Last week’s G20 Digital Economy Ministerial Conference in Düsseldorf, Germany marked the first such meeting of digital ministers of the 19 leading economic nations and the European Union (G20).
The conference was one of several ministerial-level meetings held to discuss individual G20 topics in-depth in preparation for the G20 Summit on 7-8 July in Hamburg, Germany. It established a general agreement on how to maximize the benefits of digitalisation and highlighted the importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as the backbone of today’s digital economy.
The big question: How to successfully leverage digitalisation?
The declaration highlighted several key areas. The G20 countries recognize and value digitalisation’s potential to generate prosperity, inclusive economic growth, and development globally. Digital infrastructure is also fundamental. Acknowledging the fact that there is still unequal access across income, age, geography, and gender, G20 ministers reaffirmed their commitment to ITU’s Connect 2020 Agenda and the aim to “connect domestically all people by 2025.”
The ministers also recognized the impact of digitalisation of production, and are set to support the exchange of best practices and knowledge in digitalisation. Furthermore, G20 countries agreed to continue to address the risks and vulnerabilities in the use of ICTs, including privacy and data protection.
‘A Roadmap for Digitalisation’
A ‘Roadmap for Digitalisation,’ annexed to the declaration, lays out paths toward progress on key issues, such as improved access, expanded digital infrastructure, support for innovation and closing of digital divides.
G20 digital ministers agreed to work to foster digital economy businesses as enablers for bridging income gap and improve financial inclusion. Ministers agreed to encourage the creation of friendly environments for digital infrastructure and technologies, for example through adopting pro-investment policies to stimulate investment.
The meeting also acknowledged the importance of startups and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as a vehicle for innovation, job creation, and economic growth. Ministers shared their intention to promote an entrepreneurial environment by welcoming resources and programs that facilitate the exchange of best practices and insights.
Bridge digital divides and promote inclusiveness
G20 countries also affirmed their commitment to improve access and adoption of advanced digital technologies “to boost digital economy development and digitally include underrepresented or disadvantaged groups.”
Recognizing the vast potential of ICTs for advancing gender equality, G20 leaders are planning to work with the G20 Development Working Group in empowering women and girls with ICT skills. The effort will focus particularly on digital inclusion in emerging and developing countries.
The G20 also aims to work towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2030 Agenda through promoting digitalisation for all.
ITU’s #ICT4SDG campaign aims to promote awareness of the role ICT plays in our interconnected world, and how it contributes to achieving the 17 SDGs.
Also highly relevant to ITU’s work, G20 countries agreed to encourage the “exchange of best practices on standardisation in areas such as: digitisation of production, security in the use of ICT, smart cities and smart mobility as well as in the field of smart farming.”
To move the agenda on the digital economy forward, ITU, along with other international organizations, will continue to support and provide expertise on accelerating ICT growth, development and innovation.