Making digital transformation work: Digital transformation for development

11 Mar 2019 12:15h - 13:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the OECD Going Digital Summit]

The workshop was moderated by Mr Jorge Moreira da Silva (Director for Development Co-operation, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Silva announced that the session will be resourceful and challenging when it comes to addressing the challenges of digitalisation and its implications on development.

Ms Katherine Getao (Chief Executive Officer of the Information, Communications and Technology

Authority, Kenya) looked at the most important things that policymakers can do in order to make digital information more accessible to all citizens. In the case of mobile money, there have been no policies to help its development. Governments ‘are not and do not need to be in control of a fast-changing and fast-developing world’. She noted that the agenda for developing and developed countries will not be the same, and that it is important to know what data is being used for, whether its for political and commercial advantages, or towards social benefits and the good of people. She added that privacy concepts are not the same across the world and concluded by saying that the future should focus more on artistic talent.

Mr Amandeep Singh Gill (Executive Secretary, UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation) named the following priority areas of the Panel:

  • Inclusiveness (in social and cultural dimension, connectivity, and access)

  • Governance (in all its aspects starting with reinforcing trust, governance through shared values, and principles)

  • Concrete mechanisms for different stakeholders for working together

  • Data (in the area of health, sustainability, for generating public goods of data)

  • Reinforcing safety and security (not only cybersecurity but also AI applications)

  • Building an inclusive digital economy

Ms Nancy Sundberg (Senior Programme Officer, Telecommunication Development Bureau) ITU, noted that while 50% of the population is online, 50% are ‘totally out of the online world’. She reminded that the Internet is the greatest public library the world has ever seen. The moral imperative is to ensure all people enjoy equal access to all opportunities and this means access to ICTs. Connecting the remaining 50% will be possible only through collaboration and co-operation., which will benefit operators and service providers by opening new markets. However, they need to make sure people use and trust networks to share their talent there. The ultimate goal must be putting people in the centre of the conversation.

Mr Lan Xue (Tsinghua University, P.R., China) pointed out three main challenges important to be addressed:

  1. Consistent support for education and knowledge foundation, as a critical foundation especially for developing countries.

  2. Ways to balance the role of governments in regulating the market, as well as in fostering the market at the same time. In the case of developing counties the market is usually non-existent, therefore it needs to first be fostered in order to be regulated.

  3. Innovative ecosystem, such are universities and research institutions. In China, the government has promoted massive innovation and massive entrepreneurship, which is also important to protect intellectual properties.

Ms Nathalie Munyampenda (Managing Director, Next Einstein Forum) said that the Research and Development (R&D) Gaps in Africa are not addressed and it will lead to more problems. Africa is ‘a nice testing bed for different initiatives trying to end poverty’. She thinks that there is no talk about the ecosystem which is needed to the large-scale innovation. ‘Today we see many start-ups with a large scare of disruption which is good, but they are disconnected from the system.’ The private sector and governments have to collaborate with clear objectives and to make sure that digital transformation is led by people who have people in mind.

Towards the end of the panel, Silva asked the panel two questions:

  1. What is the role of the donors and development co-operation to better align with mentioned challenges?

Xue answered that fostering local capabilities can be the key. It helps in addressing policy challenges in those countries.

Gill noted the importance to avoid a top-down approach to developing technologies as they do not have long-term results. He also invited avoiding sending messages of ‘hype and fear” about job losses. Donors need to focus on technology enabling public goods. Enlarging partnerships will result in scaling.

Munyampenda said that governments need to think in long terms about the best financial situation for their citizens. It is important to involve citizens in digital training, such as smart classrooms. The main concern for children in Africa is to learn through collective learning. In her opinion, both policy advice and funding are equally important.

Sundberg noted that ITU is trying to help look at policies and measures needed to attract investments. It includes developing skills of all members, operators, private sector, and government representatives because they also need to understand changes that tech is bringing. It is important is to have infrastructure and networks in order to strive.

  1. How can digital technologies be positively used for labour market policies (from informal to formal employment)?

Getao noted that young people are no longer being socialised and prepared for a single carrier rather than for the possibility to change carriers and gain new skills in life.


By Aida Mahmutović