This is now a legacy site and could be not up to date. Please move to the new IGF Website at

You are here

IGF 2020 - Day 9 - High-Level Leaders Track: 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. 



    >> MODERATOR: Okay.  If we are ready, it is time to go.  Bon jour, and good morning from northwestern Italy in a pandemic.  But constructive and happy mood. 

     Good morning to our speakers and to those who are going to follow this high-level panel organized in the framework of the 15th Annual Internet Governance Forum organized by the United Nations.

     We have a very interesting set of participants today that I will be happy to introduce to you right now before introducing the meeting itself. 

     And in no particular order, I would like to welcome Mr. Victor Harison, which is Commissioner for Economic Affairs of the African Union. 

     I would like to welcome to Daniela Bronstrup, Deputy Director General and head of Regulatory Framework.  And she was also the former part of the former country and culture of the MAG.  And she's, of course, from the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy in Germany. 

     And good morning to Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Undersecretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific. 

     And good morning to Mr. Yi, who is the Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization, based in Geneva.

     And good morning to Daniel Trujillo, Executive Vice President and Global Chief for Ethics & Compliance Officer of the American Walmart. 

     And then good morning, bonjour to Gillian Marcelle, and she's the founder and managing member of Resilience Capital Ventures LLC.  Welcome, Dr. Marcell.

     And then good morning to Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary General of UNCTD, the United Nation Conference on Trade and Development. 

     And last, but not least, but not finally, Mr. Edward Anderson, the Chief Information Officer and Director of the Information Technology Department of the IMF.

     As you unfortunately know, very well, we are in the middle of a very dire pandemic.  And all of the economies of the planet so far have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic itself.  And the effect is that we cannot meet today in person, but we get to do it through the digital. 

     And that is why we are discussing this because the use of digital technologies can help reduce the harm and, for instance, we are placing more importance on digital trade and remote working as we are doing right now.

     But, of course, we know that this process in many economic areas can also bring some concerns, and these are related to accessibility, inequality, and security just to mention a couple of them.

     And as you know very well, the secretary of the United Nations, Gutierrez, has promised, has committed himself to present before the end of the year his road map for digital cooperation is a document which will be very important to tackle diversity and to help the world to have a better digitalized relation.

     So that is why we have this panel of high-level discussants, and we are going to try to explore the role of the internet in the public digital policy and see what is the role it can play for the economic recovery in the post-emergency situations, and what improvements are needed to go forward.

     Now I will ask each of the panelists to switch on their mics and switch on their videos so we can go into our little show. 

     And I remind you, you have no more than three minutes to answer my questions.  And the first one is for Mr. Harison for the African Union. 

     Very plainly, I'm wondering, how did COVID-19 affect the economy in the African Union overall?  And what do you think are the policies on utilizing digital technologies that can reduce the pandemic negative impacts? 

     And which are the solution that you think should be prioritized -- that is a very difficult -- prioritized.  In Italiano (Speaking non-English language).  I cannot say it in Italian as well.  So you've got three minutes.

     >> VICTOR HARISON: Thank you, Chair.  Good morning and good afternoon, everyone. 

     The COVID-19 pandemic has caused socio-economic impacts in Africa.  Among the economic impacts we can mention of recession of between minus 4.9% to minus 2.1% according to the estimate of the African Union.  A loss of at least in dollar 65 billion in terms of foreign trade.

     A considerable drop in all commodity prices, a sudden increase in the inflation rate.  Losses in public revenue and external financing including aid to African countries. 

     In the meantime, public spending is on the rise because of an unforeseen expenditure on AF and social medias, we need to deal with the pandemic and contain it.

     The premise of a food crisis due to a contraction in agriculture or prediction of between 2.6% and 7%.  It is industry and weaken the private sector, yet it is engine of growth. 

     The most affected sectors include agricultural sector, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, et cetera. 

     On the social level, the pandemic have significant impact in area of health and as gravity, social development issues linked to poverty, to risk of farming to loss of jobs.

     The economic department has launched last October a report on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on Africa and the opportunity to bring more revenues and resilient emerging economies. 

     I will only develop a paragraph on the leveraging the digitalization which can (?).

     Policies promoting the digital technologies in Africa to reap the benefits and this revelation are guided by the African Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa 2020-2023. 

     According to the bank, reaching for Africa goal of universal and affordable internet coverage will increase GDP growth in Africa by 2% per year.  Indeed, for images of digital area has offered opportunities but can be asked for Africa's socioeconomic trust formation.

     Let me give you some initiatives.  One, digitalization is making a headways in agriculture sector in Ghana and in Nigeria.  Digitalization is improving healthcare system in Kenya and in Cameroon. 

     In response to COVID-19 pandemic, a number of countries have used technology to detect and limit the spread of virus.  Madagascar has developed a digital platform to identify and track affected cases. 

     Education.  Education is also reaping the benefits of digitalization.  Universities in Egypt and Ghana and South Africa, et cetera. 

     Bank digital services have grown in Africa with a positive effect on financial inclusion.  And for African continental free trade area, a flagship project of our Agenda 2063 will be from January 2021. 

     According to Veronica, African free trade, continental free trade area would raise inter-Africa trade from 15% to 25% compared to Africa free trade area.

     It also adds the potential to provide an appropriate platform for digital trade as reported share of digital trade to drive economic development and transformation in Africa remains largely in exploring.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Commissioner.  And you have given us a clue about how digital solutions can help Africa to tackle a problem which is now a food crisis mainly and leads to a very poor situation in the country. 

     I guess it is pretty different in Germany, but differences and difficulties would be different there.  And I ask Dr. Daniela Bronstrup, how did the COVID-19 pandemic affect Germany?  And which are the digital technologies and digital solutions you are foreseeing in order to try to tackle the pandemic?

     >> DANIELA BRONSTRUP: Thank you, and good morning, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. 

     I think it is fair to say that for us in Germany the pandemic has developed some unwanted and unexpected stress test of the digitalization in all areas of life.

