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The opening debate on Day 2 of the Summit began with Dr. Atsuko Okuda, Head of ITU Asia Pacific, and Toni Eid, Founder of Telecom Review Group, sharing ideas on a theme titled “Building the Asian Dream.”

Starting the conversation with ITU providing connectivity in Asian communities during the COVID pandemic, Dr. Okuda said that in Asia Pacific there were striking gaps creating a large digital divide

in rural areas, with 59% of men using the internet compared to just 52% of women.

She said that ITU was seeing a significant generational gap with numbers dropping with growth in age.

She added that about 70% of youth are internet users, and the average drops to 35% with the aging group.

However, she said that “appropriate intervention” with stakeholders is being coordinated.

“We have a special program to target the older person. Older persons need support in using digital financial transactions, buying goods and services online, etc.,” she explained.

In terms of empowering women in the ICT industry, she said that there were few women participating in the ICT industry still. “There is a gender digital divide. We cannot find female executives in the ICT sector. We encourage women to pursue ICT and STEM careers. We organize events for AI coding, ecommerce, agriculture and so on.”

She said that ITU is also provisioning for the protection of women in cyberspace through its Smart Island and Smart Village programs. Dr. Okuda noted that in most communities, connectivity is driven by economic affordability.

Dr. Okuda said that government intervention in terms of policy and investment toward connecting the unconnected by 2030 would be critically important. In conclusion, she stated that time was running out, and committed support from the industry, academia and partners to connect groups of people is vitally important.

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