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Innovative Tools to Improve a Digital Future | Mainstage

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1920px Google 2015 logo.svg e1635262969373 - Innovative Tools to Improve a Digital Future | Mainstage

Bruno Lanvin, Co-Founder & Director, Portulans Institute
H.E. Ohood Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government, Development, and Future, United Arab Emirates
H.E. Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for Communications and Information, Singapore
Kate Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, Digital Impact Alliance
Kent Walker, Senior Vice President for Global Affairs, Google

Recovering from the massive economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will require countries to accelerate their digital transformation. This panel brought together policy leaders and cross-sector experts doing just that, as a model for other decision makers to look to. Bruno Lanvin from the Portulans Institute asked the panelists to explain the main challenges standing in the way of emerging economies in reaching their full economic potential, and what opportunities exist.

H.E. Ohood Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government, Development, and Future, United Arab Emirates, explained the need to develop a new set of global indicators. Digital, she said, is an opportunity for governments to abandon legacy systems and decrease bureaucracies if only they can develop the appropriate mindset. There is a need to move faster and tap into private sector partnerships to develop the skills required for acceleration, Al Roumi continued. She also stressed the need for improved collaboration among governments and nations.

In Singapore, H.E. Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for Communications and Information, explained that the digital divide poses a particular challenge. When there are winners and losers, societies will fracture over time, as globalization has shown. Nations must put in place a foundation for widespread empowerment and to unlock economic potential. Everyone must have the same opportunity in order to seize opportunities.

Kate Wilson, CEO of the Digital Impact Alliance, listed five challenges for governments to address in relation to digitization: products, people, procurement, protection, and politics. Political will and mutual trust must coexist between governments and citizens, and digitization provides an opportunity to reimagine the relationship. 

For Google, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated our reliance on technology. As highlighted by Kent Walker, Senior Vice President for Global Affairs at Google, the pandemic has unearthed unforeseen challenges and reinforced the importance of digital tools. Walker explained how digital tools were a lifeline for small businesses during lockdown, allowing many of them to remain solvent. Schools relied on collaborative tools like Google Classroom. However, connectivity remains sparse in many parts of the world. Connecting those nations could be a historic opportunity to unlock productivity. Walker gave an overview of the Digital Sprinters network that focuses on four major areas: Physical Capital, Human Capital, Technology, and Competitiveness. 

Turning back to country-specific questions, Lanvin asked Al Roumi why the United Arab Emirates is focused on future readiness. Al Roumi explained that the UAE has been forward thinking since its inception. The guiding principles for the next 50 years include dynamic economies, digital competitiveness, and human capital. Tan stated that people are Singapore’s most important asset and its challenge will be in protecting employability rather than jobs, per se, as the jobs of today may not exist in future decades. Singapore has launched a tripartite movement along with labor unions and the private sector to change mindsets, catalyze learning, and develop new skills.

For Wilson, talking honestly about digitization remains paramount. It is important that governments, civil society, and citizens build and maintain trust with each other.

The jobs of today will not be around 10 years from now, or even five years from now. Preparing people for the jobs of tomorrow is about employability, not jobs per se.

H.E. Tan Kiat How

Online tools are going to be even more important in the comeback. In 2020, the use of technology accelerated 3-4 years in 3-4 months. Digital adoption is a big opportunity for digitally-savvy emerging economies.

Kent Walker

There’s an opportunity to use the same digital tools to bring civil society voices in to design the system as we’re setting them out. That trust will be critical to build between citizens, civil society, and the government.

Kate Wilson

These are very powerful keywords: mindset, ecosystem, job creation, and partnership.

Bruno Lanvin

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • Digitization can inspire countries to abandon legacy systems in favor of newer, more effective ways of governance and economic development.
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, digital tools are crucial for small- and medium-sized businesses, and for workers generally. Governments and private enterprises should invest in tools to assist with digitization and training.
  • Explore country rankings in the Future Readiness Index here.