Speaking at a G20 ministers' meeting on digital economic transformation, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi urges governments to "walk the talk" for developing countries.
New technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things must lead to more opportunities and better livelihoods for people in developing countries, Group of 20 governments agreed on 24 August in a declaration that thanked UNCTAD for its expertise and efforts to “maximize the positive impact of the digital economy”.
The pledge came after the second-ever G20 Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting which took place in the Argentine province of Salta as part of Argentina’s G20 presidency.
“While we are seeing hyper-digitalization in some parts of the world, we still have other parts of the world where millions have not even climbed the first rung of the digital ladder,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi told the meeting.
“I want to express my very strong support to commitments made by the G20 ministers to promote policies and actions that catalyse digital transformation leaving no one behind. In our view there are a number of concrete things we can still do,” he said.
Walk the talk
“Just look at the level of international cooperation: as we talk today, only 1% of all Aid for Trade funding globally goes to ICT-related areas,” Dr. Kituyi said.
“Similarly, the multilateral development banks; not more than 2% of their total funding goes to ICT-related activities, and of this, only about 4% goes to policy development areas,” he added.
Dr. Kituyi’s remarks reflect UNCTAD’s increasing focus on helping developing countries – including the 47 least developed countries – prepare for digital transformation.
This work includes Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessments, already prepared for ten countries (Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao Democratic Peoples’ Republic, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa, Senegal, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu), with others in the pipeline.
UNCTAD also runs the eTrade for all initiative, which brings together governments from developing countries with donors and partners to enable more businesses and people to benefit from e-commerce.
“It is important that we ‘walk the talk’, that the growing importance of ICT-related services and the digital economy should also be reflected in forms of development cooperation,” Dr. Kituyi told the G20 meeting, which was chaired by Argentina’s minister of modernization, Andrés Ibarra, and Lino Barañao, the country’s minister for science, technology and innovative production.
The meeting built on the work of the G20 Digital Economy Task Force, which met in in Buenos Aires in February and again in August. The Digital Economy Task Force was established under the 2017 German presidency, based on the decision adopted in Hangzhou in 2016 under the Chinese Presidency.
During the Chinese and German presidencies, G20 members prepared a roadmap to improve how new digital technologies are adopted, to adapt public policies to this new digital era, and to support small and medium-sized enterprises so that they can reap the benefits of digitalization.
Argentina has selected the theme, “Building consensus for fair and sustainable development” for the 2018 G20 Leaders' Summit and identified the future of work, infrastructure for development, and a sustainable food future as three key issues for the agenda.
The G20 is made up of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union.