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ITU

As countries around the world continue to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis, digital technologies have played a critical role in global efforts to counter the pandemic. While the benefits are unprecedented, however, these same technologies can also pose risks and challenges.

Phone apps, for example, have been deployed to support contact tracing efforts, notifying people who have been in close contact with COVID-positive patients. Artificial intelligence-based technologies can limit the spread of the virus by successfully alerting an individual to infectiousness well before symptoms appear.

But as we move to implement these digital responses to prevent the spread of the virus, we must ensure that they do not impact citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms. The implementation and use of digital technologies to promote public health must remain compliant with the rule of law, and respect ethical values. Privacy and data protection are paramount in this regard.

These issues were discussed by a panel of experts during the fifth and final webinar in the UN-ITU series on “Digital Cooperation during COVID19 and beyond,” on 13 May 2020.

In introducing the session, H.E Kyung-Wha Kang, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea, said: “The use of our advanced digital tools has certainly been critical, but they alone would not have won the trust of the public. In the end, technology is only as good or bad as the use that it’s put to. We have put digital tools to good use in the service of the people in fighting COVID-19, and that’s how trust has been won.”

Continue reading on ITU News

ECA

Imagine using one second to sell three thousand (3000) bags of a coffee produce which lay fallow hitherto in storehouses in Rwanda for months due to freighting stand-stills caused by the COVID-19 global lockdown!

This is what happened on  14 May 2020 during a livestream by coordinated by the Alibaba Business Group to position small-scale world brands on the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), a the six-year-old initiative  which facilitates business-to-consumer (B2C) sales.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa is helping to bring unique African products and their promoters to the platform in a practical COVID-19 response move.

The sale was made by the Rwandan brand known as Gorilla’s Coffee whose CEO, Mr. David Ngarabe, rejoiced at the feat following months of slack business as the COVID-19 lockdowns ruptured the supply chains especially to cafés and hotels.

The cash-in is explained in terms of the wide reach to customers especially in China via the eWTP whose huge demand, in terms of economies of scale, would now lower overall freighting costs for the supplies.

Ms. Vera Songwe, Under-Secretary-General of United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), who addressed participants of the livestream from Addis Ababa, said the Commission was taking action to getting many more small brands from Africa with distinct products to access the platform and make sales during and after the current health crisis.

“COVID-19 is particularly endangering global trade. That is why I am very happy to be part of this Electronic World Trading Platform (eWTP) initiative with the Alibaba business group” she said.

“Africa, which has already been trading with China, can improve trading at this time based on a number of goods on which it possesses comparative advantage.

“Rwanda is already trading its Rwandan chili and Coffee. We hope that with the eWTP, we can put more goods from the continent notably, coffee from Ethiopia, Shear Butter from Mali, white pepper from Cameroon, Vanilla from the Comoros Islands and Saffron from Madagascar, among others, on the platform,” she told her viewers. Senegal’s peanuts are also on the discussion table.

Mr. Eric Jing, Alibaba Group Director and Executive Chairman of Ant Group said “We want to support SMEs worldwide to recover from the outbreak, resume production and secure orders in their times of need,” as he rallied support for brands such as Rwanda’s Gorilla’s Coffee.

“Through today’s livestream, we look forward to reopening global trade, starting with helping businesses reopen,” he went on.

In concordance, Ms. Vera Songwe of ECA added that “at a time when the world is closing down, it is particularly important that we continue with trade because that’s the only way we can build a prosperous world and a prosperous Africa, together with China.

“As Africa thinks about building and strengthening its trade with itself, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) remains the cornerstone of Africa’s trade relationship with itself and the world.

“We believe that with the opening up of the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) to more countries on the continent, we can do more together to ensure that no one is left behind from the COVID-19 crisis.”

First proposed by Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma in 2016, the eWTP has been recognized by the G20 and launched in China, Malaysia, Belgium, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

It is a private sector-led, multi-stakeholder initiative offering SMEs easier access to new markets via simple and straightforward regulations.

It also offers training and support in areas such as e-commerce, logistics, financing, cloud computing and mobile payments.

Original Source : UNECA Stories

 

WTO

WTO members used a written procedure to raise a record number of trade concerns at a meeting of the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). In light of the COVID-19 situation, the Committee held its 13-14 May meeting through a written procedure, allowing WTO members to exchange views on 72 specific trade concerns (STCs) via a new online platform, eAgenda.

