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IGF 2020 - Day 3 - OF39 Policy responses from COVID19 and the digital economy

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the virtual Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), from 2 to 17 November 2020. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Let's get started.  Okay.  So good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to all the participants today to the OECD Internet Governance Forum Virtual 2020.  I'm Yoichi Ida from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Chair of OECD Committee on Digital Policy.  Very glad to have all of you here today.

     Thanks to digital technologies, we can still hold the IGF this year, remotely and virtually connected together.  This year of 2020 has demonstrated the critical role that digital technologies play in all aspects of our lives, from education to work and to health.

     It has also shown the role that they can play in contributing to the crisis response.  While there are many aspects of the digital economy affected by COVID-19, I believe that three main issues stand out.  Let me offer them to help frame our discussion today.

     First, we saw the pressure on communication infrastructure.  Second, there were risks for privacy, security, and data protection.  And third, we had the dissemination of mis and disinformation online.

     These topics are addressed in a series of policy briefs produced by the OECD's Committee on digital economy policy and published on the OECD's digital hub to help countries respond to the crisis.

     Additionally, I am pleased to announce that the OECD's biannual flagship publication, "Digital Economy Outlook 2020" will be launched later this month.  This important publication analyzes data on a range of digital issues, and I believe it will be instrumental to putting COVID in context as we learn more about its effects on digital issues over time.

     Today we will explore the way in which COVID-19 has catalyzed the digital transformation by reflecting on two important questions.  First, in which way has COVID-19 acted as a catalyst for digital transformation?  And second, what are the digital economy divides, limitations and risks revealed by COVID-19?

     With that, I would conclude my opening remarks and give the floor to our Panelists.  We will hear representatives from international organisations, government, business, and civil society reporting on lessons learned, but also on the policy responses device the to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

     We also look forward to discussing with the audience and, therefore, invite you, the audience, to raise questions and share thoughts on the topic.  We will open the floor to questions and answers following the panel discussion.  Please write your questions in the Q&A space and we will read them to our speakers.

     So I will now give the floor to Ms. Audrey Plonk, the Head of Digital Economy Policy Division of the OECD.  She will share with us the work of OECD on digital transformation.  So Audrey, the floor is yours and you have five minutes.

     >> MS. AUDREY PLONK:  Thank you, Yoichi.  It is great to be with you today.  I want to thank the IGF Secretariat and my Fellow Panelists for participating in this open Forum.  I would like to thank also my colleague Lucia Russo for putting it to us.

     I want to look at the "Digital Economy Outlook 2020", what we call the DEO affectionately here.  It is a snapshot of the state of the digital economy and the policy environment that we find ourselves in.  This forthcoming DEO which is our third after combining several flagships together to look holistically at the digital transformation.  This iteration will focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic is amplifying opportunities and challenges from the digital transformation.

     If you are not familiar, what you see here on your left is are growing digital framework.  It is a set of policy areas that we think is critical for governments to consider in shaping a common digital future to improve lives and to boost economic growth.  When we look at this year's digital economy outlook what we really take away is the fact that the digital economy and the digital transformation is a journey and we are really at the beginning of that journey.  It is a moment for us to make a major impact in how the story plays out.

     I want to touch on three areas.  First is access.  The second is society.  And finally, on trust.  These have been selected and, as in Yoichi's excellent framing at the beginning, but also to work in concert with colleagues that will present coming after me.

     First, connectivity is improving on our journey.  And COVID-19 is certainly fueling demand for connectivity.  We have seen some operators experiencing as much as 60 percent increase in Internet traffic than before the crisis.

     As of June of last year, 25 percent of fixed broadband connections in the OECD were fiber.  That is important for the digital transformation.  Eight years prior to that only 12 percent of fixed connections in OECD countries were fiber.

     But there is still more to do.  If we are at 27 percent, we have a long way to go.

     On society, this health emergency that we've all experienced has shown, as Yoichi said, the role that digital technologies play in all aspects of our lives, from education to work to health.  Internet uptake has increased, but not equally among and within countries.  And differences in Internet uptake are linked to age, education, and income levels.  And the divides remain in capabilities and effective use of technologies.  Specifically we see that people experience technology differently when they have comprehensive numeracy and literacy skills working in technology-rich environments.

