‘Frontier Tech Leaders’ Programme launches to empower the LDCs’ youth for digital transformation

March 9, 2023


United Nations Development Programme's International Centre for Private Sector in Development (UNDP IICPSD) and the United Nations Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries (UNTB) jointly launched the "Frontier Tech Leaders" programme during a side event at the 5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Doha, Qatar. 

The programme, implemented by UNDP IICPSD's SDG AI Lab, UNTB, with the support of the Government of Turkey, aims to address the digital divide in LDCs and inspire the next generation of tech specialists to develop digital solutions for community challenges. The programme will inspire and provide means for action to the youth. It will focus on encouraging young women to pursue education and careers in the field of technology, contributing to the promotion of gender equality. 

Attendees came together to discuss the digital divide in the LDCs, with a particular focus on frontier technologies that are driving the fourth industrial revolution. The conversation centered on the potential of big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to transform the lives of people in LDCs. 

The launch event was graced by high-level dignitaries, including Mr. Haoliang Xu, the UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator, and Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support , Mr. Mohammad Jamal Alsaati, Special Advisor to the President, Islamic Development Bank, Mr. Md. Abdur Rahim Khan, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, and H.E. Ibrahima Guimba-Saidou, Minister and Senior Advisor to the President of Niger. The panel discussion was joined by high-level representatives from Ministry of Economy and Finance, responsible for Industry of Djibouti, Presidency of Strategy and Budget, Presidency of Türkiye, the Islamic Development Bank, and UNTB. The event was co-organized by the Government of the Republic of Türkiye, the Ministry of Economy, and Finance, responsible for Industry of the Republic of Djibouti, UNDP IICPSD, and the UNTB.


Mr. Haoliang Xu, the UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator, and Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, expressed his support for the Frontier Tech Leaders Programme. He described it as an innovative initiative with the potential to raise the next generation of leaders in frontier technologies in the LDCs. 

Mr. Mohammad Jamal Alsaati, the Special Advisor to the President of the Islamic Development Bank, emphasized in his opening statement that it is crucial to improve the digital skills of young people in emerging technology fields, such as artificial intelligence and data science, to promote digital transformation and equal opportunities for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). H.E. Ibrahima Guimba-Saidou, Minister, Senior Advisor to President of Niger and CEO of National Agency for Information Society (ANSI), Government of Niger expressed his appreciation for the initiative by saying, “To qualify for the millions of jobs of the new tomorrow, it has become imperative for young people to acquire the appropriate skills. The Frontier Tech Leaders Programme, which has been launched today, would therefore be of great contribution.”

The ‘Frontier Tech Leaders’ Programme will raise a new generation of tech specialists to develop digital solutions for LDCs and strengthen local capacities. It will start with the training of LDC students in Türkiye, which would allow quick rollout and support from the local stakeholders. The participants will be supported through a Virtual Digital Business Incubation (VDBI) process that increases the potential for entrepreneurship.  

UNTB’s Acting Managing Director Dr. Taffere Tesfachew emphasized on the importance of digital technologies for the LDCs to leapfrog SDGs achievement and guide their path to sustainable development, noting, “Youth unemployment in LDCs is a multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted solution. And we believe that frontier technologies can be a critical part of that solution”. 

“The private sector can bring unique perspectives, technologies, and business models that can help drive progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
- Mr. Sahba Sobhani, Director of UNDP IICPSD

The initiative will support the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action, which calls for capacity building in youth skills development as an enabler for leaving no one behind. Furthermore, the ‘Frontier Tech Leaders’ Programme will also boost opportunities for South-South cooperation. Based on the pilot initiative developed in collaboration with the Government of Türkiye, the programme will be further expanded to other development partners in the following phases. 

With the launch of the 'Frontier Tech Leaders' Programme, UNDP and UNTB aim to provide equal opportunities for the youth of LDCs through digital transformation and upskill young people in emerging tech areas, such as artificial intelligence and data science, to support the achievement of the SDGs. 



About UNDP SDG AI Lab  

The SDG AI Lab is a joint initiative of UNDP Bureau of Policy and Programme support, hosted under UNDP IICPSD. The Lab has a mission to harness the potential of frontier technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for sustainable development. SDG AI Lab provides research, development, and advisory services in the areas of frontier technologies and sustainable development. As well, the Lab supports UNDP’s internal capacity strengthening efforts for the increasing demand for digital solutions. To bridge the talent gap in the use of frontier technologies in development contexts, the Lab mobilizes a community of volunteer data scientists, connecting UNDP teams and highly skilled data scientists to address development challenges with digital solutions.  


About UN Technology Bank 

The UN Technology Bank became operational in 2018 and serves the 46 least developed countries (LDCs) and former least developed countries for up to five years after their graduation from the category.  

Headquartered in Gebze, Turkey, the UN Technology Bank actively engages with national, regional, and international partners to deliver its programme and projects which strengthen science, technology, and innovation capacity in least developed countries. The UN Technology Bank supports national and regional technological efforts, reinforces partnerships across sectors and helps nations identify and use appropriate technologies to transform their economies and improve livelihoods.  



Press Contact 

Gokhan Dikmener, UNDP IICPSD Technical Specialist. Email: gokhan.dikmener@undp.org  

Gergana Georgieva, UNDP IICPSD Communication Consultant. Email: gergana.georgieva@undp.org