 

The eAgenda platform allows members to register STCs and to exchange views on these concerns. Members shared over 270 statements covering environmental standards and regulations regarding energy efficiency, e-waste and chemicals among other topics.

New trade concerns

WTO members raised 21 new trade concerns through the written procedure.  A full list of the 72 concerns raised overall is available here.

New trade concerns covered topics ranging from the dairy sector to tequila production, from energy efficiency to toys and smartphones.

On agriculture, a decision to prohibit a specific fungicide widely used in banana and soy production was challenged. In the dairy sector, a proposed prohibition on the use of animal rennet in the manufacture of milk products was questioned because of potential effects on trade in cheese. On phone production, there was an exchange on a requirement to affix mandatory labels to mobile device packages indicating the cellular network supported by the mobile device (2G, 3G, 4G, or 5G).

Regarding energy efficiency, the implementation of various labelling schemes was also a point of contention. Requirements for alcohol production were also discussed. The COVID-19, pandemic was cited  ​​by various members in regards to the need for more flexible timeframes to implement or adapt to new trade measures.

A brief summary of new STCs is provided below:

Food and agriculture

New Zealand — Consumer information standards

Canada recognized New Zealand’s efforts to give consumers accurate information on country of origin for certain single-ingredient, minimally processed foods but raised a concern about the costs associated with compliance (for meat and cured pork). Canada suggested that New Zealand follow relevant CODEX standards.

New Zealand said the regulations will allow for multiple relevant countries to be indicated as the  country of origin on the label if it is difficult to trace the supply chain of a product. Due to COVID-19, the regulations will be ready by June 2021, instead of June 2020.

India — Food Safety and Standards Act

The United States expressed concern about the incomplete notification of India’s new directive on animal feed, and its insufficient transition period, which would have a significant impact on trade in feed and possibly on meat and dairy products. On cattle feed, the United States questioned why India would not allow import of many commonly used feed ingredients and vitamins.

While six months was provided to all stakeholders to comply, India replied that it would consider an extension given the current COVID-19 pandemic. The standard on cattle feed (IS 2052:2009) was reviewed periodically — most recently in 2019 — and India welcomed input from the United States on additional feed ingredients.

India — New veterinary certificate for dairy products

A proposed prohibition on the use of animal rennet in the manufacture of dairy products by India was challenged by the European Union.  Since most EU cheese is made with animal rennet, this could potentially block entry to the Indian market.

India argued that the prohibition on animal rennet in the manufacture of cheese was not new, and had existed since 2011. During a recent revision of its milk and milk products standards, this requirement was retained.

European Union — Non-renewal of the approval of the active substance mancozeb

The European Union’s non-renewal of the approval of the fungicide mancozeb was raised as an issue by Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, the United States, Ecuador, Paraguay, Guatemala, Indonesia and Nicaragua. This fungicide is used in the cultivation of more than 70 fruit and vegetable crops, such as bananas and soy as well as seeds and nuts.

With the EU already banning chlorothalonil, several members said this leaves banana-producing countries devoid of phytosanitary tools for disease control, generating significant economic losses. These members urged the EU to adopt an internationally accepted risk assessment approach based on appropriate data and scientific studies, and to postpone this measure given the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU said the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that mancozeb did not meet the approval criteria as outlined in Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 due to reproductive toxicity and endocrine disruption. The EU said there will most likely be separate future action on maximum residue levels (MRLs) for mancozeb.

European Union — Botanical species containing hydroxyanthracene derivatives

Mexico argued that the European Union’s proposed regulation was more trade restrictive than necessary since it imposed an absolute ban on the use of aloe vera and its extracts in food and beverage formulas.  This would negatively affect Mexican industry, which produces a variety of products with aloe vera. Mexico asked the EU to reconsider its proposal and align with CODEX standards.

The EU said that the proposed draft measure is based on the scientific advice of the EFSA and extensive consultations with member states and interested parties. All the comments received will be analysed and considered for possible amendments to the draft.

Energy efficiency

Colombia — Technical regulation for marketing in Colombia of certain products

Colombia’s new regulation on energy labelling for air conditioners was questioned by Korea and the United States. Korea voiced concerns about cost and administrative burden and asked about the effective date of the regulation. The US noted Colombia’s reference to an Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) international standard, and urged Colombia to expand the acceptance of international standards for other covered products.

In response, Colombia explained the objective was to provide clear energy efficiency performance ranges for air conditioners. Due to challenges associated with COVID-19, Colombia was unable to confirm when the regulatory amendment will be issued.

Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia — Requirements for energy efficiency of energy-related devices

New energy efficiency requirements adopted by four members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) for various devices such as televisions and vacuum cleaners were raised as a concern by Korea. It said the timing of entry into force was premature given the pace of technological development, and Korea requested that a single common language be used for labels within the EAEU.

Speaking on behalf of the four members, the Russian Federation said the technical regulation had been drafted in close cooperation with the business community, including multinationals from Korea. In any event, Korea’s requests would be conveyed to the Eurasian Economic Commission for proper consideration.

European Union — Energy labelling of electronic displays

China said the implementation timeframe for a new EU regulation on energy efficiency labelling of electronic displays was creating unnecessary trade barriers. The obligation for suppliers to provide new labels by November 2020, four months in advance of entry into force of the regulation, was a source of concern since the corresponding test standards and methods were not yet available.

The EU said that an information campaign is foreseen to explain to consumers the transition to the new labels. Nevertheless, considering the COVID-19 emergency and its impact on supply chains in many countries, the EU was exploring how to provide additional flexibility, potentially giving manufacturers up to four extra months to comply.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — Minimum energy performance, labelling and testing requirements for air conditioners

China noted that its air conditioners were found to be not conforming with Saudi Arabia’s energy efficiency requirements in random checks conducted by Saudi Arabian customs. China asked that testing data be provided to its manufacturers so that they could correct these problems, and that more time be given to renew certificates.

Saudi Arabia said it followed international practice, and that it was possible to obtain detailed data on the testing which included the reasons for non-conformity. The Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) allowed for renewal of energy efficiency certificates three months prior to expiry, which was enough time in Saudi Arabia’s view.

IT and electrical equipment

Vietnam — Products and goods with unsafe capability

The United States took issue with the short timeframe for the implementation of Viet Nam’s proposed regulations for IT products, bearing in mind the lack of qualified laboratories in Viet Nam to test some of the products. It was suggested that Viet Nam continue recognizing the validity of existing certificates until their expiration and provide an adequate transition period.

Viet Nam said that the notification of the draft circular was made with a 60-day comment period, and that it did not receive any comments from WTO members. More than six months had been provided for the transition period. Viet Nam clarified that it would designate and recognize the competent testing laboratories prior to entry into force.

European Union — Revision of the directive on batteries

Japan asked that a planned revision to EU rules on batteries (including for electric cars) be carried out transparently and not create unnecessary trade barriers. Parallel work in the United Nations World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP29) ought to be considered. Japan also asked the European Union to provide a timely TBT notification, and an adequate transition period.

The EU explained the aim was to improve environmental performance and sustainability across the whole life cycle of batteries, including responsible sourcing of raw materials for battery manufacturing, and their associated carbon footprint. The EU will notify the proposal to the TBT Committee for comments and provide sufficient time for economic operators to adapt.

Colombia — Mobile device packaging

The United States quizzed Colombia about its plan to require mandatory labels on mobile device packaging, indicating the cellular network supported by the device (2G, 3G, 4G, or 5G), which seemed overly burdensome and without benefit for consumers. The US asked for a delay of at least six months to allow producers, suppliers and retailers to adapt.

Colombia said it was still reviewing and analysing the comments submitted by the US. Colombia said some decisions of its authorities were delayed due to the COVID-19 emergency and that information will be transmitted as soon as possible.

India — Expansion of national certification to plugs, socket outlets and power cords

China took issue with India’s expansion of mandatory certification for plugs, socket outlets and related products. China asked India to notify the new requirement and for clarification on the applicable conformity assessment procedures. Citing the difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, China said industry would need more time to adapt.

India replied that the measure was prepared after consultations with stakeholders to protect public safety and the environment and to prevent deceptive practices. India said that due to difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation date was extended by six months.

Chemicals and waste

Bangladesh — Hazardous electronic waste management rules

Canada, the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union were concerned about the lack of clarity of Bangladesh’s proposed regulation on the management of electronic waste. In their view, the classification of certain substances, such as nickel, as hazardous,  did not seem well supported, and the policy could block trade in valuable products, including critical medical devices and equipment.

Bangladesh said that members’ concerns were being reviewed by the competent authorities and that replies would be provided in due course. In the meantime, the comment period for the notification had been extended

India — Draft chemicals management and safety rules

The United States questioned India’s classification of certain chemicals as “priority substances” without public consultation, which could disrupt trade. The US called on India to use a risk-based approach and clarify the relationship of the draft rules with India’s existing regulations. India was requested to accept foreign conformity assessment procedures and provide an adequate transition period.

