Distinguished experts from development institutions, technology companies and the academia have indentified opportunities provided by emerging digital technologies to help transform finance and learning to achieve sustainable development.
They spoke during a seminar entitled "Digital Technologies for Sustainable Development", held on the sidelines of the 43rd Annual Meeting of the IDB Group in Tunis, Tunisia, in partnership with the Central Bank of Tunisia, SMART Tunisia, and World SME Forum.
Digital technologies have shown great potential to transform the way financial transactions are conducted and how global knowledge can be harnessed for development. The seminar brought together experts from various institutions to discuss how to use financial technology (FinTech) for development solutions as well as the role of new technologies in transforming global knowledge into actionable learning.
In the first panel session, the seminar focused on the latest trends in FinTech and blockchain technology, and how to leverage these technologies to support financial inclusion and economic development. The session also noted that opportunities provided by emerging digital technologies can help unlock the potential of Islamic finance towards assisting nations in their development programs.
Islamic finance has grown rapidly in the past decade, the seminar noted, but its potential has not been optimally tapped due various factors that include slow adoption of new technologies. It was therefore suggested during the seminar that a connection between the opportunities offered by new technologies and the unique features of Islamic finance will help in resource mobilization, targetted distribution of financial aid, financial inclusion, and boosting financing for small and medium enterprises.
The panelists in the first session were Dr. Mahmud Sami Nabi, Professor of Economics, University of Carthage, Tunisia; Mr. Matthew Van Niekerk, Co-Founder of SettleMint, Belgium; and Dr. Tunc Uyanik, CEO, World SME Forum.
In his comments, Dr. Nabi noted that traditional finance sources have proven to be insufficient to provide the financing required for development. Tapping the potential of Islamic finance, he explained, will help to augment the available resources.
Mr. Van Niekerk spoke on "social cryptocurrency," which he said can facilitate distribution of subisidies to the right people, thereby fostering efficiency and effectiveness of social support programs. He also noted that blockchain technology will be shaping the future, and therefore recommended providing education to the youth generation for them to be better prepared for the future.
The second session of the seminar focused open learning and knowledge management. The discussants are Dr. Khalil Amiri, Secretary of State for Scientific Research in the Tunisian Government; Dr. Rami Ahmad, IDB Special Envoy on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and Ms. Margot Brown, Director, Global Themes Knowledge Management, World Bank.
Dr. Ahmed said open learning has the potential to reduce the massive brain drain afflicting developing nations, as instead of these nations' brightest students going to the West for degrees and not returning, knowledge from the best universities could be made available within these countries through technology-supported learning.
In his comments, Dr. Amiri said open learning can help countries improve the quality of their education. He urged development institutions to support nations to build capacity in open learning for them to benefit from the opportunities offered by new technologies.
World Bank Director for Global Themes and Knowledge Management, Ms. Margot Brown, spoke on the World Bank's Open Learning Campus, which she said supports countries with cutting edge knowledge on development. She said no single institution could solve all the development problems in the world, and therefore partners have to work together to leverage capabilities of each other.