     The operator of the world's largest internet mart is situated in Frankfort, and it reports that internet traffic has increased dramatically during the pandemic.  For example, video calls have increased by 120%.  And the data traffic amounts to 9.1 terabyte per second right now. 

     Therefore, I'm really happy to say that we haven't experienced any failure of our digital infrastructure throughout the pandemic. 

     But certainly the coronavirus has also exposed some digital deficits we have in Germany.  I think, however, that it is more important that the crisis has put those deficits and digitalization as a whole very high top on the agenda at all decision makers.

     The crisis also forced companies and particular SMEs to improve their efficiency and financial stability.  Our government decided to give an additional boost to an extended set of tech startups for their digital efforts with funding programs for SMEs as an example. 

     More and more people expect every service to be digitalized and accessible.  And companies of course, as well.  This is what people foster now about our Online Access Act.

     One essential to helping to reduce the pandemic's negative impact is, of course, contact tracing.  This wouldn't be possible without digital technologies.  In Germany, the coronavirus warning app is very good example of how digital technologies can help us to fight against the pandemic.

     But this is only true if people trust them.  And that is why transparency, data protection, and decentralized data storage are just as important for us as the principle that its use should, of course, be voluntary to everybody. 

     This has more than 18 million people are now using the coronavirus warning app.  And every two seconds it is being downloaded from one of the stores. 

     And last, but not least, we are just beginning to explore the potential of digital education.  The experience of the coronavirus crisis has made clear that digital education is not only feasible but also extremely reasonable.

     So even though we, of course, faced a lot of economic trouble due to the crisis, we are now looking much more positively into the year 2021.  But now we expect an economic growth of 4.4% in Germany for next year.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you, Daniela.  And you said that more and more people expect services to be digitalized and now it is probably the future. 

     So that gives me the chance to ask a question to Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under Secretary General of the United Nations. 

     And talk about Asia-Pacific because this is the region which is in forefront of digital innovation.  But, of course, as we can see, it is the region where the digital divide is growing and where differences are growing, too. 

     And there are new forms of development gaps which the COVID-19 pandemic has made bigger.  Can you tell us more about the regional specificities of your digital divide and what do you plan to do to try to solve this not irrelevant problem?  The floor is to you.

     >> ARMIDA SALSIAH ALISJAHBANA:  Thank you very much, Marco, for the question.  Very good morning, good afternoon, good evening to all of you.

     So let me respond to the question basically first on the regional specificities.  Again, our region, Asia-Pacific, certainly is a very diverse and also dynamic region.  So, therefore, in terms of this digital divide or digital connectivity, the specific or the specificities in our region is the three speed, if I may call it, the three speed region in digital connectivity as well as innovation in which there are countries advanced the more developed economies and some of the upper middle income countries in our region which basically these countries are the frontier, yeah, in terms of digital technology.

     And these countries have, let's say, not only the 4G but they already started the 5G and even they are developing the 6G connectivity coverage.  And usage is widespread.  And also including affordable and reliable in terms of internet connection.

     And then there are these middle-income countries that actually majority of countries in Asia-Pacific region are middle income countries, of course.  Lower middle-income countries and a few them are the so-called upper middle-income countries.  And remarkable dynamics in terms of closing the digital and innovation gap in countries.  Although, of course, inequality, the digital divide in the respective countries is still prevalent.

     And the third category of countries are the countries that still have very limited access, internet access.  And, in fact, according to the latest data, still around 2.3 billion people are offline while many millions remain under-connected. 

     Again, Asia-Pacific as a whole is about 4.6 billion.  So half is still offline.  And many, many millions remain under-connected. 

     And again, there are these countries that belongs to LDCs and the landlocked developed countries and sits where the broadband internet is unaffordable for the majority of the population.

     So on proposed solutions, of course, we see this is addressing digital divide especially now even more so becomes a matter of very, very high policy priority.  So therefore, how to close this digital divide.  And also in terms of COVID-19 recovery in terms of the stimulus package priorities, I think it has to go into also this, how to close this digital divide in the sense of building the digital infrastructure, both hardware and softwares, of course.

     And therefore countries in the region needs yet to push for the big investment including the planning for that to leapfrog into the next generation of networks.  Because otherwise then you are lagging behind, you start to compound the problem.

     And then how to incentivize innovative business models and practices including social enterprise, in fact investing in universal digital literacy.  As well as, of course, the most important thing, how to improve or upskilling this digital skill formation as part of the life-long learning among the communities.  So over.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Armida.  You gave us a very frightening figure; 2.3 billion people are offline.  And so that means that we are many people in the same world with very, very different situations.

     So this is the right point to call in Mr. Yi.  I mean he is the Deputy Director General for the World Trade Organization. 

     And because some argue that trade focuses on convenience rather than solutions that improve the lives of the world's majority, and trade is sometimes an enemy. 

     Mr. Yi, is there a way to trade for a better widespread progress to mitigate the economic implication of COVID-19?  I mean how can you make trade more friendly for all of the world using the technological instruments?

     >> YI XIAOZHUN: Thank you, Chair.  Hello, everyone. 

     At the WTO, we were already well aware that digital technologies and the internet had become essential to working, doing business; and, of course, conducting international trade.

     The health crisis not only confirmed this but further intensified the trend.  The WTO found that the impacts of the pandemic on trade has been pervasive.

     Although world trade had already been slowing before the pandemic, merchandise trade in nominal dollar terms was down 21% in second quarter of 2020 compared to the previous year, while commercial services trade was down 30%. 

     For merchandise, it severely disrupted global value chains and delivery channels.  Moreover, it altered trade conversation towards basic necessities and health-related products.  It also stimulated online purchasing over the internet.

     For services trade, it caused travel and tourism to plummet, for obvious reasons.  At the same time, however, it boosted demand for a great many online services.  Video conferencing, e-learning tools, and telemedicine became essential to people's lives.  For those reasons, the pandemic affects many aspects of our work at the WTO.