     Finally, on trust, certainly not least but maybe last in my presentation, as a generation, and this generation looks at the increased use of personal data generated from IoT and many digital technologies, we see increased risk about security as well as use of data and privacy.

     The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated teleworking.  It has taken people at an unprecedented level online for eCommerce purchases.  It has created a fertile environment for cyber criminals.

     And as Yoichi said at the beginning, one major concern for OECD countries and beyond is the outbreak of disinformation and misinformation online, particularly about the pandemic.  We've seen it spread quickly and widely and expensively.  It is affecting how we respond and recover from the situation.

     And digital solutions, we've all watched track and trace apps and other digital solutions come into play to help us respond to the crisis.  They have implications for privacy and it is something that is extremely important for all of our economies to consider as we move forward.

     In summary, I just want to say that we certainly have seen our dependence on digital technologies accelerate that journey that we are on.  We are moving quickly beyond that initial phase into the next phases.  And we have a lot of work to do to get the policy environment and the technology in a place that it can benefit our economies and our societies as a whole.  While many countries have national digital strategies, we've seen an explosive growth in countries thinking about digital transformation holistically.  But there is still room to grow there as countries try to implement those strategies and move them forward.

     With that I will turn it back to you, Chair.  Thank you.

     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Thank you very much, Audrey, for these insights.  Very interesting presentation.

     So we look forward to the publication of the "Digital Economy Outlook 2020" on the 27th of November.

     With the working with the Chair on eCommerce, the COVID-19 outbreak creates a fertile environment for cyber criminals.  Digital security agencies in the OECD promptly responded by sounding an alarm and supporting rollout of critical activities, particularly in the health sector.

     Now I am happy to invite Mr. Yves Verhoeven to share his perspective in this regard. Mr. Verhoeven is the Director of Strategy at the National Cybersecurity Agency of France called ANSSI and the Chair of the OECD Working Party on Security in the Digital Economy.

     So Yves, you have the floor for five minutes.

     >> MR. YVES VERHEOVEN:  Thank you very much, Yoichi.  Thank you very much, to the organisers for the invitation and hello to all other Panelists.

     So within this five minutes I will try to share with you those perspectives, the French national perspective and one from the situation of the digital economy Working Party of OECD as Chair of this Working Party.

     So from the French national perspective, what I would like to share is the fact that with the lockdowns, obviously people suddenly had to work remotely from home in most countries in the world.  So a large amount of online services had to be opened and organised quite rapidly, often with a strong compromise on digital security.

     There was a strong risk appetite, a sudden very strong exposure to vulnerabilities and to digital risk.  However, no major disruptive incidents has been noted or reported to ANSSI.  So French cybersecurity, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic on the French health sector.

     But the context has created an environment of opportunity for cyber criminals definitely using coronavirus social engineering.  One very important thing in our experience was raising the awareness of the public against the risk of phishing and ransomware which has really increased in number.  So for instance, for individuals we have to raise awareness concerning attention to the seriousness of so-called medical websites or telemedicine consultations. 

      For professionals we had to raise awareness in sending risk of fraudulent bank transfers and the importance of having proper systems in order to preserve company's assets.

     So IT security advice for remote working in the COVID-19 situation was critical.  We shared some information.  That is the employees and employers would really stay ahead of the wave of cyber criminality.

     Focusing on the crisis itself, the health sector has been considered as critical sector, critical activity in France, before the COVID-19 outbreak.  And a dedicated plan has been conducted by the Health Ministry together with ANSSI in order to improve the resilience of the sector.  So specifically the health sector was supported in order to improve cybersecurity.

     However, during this pandemic, new actors, several new actors and sectors were identified as critical.  In particular, for providing goods which was really essential with the lockdown.  And we had to develop new policies and new practices in the direction of actors which were not identified as critical before the crisis.  And we had extensive use of remote diagnostics, for example, diagnostic tools.

     Now at the current state of the pandemic there is a strong work on securing the production of vaccines, of course, from digital activity cyber attack.

     And last but not least from the national perspective, we have obviously been involved in the security of contact tracing apps and we have used extensively best practices in terms of security by design, privacy by design, designing open source code and calling for background checks in order to gain the trust from the public in order to be able to have an important agency impact.

