G20 Ministers responsible for the digital economy met in Dusseldorf, Germany last week for a ministerial conference. They have issued a declaration on ‘Shaping Digitalisation for an Interconnected World’, laying out priorities and a roadmap for policies.
In 2016, in Hangzhou, G20 leaders proposed to ‘collectively leverage the opportunities and address challenges of an increasingly digital world, in order to enable a thriving and dynamic digital economy that drives inclusive global growth and benefits all.
A G20 Task Force on the digital economy was established in Hangzhou. Factoring in potential synergies with other G20 work-streams, the Task Force has taken forward the G20 Blueprint on Innovative Growth, ensuring continuity and consistency with the G20 Digital Economy development and Cooperation Initiative and the G20 New Industrial Revolution Action Plan. The first digital ministerial process has been set up under the current German G20 Presidency.
The declaration talks about the need for greater availability of affordable broadband connectivity, improved digital skills, and literacy, greater digital entrepreneurship and broader adoption of digital technologies and services for the digital economy to contribute to achieving the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The document recognises the need to intensify efforts to bridge the digital divide across income, age, geography, and gender, the critical importance of private sector and enterprises in the digital economy as well as the importance of enabling transparent legal, regulatory and policy environments, and fostering open, competitive markets.
Another core theme is support for MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) which might be constrained by their scale in adoption of digital technologies. MSMEs benefitting from the digital revolution is crucial for inclusive growth.
The declaration includes three annex papers on ‘A Roadmap for Digitalisation: Policies for a Digital Future’, ‘Digital skills in vocational education and training’ and ‘G20 Priorities on Digital Trade’. Collaboration between the countries and with all stakeholders, including academia and private sector and sharing of best practices forms a key part of all three papers.
A Roadmap for Digitalisation: Policies for a Digital Future
The Roadmap states that the G20 Ministers intend to share information and experiences to support improving access, adoption and effective use of digital technologies, including emerging technologies.
They also hope to learn from each other about policy approaches and implementation challenges and outcomes of digital strategies. The Minister also intend to promote a competitive environment and pro-investment policies to stimulate investment in digital infrastructure. Public private partnerships, commercial equity investment funds and social funds could be some of the avenues.
They will discuss innovative digital economy business models and frameworks as enablers for the sharing economy, workforce digitalisation and financial inclusion.
The G20 countries will collaborate on digitalisation of production, smart cities, smart mobility, IT security and smart farming.
Another area of focus is establishing centres of excellence, digital hubs for Start-ups, and clusters to inform and support MSMEs.
The Ministers will explore how to build trust and encourage the use of risk-based technical standards, guidelines and best practices to identify assess and manage security risks by both the public and private sectors, especially for MSMEs.
Digital inclusion is another key aspect of the roadmap. This includes bridging the digital gender divide. Around 250 million fewer women than men are online today. Among the initiatives being taken to eliminate this disparity are sharing national practices on efforts to bridge the digital gender divide, developing digital financial services that are accessible and appropriate for women, encouraging the review of existing digital strategies to ensure they incorporate a gender perspective, increasing female participation in STEM education and employment and developing metrics that capture gender disaggregated data where possible.
Digital skills in vocational education and training
The public and private sector, academia and social partners will be encouraged to design apprenticeship programmes, which promote the acquisition of digital skills.
Schools have to be provied with the appropriate infrastructure, administrative framework and necessary resources to successfully teach digitals skills and competencies . This has to go hand-in-hand with improving teachers’ and trainers’ qualifications through continuous education and utilising digital and e-learning technologies and accessible ICTs to improve learning outcomes of disadvantaged or underrepresented groups.
Dialogue has to be strengthened between enterprises, start-ups, vocational schools, local authorities, training providers, social partners and other relevant actors. This could enable the development of training opportunities by setting up regional or sector-specific clusters. This would be especially helpful for MSMEs, which may not have adequate resources to develop digital training programs.
G20 Priorities on Digital Trade
The key item mentioned under this is the challenges regarding definition and scope of Digital Trade, the collection of basic and new sources of reliable data, appropriate accounting frameworks, and the classification of certain transactions as trade in goods or services or both.
The declaration states that G20 Members support further progress on this work by national statistical agencies and International Organizations on making proposals to responsible authorities for a common understanding of Digital Trade that is broad enough to cover existing approaches, and flexible enough to take into account on-going changes and evolution in technology, ways of providing goods and services, and regulatory classifications.