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6th Economic Experts Roundtable “COVID-19 and the Digital Economy"


COVID-19 and the Digital Economy​

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to revised growth forecasts for global economy. Every aspect of our lives has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Its impact on economic activity is extremely broad: from dramatically diminished consumer discretionary spending to a freeze on business activities including capital budgets, hiring, and reduction of everything but essential operational expenses. Even so, we are witnessing that in the current conditions some businesses may become more critical to our lives and could face an increase in demand, such as the case of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry.

During the global pandemic, digital technologies have become a critical enabler of connectivity facilitating continuity of our regular lives and connecting people more than ever before. As cities and countries have been asking the population to stay at home, more people have turned to their computers and smartphones as a lifeline and tools to substitute their in-person activities online. Some of the habits may continue in the ‘new normal’ (or at least until a long-term solution to the current challenges, such as a vaccine, is found). Hence, the importance of the reliable digital infrastructure to our lives has become increasingly important, and certain aspects of ICTs are benefitting from health concerns in a period of self-isolation, such as increased ICT opportunities from telework, telemedicine, food delivery and logistics, online and contactless payments, remote learning and entertainment.

In line with this, ITU organized this 6th Economic Experts Roundtable to discuss the latest research and analysis on the following topics:
  1. COVID-19 economic impact on the digital infrastructure as a crucial enabler for the changing economy and society:  the potential impact on network capital spending, potential effects on 5G and ultrabroadband roll-out, and the role of public spending in compensating for potential capital shortfalls
  2. The contribution of digital infrastructure to social and economic resilience facing the pandemic: is digital infrastructure is a key contributor to social and economic resilience, are developing economies less prepared to face the consequences of the pandemic? Furthermore, with high rate of digital divide in developing countries, is the obligated reliance on ICT reinforcing social exclusion and inequality?
Since being launched at the ITU Telecom World in 2015, the Economic Experts Roundtables have brought together a wide cross selection of ICT economic and industry experts, who exchange views on the latest trends and issues related to the development of telecommunication/ICTs, focusing on notable economic and financial aspects.

Building on the previous discussions, the findings and conclusions of this 2020 Economic Experts Roundtable were a concise and actionable report for policy makers, regulators and other industry decision makers. The main outpus from the Roundtable were consolidated on the ITU Outcome Report on Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Infrastructure by the rapporteur Dr Raul Katz, Director of Business Strategy Research - Columbia Institute for Tele-Information. ​

Opening remarks:

Mr Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, ITU
Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, BDT, ITU

Panel 1: Impact of COVID-19 on the digital infrastructure and digital economy

Moderator: Mr Tomas Lamanauskas, Special Advisor, Crisis Strategy, ITU

    • Ms Mayssaa Issa, Head - Research and Intelligence Practice (Delta Partners Group)
    • Dr Matt Yardley, Managing Partner (Analysys Mason)
    • Mr German Cufre, Global Head - Telecommunications, Media and Technology (International Finance Corp.)
    • Mr Shaun Collins, CEO (CCS Insight)
    • Mr Steve Brazier, President and CEO (Canalys)
    • Mr Paul Lam, Strategy Officer - Digital & Technology (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank)
Panel 2: The role of digital infrastructure in increasing social and economic resilience in the face of COVID-19

Moderator:  Mr Catalin Marinescu, Head, Strategy & Planning Division, ITU

    • Dr Tim Kelly, Lead Digital Development Specialist (World Bank)
    • Dr Alison Gillwald, Executive Director (Research ICT Africa)
    • Ms Alexandra Rehak, Chief Analyst (OMDIA)
    • Ms Audrey Plonk, Head - Digital Economy Division (OECD)
    • Dr Rohan Samarajiva, Chairman (LIRNE Asia)
    • Mr Guy Zibi, Managing Director (Xalam Analytics)
    • Dr Jonathan Woetzel, Director (McKinsey Global Institute)