India said that the draft rules were not yet finalized and were circulated among industry associations as part of an extensive stakeholder consultation exercise. It added that the draft would be notified once finalized and there would be a reasonable time period for comments.

India — Quality control orders for chemical and petrochemical substances

Canada, the European Union and Chinese Taipei asked India to explain the rationale for making mandatory a range of Indian standards on chemicals and petrochemicals, and why international standards were not used. This could undermine market access, they said. They urged India to allow testing and inspection bodies in other members to participate in the planned conformity assessment process.

India said that this regulation aims to protect health, safety and the environment and to prevent deceptive practices, and that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the certifying body for the purpose of conformity assessment.

Alcohol

Australia — Maturation requirements for imported alcohol

Brazil questioned Australia’s requirement for some alcoholic beverages to be matured in wood for a minimum of two years, and the impact on trade in cachaça. Maturation did not relate to any quality standard or sanitary requirement for cachaça. Brazil asked about implications on labelling for cachaça, and the timeframes for the publication of the final regulation.

Australia was reviewing how to enable imports of unmatured spirits, such as cachaça, without breaching the maturation requirement for whisky, brandy or rum. Australia committed to advance these amendments as quickly as possible and that a draft for public comment will be published when available.

Russian Federation — Regulation on safety of alcoholic beverages

Mexico asked Russia to confirm whether a new technical regulation introduced by the Eurasian Economic Community will apply to tequila. Mexico also requested updated information on the date of entry into force as well as any information regarding the implementation process.

Russia said that the technical regulation covers all alcohol products, including tequila. It enters into force on 9 January 2021 with a transition period until 2024. During the transition period certificates of conformity issued before entry into force will be valid until 2024.

Myanmar — Regulation on importation of alcoholic beverages

Mexico said Myanmar’s 12-year ageing requirement could block tequila imports, since no class of tequila complies with such a requirement. Mexico asked for clarification on the product scope of the regulation and reminded Myanmar to notify it to the WTO.

Others

United States — Guidance on federal conformity assessment activities

The European Union questioned why proposed revisions to US guidance on conformity assessment for government agencies removed illustrative references to international conformity assessment standards, such as those of ISO and IEC. The EU was also concerned that the guidance did not sufficiently encourage mutual recognition of conformity assessment results at state level.

In response, the United States said this was neither a technical regulation nor a conformity assessment procedure and was therefore inappropriately listed as a specific trade concern in the TBT Committee. The US said it would address substantive comments in the final guidance, and that this would be notified to the WTO.

India — Toys quality control order

The United States, the European Union and Canada said India’s proposed new measures on toy quality control would compound existing difficulties their toy manufacturers face in accessing the Indian market. Issues with licences, factory audits, fees and bank guarantees were discussed. They urged India to allow toy manufacturers to use a supplier’s declaration of conformity instead of toy factory audits by BIS, which would be particularly challenging given the current COVID-19 travel restrictions.

India explained the purpose was to more strictly monitor toy quality to keep children safe. Toys covered by the same Indian standard would come under the same licence, and BIS would soon issue grouping guidelines that specify a minimum number of varieties of toys to be tested.

ECA

Africa’s telecoms infrastructure services need to be revamped if the continent is to effectively deliver digital health services, a new paper from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) notes.

Produced in light of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the paper notes how the unprecedented crisis has demonstrated across the world the vital role of digital technologies in fighting such health epidemics, in particular accelerating the digitalization of many businesses and services, including teleworking and video conferencing systems, access to healthcare, education and essential goods and services.

“African countries need more than ever to strengthen their ICT sector development through putting in place enabling legal and regulatory frameworks relating to cybersecurity, personal data protection and privacy, digital payments and supporting the growth of financial technology startups,” notes the paper titled; COVID-19 and ICTs in Africa and penned by the Technology, Climate Change & Natural Resource Management Division (TCND).

The paper notes that African countries that have made progress with the liberalization of their telecom sector, which in turn led to the wide spread availability of broadband infrastructure, were able to reap the benefit in fighting COVID-19.

Pre-existing policy and regulatory measures had implications to the affordability, accessibility and use of information and communication technologies in different African countries.

“Mapping infrastructure for emergency situations will be important to see how policies and regulation made it difficult to harness ICTs to respond to the COVID-19 emergency across the continent. This lesson can be used for ensuring flexibility and continuous reforming the regulatory and policy framework in the future,” reads the paper.

