“This year, the conference focuses on using data to accelerate achievement of the United Nations”


Pravin Prashant interviewed Sonja Ruetzel, Conference Manager, ICT4D, about the 9th Global ICT4D Conference which is scheduled to be held at Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC), Hyderabad from May 15 – 18, 2017. Excerpts of the interview:  

What is the main theme of this year’s programme; what is the special attraction?

The 9th Global ICT4D Conference brings together public, private and civil society organizations from across the humanitarian and international development community. This year, it is being held in India for the first time and is a demonstration of the commitment of partners and participants to the Digital-India initiative.

Through the keynote sessions, high-level panel discussions and workshops, participants will share how they are using innovations in information and communications technology to increase the impact of their work. Highly interactive and hands-on, the conference attracts a diverse audience of technical advisors, program executives, and others who offer a range of practical insights on applying technology to development challenges.

This year, the conference focusses on using data to accelerate achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – creating a healthy, prosperous and just world.

It offers a unique, hands-on opportunity to explore how people around the world are using ICT4D to enhance program quality, improve decision-making, increase impact, and accelerate progress toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

There are eight different tracks. What are you planning to discuss in these tracks?

The eight different conference tracks are on agriculture and environment, health, education & livelihoods, disaster management, digital financial inclusion, partnerships and collaborative solutions, data-driven adaptation & strategy, and executive session.

Discussions will center around the technology solutions for challenges in each of these fields; how frontier technology is helping in development programming in these areas. The sessions will also explore learnings from these applications and showcase their impact.

Who are the star speakers in Hyderabad event?

There are many prominent speakers at the ICT4D Conference, who will deliver keynote speeches and lead panel discussions from international and Indian NGOs, global and Indian technology companies. The speakers include: Jayant Sinha, Minister of Civil Aviation, Government of India; KT Rama Rao, Minister for IT and Industries, Government of Telangana; Cherian Thomas, CEO, World Vision India; Al Lutz, Chief Information Security Officer, World Vision International; Neil Sahota, IBM Master Inventor, IBM Watson Group; Dipak Basu, CEO, Anudip Foundation; Radha Basu, CEO, iMerit Technology Solutions; Lauren Woodman, CEO, NetHope; Prashant Gupta, Principal Director, Cloud & Enterprise, Microsoft; Rebecca Moore, Director, Google Earth, Earth Engine and Earth Outreach, Google; Schuyler Thorup, Executive VP, Overseas Operations, Catholic Relief Services (CRS); Kate Wilson, CEO, Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL); Ajay Vij, Managing Director –Geographic Services, Accenture in India; Dr. BVR Mohan Reddy, Executive Chairman, Cyient;  Dr. David Bergvinson, Director-General, ICRISAT; Frederic Pivetta, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Dalberg Data Insights; and Chuck Conley, Non-profit and Global Organizations Account Manager, Environmental Research Systems Institute (ESRI).

Any plans as to how India can achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals using ICT? 

ICT solutions have tremendous potential to accelerate achievement of the SDGs. This can be done by enhancing our capability to measure progress toward all the SDGs, evaluate the methods used to achieve them, learn what is working and not working, and improve the timeliness and quality of decision-making; providing opportunities to streamline and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the activities we undertake across the development landscape; and providing access to a whole new range of digitally-enabled products and services which strengthen local economies, local innovation and local communities.

To achieve the SDGs, changes are required in the way public, private and civil society organizations function, the way they partner, the way they engage with individuals and communities and the way government policies influence their operations. The challenge facing organizational leaders is understanding the benefit of ICT in enabling such changes. The ICT4D Conference is a platform developed to bring these sectors together to discuss best practices, demonstrate latest technologies and showcase impact.

What is the number of delegates and exhibitors participating in the event?

There will be approximately 1,000 delegates at the ICT4D Conference. The audience includes governmental organizations, local and international NGOs, civil society, foundations, development banks, multilateral organizations, academic and research institutions, financial institutions, technology companies, social enterprises and private-sector businesses.

The Conference Exhibition Hall will feature exhibitors including Anudip Foundation; Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL); Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI); International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT); Catholic Relief Services (CRS); iMerit; Mercy Corps; NetHope; and World Vision.

Are you releasing any research report during the four-day event? If yes, could you share the summary of the report? 

On Monday, 15th May, CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future, will be launching the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture. This new multimillion-dollar initiative aims to fundamentally disrupt food production across the developing world, making it more productive, efficient, and resilient to challenges such as climate change – all through the power of information.

Bringing together thousands of experts – from agricultural scientists to whizz kids at some of the world’s leading tech firms – the platform will collect and analyze vast amounts of data on crops, weather, soils and more. It will produce some of the most precise and reliable recommendations that farmers in developing countries have ever had, helping ensure that smallholders enjoy the benefits of the data revolution. CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. CGIAR science is dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources and ecosystem services.

How data-driven adaptation will help NGOs achieve their vision?    

The exponential growth of digital data is fuelling the need for analytics to make sound decisions. The emergence of new technologies such as smartphones, IoT devices and UAVs is providing opportunities to improve decision-making through access to disaggregated and more granular data.