     Now, as OECD Working Party Chair, what I would like to say, the Digital Economy Working Party chair, we carried out a written consultation in April and May in order to gather the best practices from policymakers and discuss the challenges associated with COVID-19.  Two policy notes on digital security during the COVID-19 crisis were issued by OECD and published on OECD's COVID-19 policy hub.

     So the first one was published in April.  And highlighted the increased digital security risks with the phishing campaigns of malicious actors taking advantage of the crisis situation.  And also highlighted the important role of governments in monitoring trace, awareness, supporting vulnerable group and facilitating multi-stakeholder cooperation.

     As a comparison note on seven lessons learned on digital security and COVID-19, it is to be published very soon in November.  And it records the importance of digital security risk management even during a non-digital crisis, such as the pandemic, and the fact that seeing that there was a massive switch to telework and teleconferencing tools, there was use of insufficiently secure teleconferencing tools and this highlighted the importance of enhancing the digital security product as well as providing transparency information on the reality of the security of products.

     On this specific topic, the OECD would raise the report early next year, to assess how teleconferencing products.

     In addition, other organisations need to adopt good digital security practices and the digital economy outlook mentioned by Yoichi and Audrey shows less than 40 percent of companies maybe ICT security risks in the European Union.  This number is too low.  Even for organisations that have a risk management framework this was bypassed during the crisis to ensure business continuity.

     There is clearly a need to incentivize organisations, particularly SMEs, and certain sectors like healthcare to adopt emergency plans and risk frameworks.

     The OECD will continue to monitor the lessons learned from the crisis and facilitate the national dialogue ensuring of best practices as part of the development of new OECD recommendations over the next two years.

     That's all I wanted to say.  Thank you very much.

     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Thank you so much, Yves, for these insights.  As we know, communication infrastructures are the backbone of our functioning digital economy.

     As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the COVID-19 has put an unprecedented pressure on the networks due to the increased traffic for the many activities performed remotely and throughout demand for high quality connectivity.

     So now I am happy to invite Bengt Molleryd, Senior Analyst at the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority and Chair of the OECD Working Party on Communication Infrastructure and Services Policy to share his views on these issues.  Bengt, the floor is yours.  You have five minutes.

     >> MR. BENGT MOLLERYD:  Thank you very much, Yoichi, and thank you for the introduction and for inviting me, and thanks to Lucia for organising this panel.

     So really, it is under scoring what Audrey already said.  Access, connectivity, it is the key factor.  I mean basically because the health emergency has been the turning point in the push for connectivity in many countries, with businesses, society, and policymakers realising that this is now the urgent to act.

     A large share of people work remotely.  Policymakers realised that connectivity is at the heart of the economic recovery.  So it is really the prerequisite.  Reliable connectivity is fundamental for the digital transformation facilitating interactions between people, organisations and machines.

     And certainly we have a lot of connected devices.  It could be I-I or 5G or gigabit networks, et cetera.  All of these are combining the interconnected society.

     And expanding connectivity to achieve an inclusive society is such a heart of the policy agenda in all of OECD member countries.  And a growing number of OECD countries consider the Internet as a basic right for citizens and many OECD countries have changed the legal framework to include broadband as part of the universal service framework.

     As countries, whether the COVID-19 health emergency policymakers have become keenly aware that connectivity more than ever is essential to ensure that economic activities can continue in the remote manner.

     More than estimated, roughly 1.3 billion citizens in the OECD countries have turned to digital technologies to work remotely and study at home, work at home.  For the same semblance of socializing over the Internet.

     The COVID-19 health emergency has fueled the demand for broadband communication services with the whole of the Internet infrastructure experiencing as much as 60 percent, as Audrey said.  In that respect it has brought great pressure on the networks.  What we understand so far that the networks have pretty much been able to cope with the increased demand.  Also due to the shift in demand over the full day and at nighttime.  So this seems to be working so far.

     However, the persistent disparities in access to communication services among and within countries are likely to accentuate the consequences of the crisis and more generation of digital divides.  Therefore, policies that seek to foster connectivity for all are not only important but essential.  To close the connectivity divide, people not only need to have access to broadband, they need to be connected well, which means access to high quality communication networks and services at affordable price is.  On everyone can fully benefit from their use in the digital transformation.  As Audrey highlighted in the introduction, 20 percent is a good number, but still there is a way to go in order to facilitate unlimited communication to everyone everywhere.