     Our members have integrated into our agenda work on customs and investment facilitation to help build the necessary infrastructure for physical and the digital trade flow.

     We are also exploring for small and medium enterprises and principles for e-commerce.  We pursue our work in these areas in the hope that trade will mitigate the effects of COVID-19, foster economic growth, and improve the standard of living in developing countries.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Well, thank you to you.  And it is the moment to drive ourself into a totally different world. 

     From WTO, which is the referee of trade to those who do trade in the largest way.  So Mr. Daniel Trujillo is the Executive Vice-President for Walmart.  And Walmart is probably the biggest chain of hypermarket stores in the world.  It is interesting to know how has COVID-19 affected your way of working? 

     In my newspaper, I saw in the headline last week saying that you are cutting the number of robots in your hypermarkets and going back to have more people in the supermarkets. 

     Basically maybe this is one of the reaction.  But what is your response actually to the current pandemic crisis?

     >> DANIEL TRUJILLO: Thank you very much.  Good morning, everyone, and thank you for the opportunity to be part of the forum with this group of selected leaders. 

     I would like to touch three key aspects.  One is the e-government deficit.  The other one is the potential that we see.  And lastly, I would like to talk about license permitting. 

     You know, COVID-19 has unmasked the huge deficit in digitalization of government service, many of which have been largely paralyzed during periods of remote work because of overreliance in paper and in person steps.

     Yet, COVID-19 has also shown that rapid acceleration of e-government is every bit as possible as it is urgent and important for us.

     You know, we are all experiencing in the private sector, we, our customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders have found ways of hugely accelerating digitalization of our own ways of work and customer proposition.  We know it can be done. 

     We are now resources in helping governments get up that curve quickly as well.  In terms of licensing and permitting, within e-government digitalization of licensing and permitting must be the highest priority right now. 

     There are three key aspects why we think that way.  First, across all governments, stimulus in the form of deficit spending in each region will be reaching its limit.  So what is most needed at this point is private sector funded shovel ready investment projects.  This is exactly what is being held up by huge COVID era delays in the licensing and permitting system, for example.

     E-government will influence corporate investment over the medium term, digitalize permits around unlocking projects that have been already approved and which are just waiting on permits before the shovels break the ground.

     Second, direct and indirect users of license permit systems include the entire public and private house market as well as corporate real estate, architecture and engineering firms and almost any business.  So, that is, any business that is seeking to grow. 

     So digitalization of license and permits helps get a critical mass of public and private sector users to adopt digital tools.  Making it an on-ramp into a massive digital economy.

     Third, and lastly, license and permit systems have historically been plagued by corruption.  Digital licensing and permitting ensures more efficient and reliable provision of public services and limits opportunities for corruption by strengthening transparency and accountability. 

     In short, digitalization of licensing and permitting must be a top priority right now for COVID-19 recovery and resiliency.  This is something that is key for both public and private governments.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: You're welcome. 

     Talking about what governments and public institutions and global institutions can do, I would like to give the floor to Mukhisa Kituyi, which is the Secretary General of UNCTD.

     And, of course, my question again, how can an ethical and efficient use of technology provide us with a solution to mitigate the emergency in the digital divide? 

     But we have had from the floor a question from Wolfgang who is asking a comment on global digital taxation, whether it would be good or bad. 

     And possibly, Mr.  Kituyi, this is something that you can comment, please.

     >> MUKHISA KITUYI: Thank you very much.  I want to thank the brilliant panelists for the refreshing ideas shared with us.

     In dealing with the ethic, the practical, the challenges for the government today, we have been trying to look at what are the intrinsic challenges that are deriving from the pandemic.  And how has the pandemic magnified challenges that already pre-existed. 

     And it has come clear and come through from the others the digital platform companies have been the main beneficiaries of the economics of the pandemic.  As you can see well, the Dow Jones Index was down 5% over the first -- over the six months between March and September this year.  JD value went up 100%.  Companies like Amazon, Apple, eBay, Microsoft and Alibaba, their businesses gained between 40 and 50% in that period. 

     So there is no doubt that the stress for some has really been a gift for many digital businesses. 

     This brings us to the next challenge, those who are not already prepared for the digital economy have been farther set back in the challenges.

     I want to share with you a recent study we did.  We sent out a survey in 23 developing countries asking businesses and government what have been the main challenges of the rising significance of digital inclusion and digital business during the pandemic. 

     50% of the respondents from the business community were saying that the high costs of broadband services which preexisted the pandemic became particularly important at the time when they have to transform more of the businesses online. 

     Secondly, that in countries where government have not had a priority for e-commerce you still have the dinosaur issues of infrastructure, policy, priorities and the absence of a clear internet framework, and clear policy and consistency on tax. 

     Now, on tax at this level is another side that has not been mentioned, which is because of the pressure for stimulus and public revenue, authorities have been major squeezes in raising taxes normally.  We are seeing growing attention to further taxing of digital businesses not just in the volume of services being offered, but the digital startups facing entry point challenges because of the desire for more public revenue.  And this is going to be a condition that is around for some time.

     But there is also another pre-existing condition which has been exacerbated.  The absence of happening between growing e-commerce potential and fiscal logistics for the movement of goods. 

     I come from East Africa where there has been significant great capacity for online purchase of goods.  Unfortunately, you will find physically because of the absence of clear protocols on cross-border movement of trucks with goods that have been electronically procured.  For example, if you go to the border between Kenya and Uganda, you'll find trucks are back 50 kilometers in the queue because of the customs.  But more importantly, a credible procedure on health protocols at the border. 

     These are non-digital challenge of logistics of a digital economy has been exacerbated by the crisis we are going through.

     Let me just come back to the question you asked specifically about taxation.  You know digital economy reports 2019, we had mentioned there are unequal relations between countries which are the drivers of digital business and countries which are only included primarily as digital consumers. 

     So the developmental challenge is how can consumers have something, whether it's service or any other form of gain beyond being consumers of a service that is now predominating the digital space.  This is very much related to the challenges of what is fair succession. 

