is trying to do - successfully.
I witnessed firsthand –in my role with UNDP how much progress Azerbaijan has made in moving innovation to centre-stage of its policymaking.
The results speak for themselves. Take, for instance, ASAN -Azerbaijan’s very own “Made in Azerbaijan” example, a one-stop-shop solution for effective and transparent public service delivery.
Or take a look at the new Innovation Agency being established in Azerbaijan under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport, Communications & High Technologies. Or take another landmark development.
Azerbaijan’s first Centre for Sustainable and Operational Social Security — DOST, inaugurated only weeks ago. Similar to the concept of ASAN, DOST will serve as a one-stop shop solution to shorten time, improve efficiency and expand access to the country’s social services system.
All of these examples are remarkable and prove just how much local competencies there is in Azerbaijan that can and should be tailored to achieving sustainable development.
Innovations and technology are at the very heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying 17 Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs), which are an integrated plan to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy lasting peace and prosperity, while partnerships are strengthened to also serve the development agenda.
We at UNDP know from experience that incremental change is not enough. Tackling drought or land degradation is not just about water. Fighting poverty in a given country is not just about income. Promoting e-governance and internet-based solutions is not just about technology. All of these efforts, just like all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals signed off by 190 governments worldwide are interlinked and interrelated. In short, as UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner says: “One well-designed, positive change leads to many others.”
I will conclude by saying that I trust that one or more well-developed local innovation solutions Made in Azerbaijan will yield impactful progress across a number of sectors of economy leading to transformational changes in the lives of ordinary people and the society as a whole.
I wish the best of luck to the MAINTECH 2019 and trust you will have a fruitful and meaningful day ahead.
Thank you! CHOX SAG OLUN! (in Azerbaijani)