     Therefore, regulation of policies that foster competition and investment in communication infrastructure becomes even more crucial.  In the immediately yum and long-term upgrading networks for the next evolution of fixed and wireless broadband in the medium and long-term will ensure reliable resilient connectivity for all.

     In my home country, Sweden, the communication networks and Internet have so far held up well and no major disturbances have been reported.  But the national regulator has monitored the situation closely, and building upon previous testing and crisis planning has been functioning, maintaining the critical infrastructure.  So it has been working so far.

     In every function despite these challenging time.

     Just under scoring that connectivity is essential but it is not U.S. to take on all the digital transformation, but it is a cornerstone.  And building upon that, we have the entire digital transformation that is ongoing, as was said in the introduction.  Big steps are being taken in the COVID crisis but there is more to go.  We are still in the early phases.  So thank you for that.

     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Thank you very much, Bengt, for these insights.

     So Audrey has shared with us highlights from the "Digital Economy Outlook 2020" providing evidence to allow our better policies at the core of the OECD mission. 

      I will now invite Mr. Mark Uhrbach, chief of digital economy metrics at the statistics Canada and the Chair of the OECD Working Party on Measurement and Analysis of Digital Economy, to share his perspectives on this topic, both on the Canadian experience and with regard to the measurement perspective.

     So Mark, the floor is yours and you have five minutes.

     >> MR. MARK UHRBACH:  Thank you very much, Yoichi, and thank you very much for the opportunity to speak here today.

     So as mentioned, yes, I'll make a few remarks here in terms of kind of measurement more broadly but then also touch on some of the examples that we have seen in Canada over the last seven months.  So as mentioned by colleagues earlier, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated the adoption of tele-everything.  So we now find ourselves in a place where we may have expected to be in five or ten years, but this has all happened very rapidly and resulted in a lot of changes.

     ECommerce, eLearning, telework have placed incredible strain on broadband infrastructure.  As has been mentioned this has responded strongly but created new demands for their services which will require further investment.

     We have done some work here at statistics Canada this summer.  It was demonstrated that more than a third of individuals have chosen to spend more money on their home Internet connection or mobile data connection during the pandemic to try to meet some of these needs.

     So the COVID-19 pandemic has been transformative in many way, it has open the digital divides that encompassed more aspects than we traditionally measured such as the digital divide that Bengt mentioned previously.

     National statistical offices are responsible for providing indicators to monitor, such as hardware and infrastructure over the past 20 years.  As Audrey mentioned earlier, this year's digital economy outlook points out that Internet usage has significantly increased over the last decade but continues to vary widely across and within countries.  In 2019 we saw the proportion of adults accessing the Internet ranged from over 95 percent to less than 70 percent among OECD countries.

     These differences in Internet uptake are linked to age as well as education and income levels.

     We can see now in most OECD countries that Internet usage is basically universal amongst young people, those aged 16 to 24 years old; whereas only about 58 percent of those aged 50 to 74 used the Internet on a daily basis.

     So the current situation reveals some of the challenges that are posed by this gap that still exists, and also as I mentioned earlier points to some potentially new digital divides.

     One of the short-term divides that I will focus on now that has been noticeable over the last months is the Gulf that has emerged between those who have the capacity to work online via telework without interruption and those who are unable to.  While the jobs of some individuals have disappeared due to the economic interruption of the pandemic, there are also many individuals in service sector jobs or in other industries, including front line workers in many countries, that have been able to participate in the economy through most of the pandemic but they may have reduced hours of work or certainly a greater health risk as they must work outside of their own home.

     This digitalisation of the economy we are witnessing is going to be a driver of structural change in the economy.  We have seen in Canada already that the share of businesses with at least 10 percent of the workforce teleworking has doubled from just February to May in 2020, up to more than a third of businesses in Canada.

     So while this new sort of normal of telework may open up more opportunities and flexible work options for those who can do it, for those in many industries, their participation in the economy will continue to be constrained.  And what this does, what this has the potential to do is open up the risk that is exposed by this new digital divide is that a greater Gulf emerges between the haves and have-nots in society.  The data that we collected over the summer in Canada has shown that the most financially vulnerable in the Canadian economy, young people underage 25 and those that have a high school diploma or less were the least likely to be able to do their jobs remotely.