     Unfortunately, the world has not structured these debates adequately.  It is hostage to a pressure that have affected rulemaking at the WTO and at the levels of hosted technology competition between countries which even strengthen the spirit into fracturing digital governance or internet governance issues as well.

     But we have a number of specifics with ongoing discussions how to apply the de minimus rule on the packages of digital procurement of goods, how much is that fair to countries which look at these opportunities missed to raise taxation on imports, challenges on taxation -- the value of debtor that is monetized by digital platform companies.  Should benefits go partly to the sources of that data is what is being commercialized.  And, of course, the question of price of duty on cross-border because of digital economy.

     I think this conversation has come to the point where the traditional internet are insufficient from a development perspective.  Increasingly must look to hear the voices of the most valuable trying to catch up and the most excluded in the benefits even when they are on land with broadband.  I think that is how I would respond.

     >> MODERATOR: Thanks a lot.  I mean the point you raised about digital customs.  I think it is a crucial one but depends very much on digital education.

     Again, it is the beginning and the end of the story at the same time.  So it is definitely needed, public effort to do this, but also investments. 

     And Dr. Marcelle, you are the founder and managing recommend of the Resilience Capital Venture.  Your job is to see that money gets invested in the emerging markets and to foster growth and foster a better life for everybody.

     So I was wondering again, if you can tell us how can digital technologies from the point of view help the world especially the emerging markets and the -- and the less lucky parts of the world to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic?

     >> GILLIAN MARCELLE: Thank you so much.  And I hope that you can hear me well.

     >> MODERATOR: We do.

     >> GILLIAN MARCELLE: I want to thank the other panelists who have laid out many of the structural areas very well.

     And to speak specifically to your points about investment, I want to make a couple of points. 

     First of all, I think that the COVID-19 pandemic has very clearly identified the structural differences and variations across the world --

     And so the economic crisis that has come in the wake of COVID-19 has not been equal.  And so for emerging markets and emerging countries where there was little participation in the digital economy, the prices would have exacerbated that -- those difficulties. 

     However, that decoupling of the digital economy from what is happening in the real economy is also being seen also in countries like the United States and also in Europe.  But particularly in the United States and the Secretary General of UNCTD made reference to this.  Where you had a decoupling of the very large players in the digital economy having had -- actually having had their market value increase significantly while there is considerable crisis in many other parts of the society and the economy.  And I think that that is mirrored on a global scale.

     So what we find around the world is we find that the crisis has shown up the structural imbalances across the world.  Where I think that there is room for some optimism is that we have also seen tremendous flows of investment funds, capital being allocated into ESG and responsible investment funds.

     What we have not seen, and this comes to my hope for policy recommendation coming out of this, is that we have not seen a step up in an acceleration in blended finance models.  So blended finance being not only the combination of private sector capital flows and public finance but also increasing the emphasis on other forms of capital other than financial capital.

     And so if we had that sort of approach led perhaps by the UN system and other members of the international development community, we would be able to tackle the fact that even before the COVID-19 pandemic all technologies are socially constructed and so we should not be surprised. 

     We only have to go back to the history of looking at digitalization, whether it is missing links from the ITU whether it's knowledge societies from Robin Mansell where the OTAG had a very important role to play, to understanding what have we missed in the last 20 years in not anticipating we would have these kinds of digital divides? 

     And also no one has yet mentioned that there is a gender divide.  And so the ways in which the digital divide shows up is not gender neutral.

     And so I would expect that UN women and having played such an important role 20 years ago would be involved in developing any of the proactive solutions that this group and others may come up with in terms of how do we go forward.

     Just one further point.  I'm encouraged also by seeing different forms of multi-stakeholder partnership and I'm particularly encouraged by something called the Green Economy Coalition that is looking at ways of ensuring that even the stimulus funds that have been, you know, put forward in developed countries are used well but with a view to having that done with an ethical basis and also having regard to inclusivity. 

     So I think that there is -- on one side there is crisis and there is pain.  But if we harness the intensity of this moment there is also an opportunity to learn from it and to produce some of the policy changes that have been, you know, called for, for some decades.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thanks, Dr.  Marcelle.  It appears from what you all say that the COVID-19 pandemic have been drawing in some dividing lines, increasing differences and increasing imbalances.

     So it's a good moment to ask Mr. Anderson from the IMF about these differences and about the role that technology did play and is playing during this crisis.  Especially related to the fact that now we have changed the way we are working.  We are mostly working from home.  And so there is a new relation and a new way of working. 

     So how can we be helped by technology, Dr. Anderson?

     >> ED ANDERSON: Well, first of all, thank you, Marco.  And also greetings to the other panelists. 

     As the IMF's Managing Director has said many times, quote, digitalization is the big winner of the crisis, end quote.  It is important to realize the crisis has three phases.

     One, countries had to reduce the amount of the lockdown measures.  And many are now back in this stage.  Two, they have to recover from the crisis.  And three, as they are doing so, they have to build a more resilient economy.  Technologies and, of course, the internet are playing a different role for each phase.

     For phase one, as many of my co-panelists have explained, those who have access to the internet have been less impacted thanks to e-commerce, remote working, remote education, or digital payments.

     It is clear that while digitalization was an aspiration before the crisis in many of the least developed countries, it is now a necessity to get out of this crisis and become more resilient to future shocks. 

     But instead of repeating what others have said on the benefits of technology, let me share some observations on the new digital risks and limitations that we noted.

     Technology has not helped everyone equally.  In every country from the U.S.A. to Ghana, the crisis has shown the significant negative impact of the digital divide.  Meaning those who have access to the internet compared with those who don't.  Those who can afford it, those who know how to use it, et cetera. 

     Countries now -- must now concentrate their efforts to provide connectivity to the hardest populations to reach physically, economically, or to access those who -- those with digital and financial literacy constraints.

