The Asia-Pacific region is often characterised by high levels of inequality with large disparities commonly found across multiple indicators such as income, gender, health care, or education. These gaps represent significant economic, social, and political challenges and are a major concern for governments across the region.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in the region, with some research suggesting that the economic impact of the pandemic could set back gains made in poverty alleviation by as much as 20 years. As governments seek to cope with this economic fallout, many have adopted digital transformation as a critical strategy to both rebuild damaged economies as well as enhance resilience against future shocks. As a result, the region has experienced an unprecedented acceleration of digital transformation across many sectors that are crucial to the well-being of individuals such as health, energy, finance, and education. Innovation through digital technology has the potential to enhance the value of these services, including reduced cost, easier access, and more efficient processes―all of which play an important role in strengthening the economy. However, as these industries continue to digitalise, there is a growing risk of certain groups being left behind. This is particularly relevant to marginalised groups such as women, the elderly, youth, or those with disabilities.
It is against this backdrop that the Griffith Asia Institute has launched the Inclusive Growth Hub. The Hub functions as the Institute’s focal point for research and capacity-building activities designed to deliver positive economic outcomes for the poorest and most vulnerable segments of society across Asia and the Pacific. With a primary focus on financial and digital inclusion, the Inclusive Growth Hub serves as a platform for Griffith University’s experts to collaborate with external partners including multilateral institutions, non-government organisations, corporations, academia, and government agencies.
Shawn Hunter, Industry Fellow (APEC), who leads the Inclusive Growth Hub, said:
“One of the most pressing issues concerning levels of inequality in the region, including financial and digital inclusion, is to understand and appreciate the scale of the problem and ensure that it is given an appropriate level of attention by key stakeholders.”
Through such collaborations, the Inclusive Growth Hub plays a key role in mobilising necessary resources and facilitating the development of targeted interventions to drive and accelerate inclusive economic growth and development outcomes for the region.
“The Inclusive Growth Hub supports this effort by actively facilitating collaborations with a broad range of stakeholders across the region representing the public, private and civil society sectors.”
Griffith researchers have partnered with the Asian Development Bank, Asian Development Bank Institute, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC Business Advisory Council, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, The Foundation for Development Cooperation, MicroSave Consulting and UNCDF to deliver programs for policymakers and stakeholders.
Activities that are prioritised are those which lead to greater investments into key areas such as infrastructure development, building skill levels, reforming policy and regulation, or supporting greater innovation.
Shawn Hunter is the Industry Fellow and Director, Inclusive Growth Programs at the Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University.
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