     Additionally, the declines in economic activity disproportionately affected many other vulnerable Canadians, including women, new immigrants, minorities and low wage workers.

     We have seen through data we collected that digital minorities are over represented in segments hardest hit, including food and accommodation services.  This has contributed to high rates of unemployment in these groups.  As a result, recent immigrants were more likely than Canadian born workers to go on unemployment in March and April because of shorter work tenure and representation in low wage jobs.  Without appropriate policy and programme interventions there is increased risk of an irreversible digital divide due to the speed of this digital transformation.

     In the mid to longer term, skills gaps, those that can access the Internet effectively as mentioned earlier, have the potential to continue to widen the digital divides.  So this current situation certainly press a great challenge for programmes and policies as they try to keep pace with the evolving circumstances.

     Certainly from a measurement perspective, this extends as well.  National statistical organisations must continue to work together through international groups such as the OECD to ensure that we can provide appropriate and relevant statistics that are released in a timely manner to support this policy and programme development.

     As we move forward with the effects of the pandemic, the frequency and type of indicators will need to continue to evolve and respond as well.

     Thank you very much for the opportunity to join this session today.

     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Okay, thank you very much, Mark, for these insights.

     So the COVID-19 crisis has also led governments and businesses to see the potential of artificial intelligence to contribute to the response.  For instance, in the research field. 

      I will now invite Ms. Golestan Radwan, Minister Advisor for Artificial Intelligence at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt, and member of the African Union Working Party on AI, to provide her insights from the national perspective as well as on the role of AI during the crisis.

     So Golestan, the floor is yours.  You have five minutes.

     >> MS. GOLESTAN RADWAN:  Thank you, Yoichi.  And great to be here with everyone.  Thank you very much for the invitation.

     I will go quickly.  I have just one slide to show you.  I hope you will be able to see it in a second.

     Like many of you I am wearing two hats today.  One has to do with the African Working Party on AI and the other of course is my Egyptian hat.  I will try to cover both very quickly.

     The chart that I hope you are seeing on the screen now is from the McKenzie Global Institute, actually.  It shows the acceleration of digitisation efforts due to COVID-19 across different sectors and across different parts of the world.

     And we have seen for Africa, it has led to some acceleration in the field.  So the suspect, finance, insurance, government, retail trade.  The starting point was pretty low.  So we are expecting some marginal improvement but not leaps an bounds.

     Which actually leads to what I would like to say about Africa in the rest of my five minutes.  So just to give you an idea, Africa has been relatively fortunate when it comes to COVID-19.  So far we recorded just over 1.8 million cases in total.  With death toll of around 43,000 people.

     Of course, what it does is highlight many of the problems we already knew existed, capacity, lack of capacity-building across the board, lack of infrastructure, the digital divide which actually not only exists between countries or persons over the same country but also has emerged between the quality of the response of larger companies versus SMEs.  The SME sector has been hit quite hard in Africa across the board.

     Of course, the lack of financial means to implement response tracking.

     According to an assessment paper by the ITU, the increase in traffic over networks has resulted in an acceleration of CapEx, releases to the extension of capacity such as operations and maintenance CapEx.  However, on the other hand not related to capacity for example network modernization, is being postpone the especially in less, more emerging countries within Africa.  And while the top five African telecom operators spend 5.5 to $6 billion in 2019, it is expected it will drop to 5.5 billion in 20.  This is a quick insight into how Africa is doing.

     Now, an important factor that the pandemic highlighted is the importance of regional cooperation.  And some measures taken by African institutions, for example, the African Union has even established an African task force to develop a continent-wide strategy and sectoral strategy to combat the virus and its impact.  African Member States are taking a number of measures, of course, as well to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate especially the socioeconomic impacts.

     The African Export-Import Bank has made a proposal that invites all African countries to cooperate to finance COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing.  Hopefully this will set a precedent for continent-wide efforts to address more challenges as we progress through and following this pandemic.

     This is actually one of the reasons why the African Group on AI was formed to find ways to overcome barriers to cooperation on the ground on a large scale and be able to mobilize resources in the adoption of AI for development purposes.