     Second, as you know, women have been particularly impacted during the crisis, and Dr. Marcelle noted this as well, because they often have jobs that are not tele-workable.  And more often than men, they tend to take care of the children who stay at home, and especially now stay at home. 

     Countries like Togo or Pakistan, for example, have recognized this issue and have used mobile phones to prioritize the cash transfer programs to women.  This is an example of smart digital policy that makes sense economically.

     Finally, more digitalization and more internet services introduces more digital risks.  Managing digital risks cannot be an afterthought.  We the international community, public and private sector, have a responsibility to build forward a better world that is safe, robust, and sustainable.

     Cyber security comes to mind, of course, but that is not all.  We also have to prevent further digital divide, or the concentration of digital power and data will remain in the hands of a limited number of big tech companies.  Privacy also becomes more critical than ever as we produce more data in this new digital world.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Well, thanks.  We are running a little bit late on schedule, but I think this is acceptable.

     And you just said, Mr. Anderson, that the big winner of the crisis is digital.  But is it?  Because soon after you underlined the problems that we are facing right now. 

     And this is why I invite you to explore now to see what the role of the internet and the public digital policies can be in order to try to solve the problems you all have been underlining so far.

     Because things are getting better, but they are not working as well as we would expect.  We have seen how many people are not connected, how many people are at a bad line.  And even here I have a colleague who must come to the office every day because in his area the connection is bad.  And I'm talking about the northwestern part of Italy, which is supposed to be rich and happy.

     So the second session would be about this.  I invite you again to try to respect when possible the three-minute ceiling for the conversation. 

     And I will start again with Mr. Harison from the African Union.  After you heard of this, what would you ask all of the stakeholders, the informational institution to help you in order to have a better economic recovery?  Or, to put it bluntly, is there a silver bullet to help Africa?

     >> VICTOR HARISON: Thank you.  Regarding IGP areas of cooperation, I will make three points which seems to me particularly important.

     One, infrastructure.  The development of digitalization cannot fortify unless Africa address its sizeable deficit in digital infrastructure.  But you know this is a big investment. 

     Two, education.  Education systems need to be remoderate but even addition (?) programs for both basic and address the digital skills to make sure African youth are employable.  And especially for post-COVID era in which digital skills will be at the core of many occupations.

     Three, macroeconomic and physical tools.  Digital technology should be explained to macro economy and fiscal policy tools to provide a host of digital solutions for economic transformation on the continent. 

     As I mentioned earlier, a digital transformation strategy for Africa has been developed and adopted and some initiatives have been taken to harvest digital technologies and innovation to transfer Africa societies and economies and promote Africa's integration during inclusive economy growth, stimulate job creation, areas with digital divide and eradicate poverty to secure with the benefits of digital revolution for socio-economic development in this regard.

     The development of cooperation between stakeholders should be of these framework and pursue the existing initiatives.  And the framework for cooperation between stakeholders should be adding it with this continental strategy and continue the initiatives carried out.  I thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Well, thanks to you.  And we see that the African problem is relevant. 

     But also in Germany there were troubles, as in most of the European countries, in all of the European countries where travels because of the coronavirus and generally experienced a big drop in the GNP. 

     And even if Dr. Bronstrup says that in Germany there was no failure, which is something that we would expect for Germany.  On the other hand, not all went in the right direction. 

     So I was wondering, is there something high tech that you missed and what is the lesson you could draw from this very difficult month and year?

     >> DANIELA BRONSTRUP: Thank you.  Yes, and you are completely right, of course, we run into economic trouble, as I mentioned before, due to the crisis.

     And it is very difficult to estimate right now how that will go on.  But right now we are quite optimistic and this is also due to the fact that the German government acted very quickly in helping especially companies that have been affected by the crisis with the aim also to safeguard jobs, of course. 

     The German Parliament decided on an assistance package of historic proportions.  And after that because it was only the first step, we decided to invest much more in future technologies.

     Dr. Marcelle asked for that right now, and I think that is an important point to look into the future in overcoming the crisis, and that is why we will invest in future technologies.  That is true for green technologies, but also for digital technologies like, for example, investments in artificial intelligence in a competitive European AI network in the construction of two computers in Germany, investments in the 5G network investment in future communication technologies, but also in the automation and public administration. 

     You mentioned that before that is very important for the citizens about public services digitalized.  That is a view that we really share.

     So we are now confident that the program will help Germany to emerge from the crisis with renewed strength, but we will have to do more, of course.  Thanks.

     >> MODERATOR: Thanks, And Danka.  Of course, heavy investments can be a right solution, but still sometimes you got to know, and you got to have the right know-how in order to know where you've got to put the money.  Because if you just put money in the wrong project, the effect will be non-existing, if not negative.

     So again, Armida Alisjahbana in Asia-Pacific and we have been discussing investments in projects.

     Could you share with us some of the initiatives that you planned and organized in order to have a contribution to the digital transformation of the economic sectors?  I mean what was your -- we have seen what Germany did, and what was your action?

     >> ARMIDA SALSIAH ALISJAHBANA:  Yes, thank you very much for the question. 

     On the specific maybe initiative that ESCAP has been supporting our member states and stakeholders in our region I can share a few of these.

     For example, one, at the request of the Pacific island countries, and as we know that the Pacific is one of the part of the region in Asia-Pacific that are in terms of accessibility and internet and so on is still under investment.

     Therefore, ESCAP undertook an in-depth study that recommended the establishment of the so-called shared internet exchange point between three countries.  In this case, Fiji, Samoa, and New Zealand.  And this will, of course, dramatically improve internet accessibility, not only accessibility but quality across the countries.  And hopefully this initiative can be scaled up to other countries in that part of the region.

     Second example is the cross-border paperless trade facilitation.  This is an agreement in member States in Asia-Pacific which will enter into force in early 2021.  The idea is how to have a trade but through digital trade.  So all of the documentation and so on is being fully digitalized.

     Therefore, there will be quite significant reduction in terms of trade costs around let's say 10 to 30% of the existing transaction costs.  Therefore this will further facilitate the trade.

