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Business leaders call on G20 to drive affordable and responsible tech

A new report from the Business Twenty has urged G20 members to use digitisation to support economic recovery

The Business Twenty (B20), which represents the global business community across all G20 members and all economic sectors, has called for governments to digitise responsibly and inclusively.

In its report Realising opportunities of the 21st century for all, the group called on G20 members to accelerate digital government efforts, including vital public services such as digitised licensing and using digitisation to reduce opportunities for corruption while strengthening transparency and integrity.

The report, which looks at how the G20 can aid global economic recovery, recommends the use of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence-assisted infection risk identification, 3D printing, the internet of things (IoT), and e-commerce and smart logistics-enabled global supply chain mechanism to support the fight against coronavirus, and help patients and healthcare workers.

The B20 has published 25 policy recommendations, which it hopes will drive sustainable and equitable growth. It said the recommendations are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Along with responsible digitisation, the policy recommendations, which will be formally presented to the G20 during the B20 virtual summit on 26-27 October, cover the empowerment of women across all sectors and ensuring a favourable environment for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs to thrive.

It urged G20 members to commit to, and accelerate, the inclusive build-up of e-commerce capacities, especially in developing countries and for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. The B20 also called for G20 members to support digital education initiatives. It urged G20 members to develop initiatives for digital inclusion and grow digital skills by fostering access to affordable laptops, smartphones and tablet devices for all, and reforming education systems to offer future work skills.

The report, which is based on conversations with 650 business leaders globally, recommended that the G20 enables and supports a resilient digital infrastructure by laying regulatory foundations, boosting investment to reduce connectivity gaps, ensuring robust global value chains for technology, and incentivising affordable digital access.

The B20 also called for the G20 to work on a favourable regulatory environment for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and data, which could harmonise national action plans and facilitate cross-border data flow, while respecting and promoting applicable legal frameworks. 

Along with AI, the B20 wants to see the G20 lay the foundations for smart cities by supporting the definition and communication of what they represent, working towards standard technical requirements and facilitating cross-border data flow.

Read more about coronavirus business recovery

In the report, the B20 asked G20 members to make efforts to strengthen an inclusive, resilient and interoperable digital infrastructure in each of their economies in order to reduce the economic and societal impact of the pandemic as well as prepare for post-pandemic citizens’ lives, with special considerations for the digitally disadvantaged and financially vulnerable communities.

“Looking ahead, digital infrastructure and, specifically, 5G can also play a key role in the economic recovery and fundamentally change our ways of working and living our lives,” wrote the report’s authors. “We need high-quality infrastructure that can support a multitude of innovative applications that support remote working, remote process controls, as well as reliable detection of health.”

From a cyber security perspective, the B20 said G20 members needed to work with stakeholders from industry, civil society, the scientific community, technology experts and others interested to develop and promote a catalogue of minimum recommended mandatory cyber security standards as well as best-practice guidance on cyber-safe remote working practice that businesses of all sizes can implement, taking vulnerable groups into consideration.

“The opportunity is to ‘build back better’, with real urgency required from policymakers and business leaders,” said Yousef Al-Benyan, chairman of B20 Saudi Arabia. “I urgently call on the G20 leaders to adopt these policy recommendations in order to prevent the pandemic from causing further damage, while setting the foundation for a more equitable world.”

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