     So, for example, we haven't been able to hold another group meeting of the African Group on AI because the AU wasn't equipped for online meetings for a long time.  However, this has changed quickly and they have been quite flexible in adopting their procedures.  So it wasn't just an infrastructure problem.  It is also a problem in processes and working procedures which we also find in some other international organisations.

     The response, however, has been quite good.  I think this is the kind of thing that we need to bear in mind.  If we want to have fast response to crisis going forward but also as international and regional organisations to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world we need to revise our working procedures either in governments or in international organisations.  It is not just a matter of adopting technology.

     In the few seconds I have left I will just walk you through a couple of quick examples of countries.  So, for example, in Egypt we have quite a high class density in schools and Universities.  Social distancing wasn't an option and we had to shut down and switch to online teaching.  Which was fortunately possible in Egypt unlike other Africa condition countries.  That meant building infrastructure for this, even for exams in some cases.  The experience has been so successful that a change in higher education policy was introduced recently to ease class congestion on the longer term, by which youths in Egypt even after the pandemic will adopt a hybrid approach where students are only expected to be on campus two to three days a week.

     In terms of AI, we launched a tracker for COVID-19.  Before the pandemic there was a lot of skepticism around utilizes AI in the medical field.  People prefer speaking to a human being.  The pandemic changed that behavior quite a bit and usage levels have soared with that system checker, boosting the chances of the digital AI health sectors in the longer term.

     Like many places with he explored contact tracing apps, but on our side they have also like in many places raised doubts.  And awareness of digital and data privacy issues to the point where in the end we refrained from adopting them.  This is another kind of side effect of COVID-19, that it raises the level of awareness of personal data protection that I think we wouldn't have achieved otherwise.

     Thank you very much.

     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Thank you very much, Golestan, for these insights.  And now it is very interesting to hear the perspective from Egypt and the contribution from the African union Working Group on AI.

     Japan has started a project with the AU to involve networks and connectivity on the occasion of COVID-19 expansion.  So we hope we will have some chances to work together.

     I will now invite Ms. Carolyn Nguyen, Director of Technology Policy from Microsoft, to share her insights from the industry perspective.  Carolyn, please.

     >> MS. CAROLYN NGUYEN:  Thank you, chair.  Good morning, good afternoon, good evening to everyone.  Thanks so much for the opportunity to participate in this discussion.

     What I would like to share with you is, as the chair said, really our experience in combating this very sad and urgent pandemic.  As COVID-19 outbreaks continue across our communities and countries, digital technologies as have been noted by everyone, have played an essential role.  Our data showed that the world has gone through two years of digital transformation in two months.  Combating COVID-19 has and will continue to require all of us to work together.  And so what I will address is some of the work that we are doing to contribute to global resources and the role of technologies.

     However, I will start by saying that three trends are very clear:  The importance of partnership and international cooperation across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.  Also the need for voluntary and responsible data sharing in enabling rammed response as part of that collaboration.

     The vital role of digital technologies which means the urgency of secure, resilient and accessible cloud services, which then as other speakers have noted does highlight the ubiquitous Internet access as the enabling of wellbeing.

     Others talked about various examples in terms of use of technologies including healthcare bots that can help to scale digital resources and also how to help and identify misinformation -- sorry about that --

     However, supporting this mass migration to a virtual environment also requires additional efforts to shore up and make sure that there is a safe and resilient infrastructure.  To address the need for a safe digital environment, we have provided guidance on preserving privacy within our ecosystem partners as people connect from home and as government and healthcare authorities fight the spread of the disease.

     We are also providing guidance to employers and employees on best practices for digital hygiene and also working with governments and others to produce public safety resources, including addressing digital safety for children in particular.

     The scope and scale of the surge and demand or our cloud services was completely unprecedented.  We were able to sustain resiliency by shifting workloads between our 60 data centre regions around the globe as the epicenter of demands shifted with the spread of COVID-19.  Part of our work in maintaining resiliency and in particular critical care, is we compiled a list of customers that are providing critical life and safety services.  This included first responders, government agencies, energy companies power hospitals, retailers offering essential supplies, banks that are processing small business loans so that these services can be monitored and be quickly brought back online in case of issues.

     We had to work with governments around the world to add data centre workers as essential service workers to maintain this digital infrastructure.