     And another example, the third example is scaling up digitalization as well as some concrete efforts along the Asian highway network.  So the Asia-Pacific -- the Asian highway network, this is in terms of transport connectivity.  But then of course, because of this COVID-19 pandemic then how, yeah, we can ensure facilitate the uninterrupted cross-border free transport movement at a part is how to digitalize. 

     These are examples that we at ESCAP are working with Member State and support them especially in times of the COVID-19 how to beat the socio-economic impact as well as how to facilitate several of like the cross-border trade and so on to be uninterrupted.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Well, thank you, Secretary.  And this is the kind of solutions that we have been looking for countries that seem to be far away like Fiji, but they still deserve as all of the countries and the effort must be done.

     The fourth industrial revolution, which we are living now, it has been in a way contaminated by COVID-19.  And that drives us to the necessity of finding solutions for a very important problem, which is the managing of data.  The modern economy is built on data and more and more and more datas are flowing around the world.

     So, Mr. Yi, you are the Deputy Director General of the WTO, the trade organization.  I wonder whether you can help us in understanding how can we manage all of this data and how can we protect them? 

     Because I think the possibility to have a free flow of data is very helpful for the world economy.  But on the other hand, the protection of privacy and the rights of the citizens and of the companies is capital.  So is there any advice or any plan you are working with that you can share with us?  Thank you.

     >> YI XIAOZHUN: Thank you very much, Marco, for this question. 

     The discussions at the WTO since the start of the health crisis have helped governments better understand what is at stake in the global digital economy and movement of data. 

     In this respect, our e-commerce talks have probably had the most visibility.  The great increase in online transactions has contributed to resilience of supply chains and could offer future growth opportunities, particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises.

     Our members are deeply involved in talks on enabling e-trade principles including data management and the cyber security, these kind of principles. 

     We have also worked towards solutions through our own aid for trade mechanism which involves many stakeholders and in partnership with, for example, the e-trade for all initiative. 

     Indeed, our e-commerce talks gained new urgency due to the pandemic.  We have conducted a dialogue with the private sector and NGOs such as consumer associations and have sponsored seminars and the workshops on topics ranging from trade related data governance to e-health and think tank. 

     The trend with the pandemic not only demonstrated the importance of economic sustainability and recovery measures, but also cast a harsher shine, light on the challenges.  It became clear that underserved populations and the developing countries needed more and better connectivity.

     So we have a framework covering global supply of communication services, but it will also require moving ahead hand in hand with many other institutions and stakeholders.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Well, thanks a lot.  We have been discussing the role of the public administration, and it appears that most of the panelists are a little bit aware of the fact that things are not going as they should. 

     So, Mr. Trujillo, you are private, you are the market.  And so you made a case for digitalization of licensing and permitting for better public and private governance and that would help the resiliency towards the COVID pandemic.

     And but how can this be done?  How do you see it from your own experience, from the experience of your very large company?

     >> DANIEL TRUJILLO: Thank you for your question.  The first point would be to keep it simple.

     One of the greatest impairments for governmental adoption I would say has been that it is complex and costly.

     And that means having some faith that if you do core digitalization work it realigns incentives and capabilities in a way that makes additional improvements easier.  So that would be number one.

     Secondly, heads of state of the western hemisphere committed at the last Summit of the Americas to work on best practices and asked for coordination.  So we in the Americas business dialogue have been part of a multilateral process coordinated by the Organization of American States which has set down five best practices. 

     Number one is all roles and fees are online.  Number two is pay and renew online as well.  Number three, digital single window for application processing and extended monitoring of progress.  Number four, impact mediation requests must be disclosed online to be binding.  And, finally, number five, training and certification of keepers in regarding how to do the best practices.

     The last point that I would like to make what is called trust in business initiative of the OECD.  We have a set of best practices certifying both the agencies that successfully implement and professionals who are trained in the best practices creates a virtual circle, both in hiring and retention of well-trained people and giving an incentive to push agencies to be certified.  Thank you for the opportunity.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Trujillo.  The market is important.  And the market in some regions, especially the small businesses are at risk right now.

     Mr. Kituyi, watching the problem from the point of view of UNCTD, I would be happy to ask you which are the real policy areas that require cooperation, that require cooperation of all the stakeholders? 

     But before that, something you said before, and you said that you need the internet and the digital development to help foster trade and commerce.  But I was wondering whether this could harm the small businesses and the small shops in the African countries.

     It is definitely an opportunity, but maybe it is also a risk.  What do you think about it?

     >> MUKHISA KITUYI: Thank you very much.  Of course, the nature of trade is always determined by what is the quality of products being traded.  And of course, with the products, particularly those that are also competing with local produce, then efficiency and arrival of digitally procured goods can put pressure on locally produced goods. 

     But many times what we see is there is part of that is a challenge.  In fact, our study shows that many startup internet trending companies, logistics companies, find it much easier to facilitate imports than exports for developing countries.

     I suppose part of that is the fact that there is the fear of rejected return goods, which is mitigating how much you introduce new products for developing countries in more sophisticated markets.  But be that as it may, I think the main challenges are the following: Many small and medium enterprises in the developing world have been finding themselves niches and opportunities in global supply networks and global value chains into which they provide a service or a product.

     And so where we are, what should we directly concerned is that in the days of the pandemic it is basically an inflection point in what is already happening in the world.  Combination of technology, economic merchandising have seen immediate disruption of global supply networks with most being network domestically or in shorter regional context.

     And that means that as the trends in investment become shorter distance geographically, and as the content of investment, opportunities for small businesses and policy makers in developing countries have to realign to that new reality. 

     Looking more for niches in more regional supply networks and more domestic markets than in the sense of single profit-seeking long distance.  That is one important area that has to be appreciated.

     The other area.  It is not possible to grow a regime of consumer protection and logistics facilitation without international cooperation.

