Recovering & Rebuilding, Through Digital Infrastructure
Programming Sponsor: Vodafone
COVID-19 has demonstrated the necessity of digital infrastructure to our very lives. This conversation explored financing digital connectivity infrastructure within national and multinational recovery plans, the role of innovative financing, and regulatory reform to close the global digital investment gap for good.
The physicality of COVID-19 has brought unique challenges and lessons to all countries. A clear takeaway is the urgent need for governments to prioritize the development of digital technology and infrastructure. Joseph Mucheru emphasized that digital would need to be at the forefront of rebuilding societies and economies around the world. He expanded on current momentum for digital innovation and applauded the recent shift undertaken by many countries once viewing digitalization as elective to now essential. When asked what he would choose to leave behind from increased digitalization, Mucheru cited cybercrime and fake news.
“The pandemic has allowed us to see what is important and highlighted what we need to invest in,” Joseph Mucheru
Boutheina Guermazi echoed the accelerated digital transformation of education, health care, and social protection, but emphasized the urgent need to close the digital divide. As key sectors continue to digitize, the lack of equitable access to digital tools will have profound implications for education, health care, and personal wellbeing.
“Digital is key to the fabric of the economy and the fabric of society,” Bouthena Guermazi
Joakim Reiter explained that finance was a significant barrier to building digital infrastructure, citing that around $400 billion is missing to close the financing gap to make sure that everyone has access to high-quality Internet. Speaking to the increased dependency on digital since COVID-19, Reiter believes that digital is an essential service for the function of society and provides many of the services that people rely on for their everyday life, while also allowing people to be active participants in their economy.
Discussing Vodafone’s efforts to help build digital access, Reiter shared the company’s efforts to provide tools for small- and medium-sized enterprises and to provide devices for health care staff. While discussing the role of digital in a post-pandemic world, Reiter offered an optimistic view of a future in which new, innovative methods of digital innovation are explored.
Key takeaways & next steps:
As we rapidly digitalize our societies and economies, we must close the digital divide by ensuring equal access to digital tools and infrastructure.
While COVID-19 has accelerated a shift toward digitization and technology has experienced new-found prioritization in many countries, barriers still exist to interconnectivity, which hinder economic opportunities. Due to the global nature of digitization, public-private partnerships must be at the forefront of this transformation and all COVID-19 recovery programs.