     Regarding divides, it is clear that digital skills are more critical than ever and will be critical to the economic recovery.  It is also clear that the brunt of global unemployment will be borne by those with less formal education, people with disabilities, people of color, and women.  Further exacerbating other digital divides as has been noted.

     In June Microsoft launched a global skills initiative to bring the skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year.  What we are leveraging is data from our LinkedIn economic graph to identify in demand jobs and skills needed to fill them.  And also access to learning and practical resources from LinkedIn, Microsoft including certification as well as GitHub for practical learning spaces.  Microsoft is providing $20 million cash grants plus technical assistance to help nonprofit organisations worldwide to assist people who need it most.

     We are also pledging to make stronger data and analytics available to governments so that they can better assess local economic needs.

     Another divide and another issue as has been noted is connectivity.  As part of our air band programme commitments to connect people in unserved and underserved areas around the world we are working with service providers and innovative solutions including providing care to remotely located patients, support testing of open source ventilators, and setting up wifi hotspots in large community spaces.

     These examples have demonstrated the importance of data and AI in our world.  COVID-19 has further emphasized that data and furthermore the need to share data responsibly, including personal data, enabling its flow globally and along with responsible use of AI, are now critical part of rapid responses.

     Some examples.  The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 interactive dashboard that visualizes and tracking cases in realtime is accessed more than a billion times each day.  This information is used in public but also outlines courses of action.  The data is then made available in GitHub can be used for the use of critical resources such as ICUs, beds, medical supplies, et cetera.  AI for health initiative is part of our commitment to help COVID-19 research, focus on areas where data and likes can have the greatest impact including treatment and diagnostics.  GitHub is holding a series of open source projects that anyone can join.

     These efforts heightened the private public partnerships and the strength that each can bring photograph in our perspective, COVID-19 provides an urgent but real world context for many of the digital policy initiatives underway at the OECD.  Privacy, AI, responsible data sharing and the importance of cross-border data flow with trust.  And something that Audrey mentioned earlier on, the importance of a holistic regulatory approach such as the growing integrated digital policy approach.

     We would hope that this can provide the impetus and the collaborative environment that leads to enabling policy framework and new governance approaches that are based on data that can help us fight the COVID-19 crisis, but also build the digital infrastructure that is needed well beyond the end of the crisis and can help sustain growth.

     Thank you very much.

     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Thank you very much, Carolyn, for these insights.  And yes, previous speakers have mentioned the opportunities raised by the COVID-19 pandemic for the digital transformation.  They also touched upon the many types of digital divides.

     I would like to invite now Ms. Carolina Botero from Colombia and the representative of the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council, CSISAC, to the OECD to share with us her views about the challenges raised by COVID-19.

     So Carolina, please, you have five minutes.

     >> MS. CAROLINA BOTERO:  Thank you very much.  First of all I'm very glad to be here to speak on behalf of the CSISAC to provide a brief overview of policy responses during this COVID crisis.

     In my case I will focus as you mentioned on some of the challenges that these policy responses are facing, especially considering technology measures taken.

     So being the last one talking, it is difficult not to repeat what has already been said, but I'm sure since my point of view comes from my position as part of civil society group this intervention will bring another point of view and will remind you all this is by the way the important piece of the multi-stakeholder approach adopted by OECD.

     The first thing I would like to talk is especially on the digital divide yet again.  As has been addressed, connectivity and digital skills are essential in a digitally transformed society.  Those challenges will be important to the digitals and inequities in our society too.  The logistics must leave no one behind, understanding and fighting for the different digital divides will be key and measuring them is a challenge that Mark already explained.  I will add to this that the key is also because the increasing digitalisation is going to data mine the exercise of human rights as well.  Therefore, all societies will need to identify, measure, assess and address the different digital divides tied to the use of technologies.

     We are especially concerned that COVID proved that social economical gender and geographical conditions are data mining people's digital divides and this has increased the system inequities in our societies and making clear that there are people that can embrace transformation while many others will need help.  The complexity of this situation has opened been undermined by the measures taken during COVID but will need to be addressed sooner rather than later as shown in some of the arms featured in the analysis that OECD has been gathering, addressing the emerging divides.