     There is need for strengthening protection of consumers, particularly where people have been taking advantage of the strain of the urgency of the pandemic period to charge profits on the PPE requirements or urgent products that is needed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

     And I think this is an area of cooperation.  Similarly, we need enhanced international cooperation to mitigate the very, very extreme disruptions of global hospitality and related services.  And whichever components can be digitalized, assurance of quality of standard of hospitality taking care of the pandemic are going to be important in the recovery of the hospitality industry and related services.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you, Secretary General.

     I just call your attention to a written question we have had from the floor on the role of women in Sierra Leone which we cannot take now, but I would ask if you can answer it on the floor later after this session ends.  That would be more than welcome.

     Thank you.  And so we have rules, we are asking for projects.  And Dr. Marcelle, again, to have a better and more fluid, more efficient flows of capital, which kind of policy recommendations would you suggest, would you ask for in order to step forward and give the world a better pattern of growth?

     >> GILLIAN MARCELLE: Thank you for that question. 

     In a sense, what must happen is that policy and policy formulation has to catch up with what is actually happening in the world. 

     We have had for at least two decades a situation where the geography of innovation has in fact changed, but policy recommendations and policy frameworks still treat the structure of innovation and the structure of finance in a very outdated fashion. 

     And so we should be updating our frameworks and mind sets vis-a-vis knowledge flows.  We should be thinking about multipool geographies rather than a single technology frontier.  We should be focusing on bidirectional flows of knowledge as opposed to old fashioned technology transfer mindsets.

     To illustrate, I want to give examples of successful companies that have emerged during the pandemic period.  So You have companies such as Dyotropic in Senegal which is coming up with a very affordable testing kit.  You have Tafari Capital and Technologies in South Africa that has developed a COVID-tracing app both for Lesotho and South Africa.

     You have Zunica that has come up with the digital currencies in the Caribbean.  You have a number of examples of small venture companies as well as large companies that have actually pivoted and used this inflection point beneficially. 

     And I also want to make a point where I think this is a real role for policy intervention vis-a-vis the investment flows.  I mentioned before that in the pandemic you have had a tremendous increase in responsible investing.  Some 275% increase.  So that you have $7.1 billion of investments which are viewed as having a responsible investing strategy.

     But that is still only less than 5% of all investment flows.  And that's --

     >> MODERATOR: Sorry.  Okay.  Thank you, Dr. Marcelle.  And again, we are nearly on schedule. 

     Dr. Anderson, IMF.  I mean we have heard a lot of interesting suggestions, and I mean you are such a big stakeholder.  And I am asking you how should stakeholders rethink their cooperation if they have to do it, as it seems, around the internet governance for a better economy recovery?  I mean what should we do now different to make it better?

     >> ED ANDERSON: It is clear that the role and the impact but also the expectations of digitalization from governments and citizens alike compared to pre-COVID have changed significantly.  In fact, the situation is so different, it's probably fair to talk about a digitalization 2.0 era. 

     The question becomes how do we get the best of digitalization 2.0?  And instead of watching digitalization develop unequally, as we saw with version 1.0, which was the pre-COVID version, can the international community shape its trajectory and not let a crisis go to waste?

     At the IMF, we're seeing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to, quote, build forward better, end quote, a world that is fairer, greener and smarter.  And the internet and technology play a central role to build this better world.

     For example, a fairer world is one where women who have been more impacted than men during the crisis, as I said before, have equal access to the internet.  Did you know that in the last seven years gender digital divide has become worse, not better, for the least developed countries. 

     So Governments and the international community must come together to look at how we can empower women with connectivity and digital finance in particular.  Programs in Togo, for example, have targeted mobile cash transfers to women.  Tanzania and Zambia have experimented with free phones to the poorest women with great results.  It just makes economic sense. 

     We know that expanding internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa by 10% of the population could produce real per capita GDP growth by as much as four percentage points. 

     Finally -- and I'll conclude with this -- more than ever, stakeholders must address the issue of the 46% of the globe that still doesn't have access to the internet.  And the private sector will be instrumental in this post-COVID world.

     Take, for example, the organizations that are building and deploying low orbital satellites, companies like SpaceX.  In less than two years, they will cover every inch of the earth with high bandwidth internet, assuming electricity is available. 

     And there is another -- and that is another priority for digitalization 2.0, which is the availability of electricity.  These low orbit satellites could leapfrog millions out of poverty in just a few years.  It could be a game changer, but it has to be done in coordination with the public sector and international organizations.  And it has to be done in a manner that is fair, smart, and green.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Dr. Anderson.  And I mean it is great, we are only two minutes out of schedule, which is a great performance for this governance forum. 

     So I take the chance to give back the floor to each one panelist for, let's say, a voluntary commitment on behalf of their own individual or institution.  Just to say in less than one minute, last word from the day which, of course, is going to be different from the one you are going to pronounce tomorrow, but this is the game we are playing. 

     So let's start again from the beginning in less than one minute, Mr. Harison, African Union, how do you feel?  Tell us.

     >> VICTOR HARISON: Thank you. For Africa, the cooperation between government, private sector, and partners is crucial.  So I continue to mobilize them to accelerate the implementation of digital transformation strategy for Africa.  I thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Accelerate the implementation. Yes, we shall. 

     Dr.  Bronstrup, Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs, what is your take?  Mic on?  Yes, you are.

     >> DANIELA BRONSTRUP: Can you hear me?

     >> MODERATOR: Yes, of course.

     >> DANIELA BRONSTRUP: Sorry for that.  I couldn't hear you for a moment so I'm not sure if I got the right question. 

     But maybe as my final point I would like to say how honored Germany was hosting the IGF last year, and that we are still very much committed in advancing the progress that we are making in the international community, bringing forward all of the international discussions and bringing forward the IGF, we have been the facilitator and the process of recommendations 5 A and B.  We are still very much in favor of bringing into the discussion parliamentarians so the decision makers all over the world. 

     There was a session yesterday where all parliamentarians made the offer to coordinate with parliamentarians all over the world to bring them together in discussions in the IGF.  And I would like to underline that and thank you all very much for the discussion.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you to you, Dr.  Bronstrup.  And thank you to your government. 

