Strategies for digital transformation

11 Mar 2019 09:45h - 10:45h

Event report

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

The session was introduced and moderated by Ms Ulrik Knudsen (Deputy Secretary-General, OECD). It focused on the need for comprehensive strategies for digital transformation, exploring national experiences in developing those strategies, and how the OECD can help in the process.

Mr John Knubley (Deputy Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Canada) talked about the revision and implementation of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Agenda. He explained that the agenda was not updated since 1999, when it focused on taxation and measurement issues. With the advent of digital revolution, Canada saw an opportunity to be a world leader in the digital economy and based its revision of the agenda in order to meet the challenges posed by new technology. It established specific programmes supporting different typologies of firms in different ways to maximise results, improving partnership with the industry, as well as implementing inclusion of women, the disabled, and indigenous people. The fours pillars of the strategy are focused on: people and skills required in the digital age, science and technology, the creation of a startup ecosystem, and finally, on programme simplification. With regard to the science and technology pillar, an important remark was on Canada’s investments in research on artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computers. Finally, Canada is also trying to tackle issues on data protection with the creation of more effective capacity building measures to address the privacy and trust issues.

Mr László György (Vice Minister and Minister of State for Economic Strategy and Regulation, Ministry for Innovation and Technology, Hungary) talked about the Hungarian experience highlighting that the country has a strong and penetrating infrastructure in terms of 4G networks and Internet access. Nonetheless, the use of such technologies is not maximised due to low digitalisation in sectors. This is the reason behind the establishment of  the Ministry for Innovation and Technology, which pushes for the implementation of programmes focused on industry 4.0 solutions, 5G analysis and experimentation, AI, and the creation of a start-up ecosystem. Moreover, an important initiative put in place is represented by the creation of factories of excellence, meant to provide resources and advice at the micro level of businesses affected by the technological revolution, especially due to the fact that the country has one of the most intense use of robotics in its industry.

Mr Richard Raši (Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Information, Slovak Republic) addressed the topic arguing that governments should be reshaped to meet the digital age. Their model should be more agile and implement the use of such technologies in decision-making processes (i.e. the use of big data in decision-making processes).  Moreover, a start-up culture should be promoted. The national strategy focused on embracing the digital transformation implementing a competitive economy, a more effective public administration, and promoting science and research, as well as the application of new technologies in digital

The session was moderated by Ms Gabriela Ramos (Chief of Staff and G20 Sherpa, OECD), who introduced the focus of the session: the participation of business (BIAC), trade unions (TUC), civil society (CSISAC), and the Internet technical community (ITAC) in formulating inputs to the OECD’s Going Digital work, including future OECD work. Each panellist represented one stakeholder group reflecting the complexity and diversity of the new digital landscape.

Mr Russel Mills (Secretary-General, Business at OECD [BIAC]) argued that future business models are based on intangible values and therefore, it will be crucial to focus on restoring trust and values in businesses, as well as the crucial need to engage with society. He explained that new technologies can create unprecedented opportunities. There is a need to balance the narrative of challenges with the opportunities that technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) can create in the health sector, for instance.

Mr Paul Nowak (Deputy General Secretary, Trade Union Congress [TUC], UK) talked on behalf of the TUC highlighting three important elements in the engagement with trade unions. First, workers do not just need to share their voice, but need to feel as part of the decision-making process; they need to feel that their perspective is actually taken into consideration. Second, there is a need to think beyond skills, talk about employment and salary security as well as supporting workers beyond the entry to the labour market. Third, there is a need to answer the question of who is going to benefit from the digital dividend. Nowak concluded his comments with an open question: Is the digital transformation reinforcing existing inequalities or will it improve the lives of workers and individuals?

Mr Marc Rotenberg (President, Electronic Privacy Information Center [EPIC] and Steering Committee, [CSISAC]) followed up on the need to restore trust. He focused on the topic of privacy, highlighting that on the frontline of innovation there is the need to safeguard privacy without hampering delivery of services. In addition to that, he argued that transparency and accountability are two additional values that should be promoted and should be at the heart of technological transformation. He concluded by saying economic growth should be addressed with human value in mind.

Ms Jane Coffin (Senior Adviser to the CEO, Connectivity & Infrastructure, Internet Society [ISOC]) built on the issue of trust highlighting that the technical community is working on making the infrastructures are based on trust and foster it. She stressed the need for implementing better access to new technologies, improving technical security, as well as the crucial need to analyse the consolidation and concentration that takes place in the digital ecosystem. She concluded by arguing that a collaborative approach is indispensable in tackling the challenges of the digital age.


By Stefania Grottola