     Let me talk about the tensions of these human rights.  Since early March, civil society around the world warranted adopted regulations and measures needed due to the pandemic, will also need to address tensions with human rights.  Among many challenges it is clear now that the access and use of data by government was a measured too and in the midst of the urgency many did not properly perform evaluations or design the checks and balances to deploy those measures in recognition of the above tension.  Using emergency powers through laws, administrative degrees or administrative orders to access and use data was taken and it is urgent now to draw the lesson.  It identified real opportunities and deployed corrective measures as the impact of those actions will remain as a legacy of COVID times.

     Third, finally I would like to address the challenge of increasing surveiled society.  Again, the acceleration of the digital transformation meant the increasing use of technology, but it also showed that in the urgency of the crisis, technology has been deployed with little reflection on its impact on human rights and democratic values, including trust that has already been mentioned.

     From the civil society perspective technology can and should play an important role during the crisis as one we faced with COVID.  No doubt it provided means to keep communication, work, education, and of course access to healthcare and the means to tackle them.  However, the same technology has enhanced surveillance by design in every aspect of our lives.  Platforms for schools, work, communication in general, contact tracing are just some of the examples.  We have an increasing digital landscape both in the public an private scenarios where the big eye is will following us everywhere at all times.  Guarantees is one of the key elements of democratic society because it is needed to enjoy other rights such as freedom of expression or freedom of association.

     Finally, the societal design issues that we are making today have the power to normalize behaviors which on the different circumstances we would have considered a risk to human rights.  The COVID crisis and this situation will remain as an important challenge for a democratic discussion and its risks.  I believe that OECD will be a major player to guide our countries through this process.  Thank you very much again.

     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Thank you very much, Carolina, for these insights.

     So thank you once again to all the Panelists for your great contributions to the discussion.  And now I would like to open the floor to the audience to raise any questions and some interaction with the speakers.

     But unfortunately we have probably two more minutes before interruption.  So may I take one or would questions from the audience?  And I would like to ask Lucia, to help me in this.

     >> MS. LUCIA RUSSO:  Thank you, Yoichi.  There is one question for Sally. 

      "You spoke about raising awareness for privacy issues resulting from the consideration of tracing apps.  How union form was the reaction you described in the AU?  What conclusions will Egypt and possibly the AU draw from this specific experience?"

     This is for Sally.

     >> MS. GOLESTAN RADWAN:  Thank you, Lucia, I actually answered the monitor in the Q&A space, but to repeat quickly.  That particular data point was just drawn from Egypt.  That was based on the experience within Egypt.  I don't have data on the rest of Africa, but I do know that some other African countries have chosen to adopt the use of contact tracing apps.

     As I mentioned, the main lessons learned for us are the importance of social dialogue and consultations but also on general awareness when it comes to specifically to the adoption of AI applications and especially when it comes to data privacy topics.

     And the public response that we have on the front was actually quite telling.  This is an experience we want to repeat in terms of having that public dialogue before launching any such apps on a wider scale.

     >> MS. LUCIA RUSSO:  I don't see any other questions.  Yoichi?

     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Thank you very much, Lucia, and thank you very much, Golestan.  I think we are almost reaching the end of the time and I think that the discussion was very, very interesting and very rich.  So I would like to share with you my key take aways from this event.

     So it was very interesting to hear the different national perspectives and I noted several commonalities with my own national perspective.

     All the speakers pointed out to the role that COVID-19 has played in the accelerating the digital transformation and in showing us the potential of digital technologies in fields such as education, teleworking, healthcare and so forth.

     However, another recurring reflection has pointed to the issue of digital divide.  Among countries, within countries, between regions and between population groups.  The potential of digital technologies is yet to be grasped by all groups equally.  I hope you will all look forward to the publication of OECD's "Digital Economy Outlook 2020" which will be published on 27th of November. 

      So lastly, once again I would like to thank all the Panelists and also the audience for this very rich discussion and very interesting event.  If you have any more questions or any comments from the audience, is there any way to receive it, Lucia?

     >> MS. LUCIA RUSSO:  I think under the event page, there is space to ask the organiser.  So I will send it forward to you in case there are any questions.

     >> MR. YOICHI IDA:  Thank you very much.  If you have any more comment or questions, please contact us as mentioned.  So thank you very much again to all of you and I hope we will see each other very soon.  Thank you very much.

 

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