Letter to the G20: Why Digital Holds the Key to Meeting Global Challenges
People, planet, prosperity. We must act now to unlock digitalization’s potential to meet global challenges and the G20’s priorities.
Digital transformation is a global engine of sustainable economic growth, a fundamental lever in fighting climate change and a powerful enabler of social inclusion. Let’s act now to accelerate and expand digitalization’s potential to meet the Italian G20’s priorities and national and global challenges. This was my main message at the B20 (Business 20) Summit in Rome last week.
As returning co-chair of the B20’s Digital Transformation Task Force, it has been an honor to forge the Digital Transformation Policy Paper with over 100 representatives from the global business community. The paper, launched before ministers and ahead of the G20 Summit later this month, offers four recommendations to G20 leaders. The recommendations, highlighted below, can spur digitalization and hasten a common, sustainable, prosperous future.
High-performing, energy-efficient connectivity is a prerequisite for digital transformation. It paves the way for revolutionary technologies on top of the network, for green digital agendas to be realized, and is required if we want to give opportunities to the 3.7 billion people currently offline. Stimulating private investment in and speeding up the rollout of high-capacity, future-proof infrastructure, such as 5G, whilst enhancing accessibility, lies at the core of what is the first and arguably foundational recommendation.
The investment case is clear. ITU estimates that USD 428 billion additional investment will be required over ten years to deliver high-quality broadband to the world’s unconnected population by 2030. We see too, that for every 10 percent increase in a country’s mobile broadband penetration, GDP increases on average 1.5 percent. When it comes to climate change, we know that technology – much of it connected – has the potential to contribute to a 15 percent reduction in global CO2 production by 2030.
Governments and industry need to work together to make it happen. Industry is ready. The paper calls on policy makers to put broadband access at the forefront of economic development efforts and prioritize private sector network expansion. It calls for deployment barriers, such as permitting delays, sighting rules and spectrum pricing and allocation to be addressed. Moreover, it calls for an investment friendly environment, one where technology or vendor neutrality prevails and where markets, rather than governments, decide which technologies will succeed through fair competition.
Foster development and deployment of new technologies
New digital technologies, many thriving on networks, such as AI, IoT, cloud and edge, are accelerating rapidly. Yet, uneven R&D efforts across the globe and limited awareness of potential uses, are just some of the factors inhibiting their expansion. The recommendation is to foster the development and deployment of these new digital technologies, including through stimulating use case sharing.
Build digital trust
Rapid technological advancement means that regulatory principles struggle to keep up, leading to competition imbalances in markets and industries. At the same time, digital’s ascension and exponential growth in data increases exposure to privacy and cyber security threats.
Digital trust varies around the world and the Task Force recommends global regulatory principles be harmonized. The goal is to grant fair competition, efficient markets, as well as enhance cyber security and privacy protection. Interoperable policy frameworks and common standards to facilitate cross border data flows are also part of the recommendation.
Strengthen digital skills
Without digital skills, connectivity, new technologies and trust are of little value. The fourth recommendation therefore urges the G20 to foster a digital ready and inclusive society; one where digital skills gaps are mapped and current and future employees are trained, upskilled or reskilled for the new world of work. Among other things, the paper calls for national strategies to address skills gaps, as well as improving digital skills for students and teachers at schools and universities.
Given that, by 2030, we forecast that two-thirds of the world’s workforces will depend on 5G connectivity, it is paramount that we work towards closing the digital skills divide and overcome digital exclusion.
From AI, to robotics, to app development, the rapid pace of change means academic institutions will invariably require the support of the IT industry to take digital learning beyond a basic level, as well as moving students beyond theoretical knowledge. Public private partnerships will be key.
The Ericsson Educate program is one such partnership. Live in several countries and in partnership with local schools, universities and community learning centers, it aims to share those competences that we have in-house more broadly, addressing those critical skillset demands required by tomorrow’s workforce.
The G20 is ‘working to bridge the digital divide and make digitalization an opportunity for all, improve productivity and – in short – to leave no one behind’. This work and ambition are commendable, and through contributions such as that of the B20, supported by enterprise.
I look forward to the continued hard work and commitment of G20 states and the global business community in creating a more sustainable, prosperous future for us all.
Read the Digitalization Policy Paper.
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Read President and CEO Börje Ekholm’s previous blog post Why does the world need Ericsson?