(Check against delivery)
Thank you, Moderator.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to join you at this session to discuss Japan’s experiences and initiatives to leverage new technologies to achieve the SDGs in my capacity as both Ambassador at the Japanese Mission to the UN and Co-Chair of the third annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation, or ‘STI Forum 2018’. This year’s STI Forum hosted fruitful discussions on new technologies over several sessions on particular SDGs, including both the potential uses and positive effects of new technologies and also the risks.
Not a single day goes by when I do not hear some technology-related discussion or another here at the United Nations. This is quite different from when I previously worked at the Japanese Mission about ten years ago. This change is what strikes me the most since I arrived in New York for my current post as Ambassador.
We are living in an era of change, and changes engender anxiety. There are heated discussions everyday on the potential adverse effects of new technologies, including such issues as individual privacy and human rights, amplifying our biases through deep learning, security against illegal surveillance, unemployment and wage inequality.
However, we should recognize that changes also bring opportunities. Japan believes that we should work to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative effects of new technologies. In this regard, I would like to introduce our experiences and efforts to leverage new technologies to advance the achievement of the SDGs.
First, I would like to introduce the concept of “Society 5.0” as the sort of future society that Japan aspires to. We refer to it as “Society 5.0”, because we consider it the fifth and newest iteration in the history of human social development, following hunter-gather society, agrarian society, industrial society, and information society. Through the creation of Society 5.0, Japan is working to build a society where solutions to social problems and the attainment of individual fulfillment align in harmony and are also in line with the SDGs.
Society 5.0 is Japan’s basic guideline for science and technology policy for the period leading to 2020 under the Fifth Science and Technology Basic Plan, as well as an integral part of Japan’s SDGs Action plan 2018 under the Cabinet Office. It not only calls for the application of cutting-edge technologies in industry, it represents a vision of a human-centered future society, which aims to achieve the advanced integration of social spaces with new fundamental technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), big data and artificial intelligence (A.I.). In Society 5.0, for instance, drones and unmanned-following-vehicle system can improve distribution and logistics efficiency, especially in underpopulated rural areas. A.I and robots at nursing-care can facilitate the rehabilitation and independence of patients.
The government is initiating Society 5.0 by launching it through our national strategic plans, while Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation) closely collaborates with the government. Keidanren, which comprises over 1,300 member companies, has been promoting Society 5.0 with a wide range of stakeholders, and adheres to the Code of Corporate Behavior, a set of shared guidelines for organization members, of which a main pillar is the realization of Society 5.0 for the SDGs. Achieving Society 5.0 is therefore a core goal and value for Japanese companies. Keidanren launched their new website on Society 5.0 for the SDGs, which plays a role as a catalog of the concrete innovations of member companies. For your information, we distributed the link for the brand new website to your seat.
As such, multi-stakeholders in Japan are working towards Society 5.0 for the SDGs, which will provide goods and services that address manifold latent needs of all members of society, regardless of location, age, sex, language or any other consideration through IoT, A.I., robotics and other innovative technologies.
I, as Co-Chair of STI Forum this year, believe that the discussion on the application of new technologies should have a focus on ethical and human elements. Society 5.0 is a good model, and shows the potential applications of new technologies into a human-centered society. Although the concrete paths and approaches to Society 5.0 need to be created under careful examination in order to minimize any potential risks, having a clear concept and vision is crucial when we discuss the future with regard to new technologies.
The vision of Society 5.0 can be applied to many countries. With this vision in mind, Japan hopes to play an important part in the achievement of the SDGs, and will work earnestly to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs through its international cooperation.
Second, in order to harness the opportunities provided by new technologies and minimize the risks, we need a vision of Society 5.0 which makes clear that we are aiming for a human-centered society and the tools to realize the vision. One of the tools to realize the vision of Society 5.0, that is to say, to ensure that new technologies are anchored in a human-centered approach and ultimately lead to a better future for humanity, is the STI for SDGs roadmaps.
The STI for SDGs roadmaps are to serve as a “shared communication and tracking tool” to visualize what we must do and by when, as well as to monitor progress. To harness new technologies for the SDGs, holistic, multidisciplinary and integrated approaches are required.
The year 2018 is the starting point for action on the STI for SDGs roadmaps, when a group of Member States committed concretely to develop their own versions of STI for SDGs roadmaps, in order to share their results and lessons learned with others in the following year. As new technologies have unknown potential impacts, both positive and negative, having a tool to measure these impacts, as well as a process to amend the pathway towards the achievement of the SDGs would be useful.
In order to develop such STI for SDGs roadmaps, we need to ensure each country’s commitment and careful consideration on how they can integrate frontier technologies into their national strategies and policies, and formulate appropriate STI for SDGs roadmaps according to their own will.
Existing, local and traditional technologies
Third, I would like to highlight the importance of existing, local and traditional technologies. As discussed in the report of the Secretary-General on harnessing new technologies to achieve the SDGs, a focus on new technologies “may divert resources away from solutions based on established and more financially viable technologies”. While it is possible that new and emerging technologies could have huge impacts, I would like to stress that significant progress towards SDGs can be achieved if matchmaking and scaling-up are facilitated. It is important to strike a proper balance in the allocation of resources between scaling-up and improving existing technologies on the one hand, and the development of new technologies on the other, both for the achievement of the SDGs and the ultimate better future of human kind. We have been actively working for the realization of Society 5.0 by leveraging new technologies, but at the same time, we would like to emphasize the full utilization of established and existing technologies for the SDGs.
In conclusion, we need to work on further harnessing the opportunities arising from new technologies, maximizing their benefits and minimizing their risks. There is no perfect policy, solution or approach to addressing the opportunities and risks associated new technologies. Thus, continuous conversations among multi-stakeholders need to be facilitated.
Looking back, science, technology and innovation, despite the many difficulties they have brought with them, have played a major role in protecting people against natural dangers and disasters, and have greatly enriched our lives throughout human history. Now, STI, including new technologies, can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs as a deciding factor for making the best use of the limited resources.
Though we all are navigating uncharted waters, our vision for the future society, Society 5.0, could be the stars that guide our journey. Japan believes Society 5.0 for SDGs, in which people can lead high-quality lives full of comfort and vitality, is our guiding star to keep us sailing toward the SDGs.
I thank you.