     Under Secretary of ESCAP, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, what is your final word for today?

     >> ARMIDA SALSIAH ALISJAHBANA:  Accelerate and scale up the implementation of the Asia-Pacific superhighway initiative, through, one, support Member States to enable government policy for accelerated digitalization. 

     Second, to promote women's economic empowerment by increasing access to finance and digital technologies, especially those in LDCs, LLDs and SIDs.  Third, to encourage young social innovators and entrepreneurs to leverage technologies.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you.  Mr. Yi, WTO, World Trade Organization, the floor is yours.

     >> YI XIAOZHUN Thank you.  I think from our previous experiences, we can envision new and critical digital economy solutions.

     It is also clear that global communications networks have demonstrated their role in the delivery of essential services and outreach to less connected communities. 

     We are convinced that trade rules and principles are not an obstacle but are part of the solution.  WTO can offer a path toward greater predictability, interoperability, trust, and lower costs for both businesses and consumers. 

     I can only underscore the need for greater collaboration to facilitate cross-border movement of goods and services and level the playing field for the developing countries and the small and the medium enterprises.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: A level playing field is definitely needed. 

     Mr. Trujillo, Walmart, the floor is yours.

     >> DANIEL TRUJILLO: Thank you.  I would like to mention two things. 

     The first one, we have a commitment, we have already signed on the dotted line to commit to a public-private multi-lateral partnership that provides technical assistance and financial resources to governments that wish to implement the digital licensing permit best practices.  I invite governments to make their interest known, that would be number one. 

     As well I am proud to be a founding corporate member of the trust in business initiative of the OECD.  And we have made a strong commitment to pair private sector compliance best practices with these public governance reforms that I've described before.  Thank you very much.

     >> MODERATOR: Well, thanks to you.  And Mr. Kituyi, back to you.

     >> MUKHISA KITUYI: Thank you very much. 

     I very much want to associate myself with the efforts that we confined through dialogue.  Building sustainability because of shared benefit.  The crisis today is because of the import benefits from the globalization.

     I think that should be a lesson as we enter the digital era that a fair distribution of the benefits, clear development of competition policy that addresses questions of gobbling up of businesses by media platform companies.  Better distribution of the digital global economy are important. 

     But I think going forward we must also do more every day best assessment of the impact of digital economy on gender, vulnerable groups and women groups in transition of societies, what has happened and with can be done better. 

     Evidence based affirmative action is necessary to make us generally say that we are sharing a vision for world opportunities.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you.  And again, Dr. Marcelle, your floor.

     >> GILLIAN MARCELLE: Thank you so much.  And thanks to the IGF for the invitation. 

     I want to congratulate you on setting up a forum where we can actually continue to advocate for systems and mindsets that allow us to think about the ways in which we can mobilize capital, including financial capital, to ensure that we have sustainable human development that tackles intersectional areas of social injustice as well as mobilizes financial investments for digital infrastructures and also for digital societies.

     And so my commitment is to continue to be involved in the design of those strategies as well as advocating for those ways of conducting ourselves in the international community.  Thank you so much.

     >> MODERATOR: Thanks a lot.  Mr. Anderson, IMF.

     >> ED ANDERSON: So again, thank you, Marco.  And thank you, IGF. 

     We have now entered the era of internet of value where payments and moneys are exchanged almost as easily as information. 

     Some countries are accelerating the adoption of digital moneys.  For example, with CBDC, Central Bank Digital Currencies.  But as I said before, not all countries have the same access to the internet and digital skills, so we are facing the risk of vulcanization not only of the internet, but of the internet of value. 

     We are working with other, the BIS, CPMI, the FSB, the WB, and we're committed to making cross-border digital payments as equitable and safe and as green as possible.  Once again, thank you, and thank you to the IGF.

     >> MODERATOR: Well, thanks everybody.  I mean we made a sort of miracle.  We are a little bit ahead of schedule. 

     So I will take the three minutes that remain or even less to sum it up. 

     I mean it has been an interesting panel here.  And I mean on the occasion of the 16th Annual IGF, the Internet Governance Forum, organized by the UN. 

     And we are living a very painful and dangerous crisis, but what we used to say is that we should never waste a good crisis or a bad crisis in order to make ourself and our economy better places.

     So we have the impression that the digital is something that will save us.  Which is true, but it is not completely true because it is not the only solution. 

     We must think big and wide and look beyond the walls.  And we shall invest in digitalization from what you said, but at the same time, we must remind that the world is made of people, which is something that Dr. Marcelle was clearly saying before.  Therefore, digital should be aimed at education.  And digital should be aimed at fostering investments and make them arrive in the right place. 

     And there is a need, as was underlined by the speaker from Walmart and among the other speakers as well, including Mr. Kituyi, there is a need of e-government working in a better way, which means providing digital services in the most efficient and resilient way in order to be made available to everybody.

     There is a problem of taxation as well.  Taxation should be good to redistribute income and welfare itself, but should not be, let's say, strangling those who are smaller. 

     They should be able to gain -- (audio disruption).  I would keep it quick and be fast and be more pragmatical than political.  You all are a part of the world, you are all engaging your lives to make the world a better place.

     Be more pragmatical and more efficient than political, and maybe we will get out of it a better solution, in a better situation as we hope right now.

     So from northwestern Italy in my office here at La Stampa, I thank all the participants for being here today. 

     I won't name them again, now you are great friends, and you can continue in admitting yourself in the forthcoming occasions. 

     And I thank the IGF for this opportunity for me to share this very relevant and important meeting.  And I wish you all the best for this pandemic.  It is not going to be easy, but I think that with a little bit of effort, a little bit of wisdom, and a little bit of work we will get out of it safe and soundly. 

     So again, see you in the new occasion.  All the best.  Thanks, everybody.  And thanks to those who have been listening to us.  This is the end.  Go home and be happy.


Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 411