ITU’s COVID-19 response: Here’s what I told G20 Digital Economy Ministers today
Today, the G20 Ministers responsible for the digital economy convened virtually to coordinate their collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was honored to represent ITU at this meeting, building on the commitment to leveraging digital technologies made at the G20 Leaders’ Extraordinary Summit on March 26.
I commended the Ministers for highlighting in their statement the importance of communication infrastructure and network connectivity for all, including those in underserved areas, and for pledging to work together with private sector and business entities to maximize the delivery of ICT services.
I emphasized the critical role played by big data and other emerging technologies like artificial intelligence in the fight against COVID-19.
That’s why ITU supports the G20 Digital Economy Ministers in their commitment to sharing information in a secure manner and encouraging the research and development of digital technologies for health. And at a time when too many people and businesses are reeling from this crisis, I reaffirmed our support for business resilience and the promotion of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
ITU’s response to COVID-19
I informed the Ministers about ITU’s response to COVID-19, from our new REG4COVID platform to the AI for Good Webinar series to our common projects with sister UN agencies, including our work with UNESCO on e-learning, with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF on health messaging, and with the International Labor Organization (ILO) on digital skills for youth, starting with young people in Africa.
I told the Ministers that the industry has highly appreciated the support of public authorities during this crisis and are willing to take on more challenges, but that they also count on their support and expect more favorable investment environments and more flexibility to use limited resources, including spectrum resources.
A unique opportunity
I concluded by reminding the Ministers of the tragic human toll caused by COVID-19, but also of the unique opportunity we are presented with to speed up the development of digital society. Having a new strategy for information and communication technology at the national and global level has now become more necessary than ever.
As half of the world’s population is still not connected to the Internet, we all have a responsibility to ensure that the digital infrastructure, services and applications are beneficial to all so that we leave no one behind.
I am confident that the message sent today by the Ministers from G20 countries will play a historic role in the fight against COVID-19 and the role of digital technologies in the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. ITU will march forward together with G20 Members into our digital future.