Keynote speech by Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam

December 14, 2021

Mr. Tran Van Tung, Vice Minister, Ministry of Science and Technology,

Distinguished guests from the business sector, development partners, start-ups, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, Xin Chao!

It is an honor to be here today at TECHFEST 2021.

At the outset, I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Science and Technology for their ongoing success in organizing Techfest every year since 2015 and despite the increasingly difficult context of COVID-19, still being able to organize TECHFEST 2021 in both online and offline platforms. UNDP is proud to have supported TECHFEST over the last four years focusing on delivering innovative solutions for sustainable environmental and social outcomes.

This year’s conference brings to the fore the topic of open innovation, which could not  be more critical than at this time when the progress to achieve the SDGs has been dramatically  slowed down and hard won development gains erased due  to COVID-19 impacts. Innovative solutions are needed now more than ever for a sustainable socio-economic recovery with people at the center.

Moreover, we all know that Viet Nam, like many other nations, is facing development challenges on a global scale, including the implications of rapid industrialization, climate change, and public health protection against the Covid-19 pandemic. These are some of the most complex challenges which no one organization or silver bullet solution can fix. As such, using open innovation, and leveraging the power of collective intelligence, is critical to address these challenges and accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Against this backdrop, one of UNDP’s global strategic directions for the 2022-2025 period is building resilience while leaving no-one behind, with strategic innovation being one of the main enablers, which helps to empower governments and communities to enhance the performance of the entire ecosystem. We at UNDP Viet Nam are working towards such direction.  Allow me to share with you the following concrete examples:

1.     Firstly, Open innovation to address environmental issues:

Evidence has shown that COVID-19 has increased the demand for single-used plastic, especially from medical waste generated by hospitals, personal protective equipment (PPE) and online packaging materials. At UNDP, we have organized the Ending Plastic Innovation Challenge (EPPIC) to call for innovative solutions all across ASEAN countries to address this challenge. 159 solutions have so far been identified.  We carefully choose solutions that are not just in one single area but those that cover several areas, that complement each other, those that help unblock downstream and upstream bottlenecks simultaneously, and those that come from different countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. In the Impact Village booth today, you will find two out of top 4 EPPIC winners  – GreenJoy with their grass straws providing  one of the best alternative solutions to plastic straws, and Galaxy Biotech with their breathable and biodegradable bags that help keep food and agricultural products fresher for longer. Please come by later and explore their amazing innovations!

2.     Secondly, Open innovation to address COVID-19 healthcare challenges:

Right when the pandemic started, we organized HackCovy together with the Hanoi Youth Union and AngelHack to call for innovative solutions to tackle multiple challenges posed by COVID-19 such as healthcare, education, environment, etc. One of the top winners is BeetleBot, a robot that uses AI to detect non-mask-wearing behavior and deliver medical supplies in highly infectious settings, thus reducing the risk to frontline health workers. We then introduced both BeetleBot and another robot called Ohmni, from Silicon Valley, which provided  the function of distant communication, to healthcare facilities in Viet Nam to help reduce the risk of healthcare workers’ exposure to the virus. After one year of implementation, these robots have demonstrated  innovations coming from the startup ecosystem that really help solve public health challenges in difficult times.

3.     Thirdly, Open innovation to improve digital transformation of public services:

During the time of COVID-19 social distancing, many people were not able to carry out public services offline. That’s when online public services become increasingly  more important and urgently needed. UNDP  launched the Citizen-Powered Innovation Initiative (CPII) in the beginning of this year to address such needs. We called for innovative solutions from the government and communities alike to help make online public services better, more focused on citizens’ needs, and more easily accessible. More than just being a challenge, CPII also creates a platform for sharing and learning among different innovative initiatives across Vietnam on digital governance. In parallel with CPII, UNDP also has launched Youth Digital Citizen Challenge- which aims to promote youth participation in the digital transformation journey set by the Government of Viet Nam, particularly, to improve the quality and accessibility of the online public services. The two winners are: “HACHI”- an application that helps identify citizens’ needs and recommends suitable public services, and “RUN “ for its “Solution to promote access to e-public services for the blind”. After joining 2 months incubation program by UNDP, Hanoi Youth Union, and other partners, they have already completed the prototypes

With the above examples, I want to re-emphasize the importance of open innovation to help address many development challenges in Viet Nam and globally as well as accelerating the achievement of the SDGs and building forward better from COVID-19 and other shocks.

I would like to thank MOST and Ho Chi Minh City’s PPC for the organization of this important Conference.  UNDP looks forward to working with MOST, and all partners to boost open innovation that accelerated the SDGs.

As we approach the New Year, allow me to wish all partners and participants, great health, great happiness, and may the Techfest 2021 events today and tomorrow be a great success.

 Xin cam on!