ICT, Economy and Livelihoods during Covid-19

While life and work continue through virtual options, ICTs and digital solutions have been playing a key role in making sure people can access goods and services through the use of mobile money which is now the preferred mechanism for local transactions and payments.

“It is crucial to document lessons learnt in the use of mobile money and other apps to continue economic activity like selling goods and services,” notes the paper, adding in the education sector a lot has to be done to ensure African students benefit from online learning as is happening in developed countries.

The paper notes that the application of health for tracking and tracing the pandemic and other aspects, including data gathering and analysis, is generally weak at this moment and adds there is need to gather more data in this area to collate Africa’s experience.

“There is a need to go beyond the current technologies, look forward to what is in store for Africa with regards to emerging technologies; artificial intelligence, blockchain, internet of things and big data analytics in particular. We have not seen much going on in this area in Africa but these technologies are in great use in developed countries in diagnosis, treatment and drug discovery,” the paper notes.

The says that it is important to assess the negative impact of technology as well especially as misinformation has increased exponentially during the pandemic.

“Social media has been used by some to jeopardize national, regional and international efforts in fighting COVID-19 which has been one negative side of the use of ICTs. There is a need to do some work in this area by building on earlier work on the negative impact of social media on development and democracy in Africa,” the paper notes.

Once this pandemic is over, the world economy will largely be driven by the digital technology that Africa need to be ready to catch up with and in some respects lead the future of the digital world. To this end, UNECA is assisting its member States to respond to COVID-19 through the use of digital technologies and has also re-initiated its ICT policy development program to support member States in the formulation and implementation of digital technologies towards acceleration of socio-economic transformation in the continent.

Original source : UNECA Stories

ITC

Introducing a series of case studies on business-to-business e-commerce opportunities in Africa

Expectations are running high in Africa that e-commerce can accelerate economic growth, offer opportunities to firms small and large, and promote greater integration between markets.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, e-commerce in Africa was estimated to reach $27 billion in 2020 (Statista / Boston Consulting Group) and generate about 3 million jobs. Today, Africa represents less than 0.5% of global e-commerce (based on UNCTAD estimates).

In global terms, business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce is up to five times the size of online consumer retail. There is good reason to believe that suitable B2B platforms could be particularly adapted to Africa.

ITC ecomConnect has worked with Ecommerce Forum Africa to study B2B e-commerce and how it may support the development ambitions of the continent and those of small enterprises. In a set of case studies, available on ITC’s e-commerce online community ecomConnect, we describe the experience of a selection of firms from across Africa.

  • Dropstore, based on the drop-shipping model, is a South African online marketplace, which makes it easy for clients to find products from suppliers.
  • Twiga Foods in Kenya uses an online platform to link food producers with retailers.
  • Wuzzuf, an Egyptian recruitment portal.
  • Jumia’s JForce, a program run by Jumia Kenya that allows individuals to earn commission by assisting customers to place orders on Jumia online shop.
  • Sokowatch, a stock provider for informal traders in four East African markets.
  • Yaoota, a search engine for Egyptian online buyers.
  • Superlatte, a small health drink producer from South Africa.
  • Bruhm, a manufacturer and marketer of electrical goods from Kenya.
  • Miele Mailer, biodegradable packaging for e-commerce businesses.

You can already read an introductory article to the case studies where we analyze the status of B2B e-commerce in Africa and look at opportunities for innovation in this sector.

ITU

Cyberthreats are not new, but in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the risks to society, the economy, and to our children, have multiplied enormously.

 

Cybercriminals and other malign actors are using the COVID-19 crisis to launch social engineering attacks: individuals are facing online threats and harms from increased fraud, phishing, and extortion whilst ransomware attacks have compromised mission critical systems, such as governments, companies, media facilities, and even the United Nations, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Tech companies have seen a spike in phishing traffic of 300 per cent across their networks. Tens of millions of daily malware emails and COVID-19 related spam massages were detected by social media, such as Google in just one week.

Meanwhile, there has been an alarming increase in online child abuse, which has led to the doubling of suspected online child exploitation cases reported to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“I suspect we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg, with many countries simply lacking the technical and human capacity to track the level of malicious content passing through their networks,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau at the fourth Digital Cooperation webinar on ‘Online Safety and Security during COVID19’.

“Can we envisage a future where we get the upper hand, or where we stamp out cybercrime and online abuse?” asked Director Bogdan-Martin.

Protecting vulnerable populations

“The negative impact on our digital safety and security affects everyone, in particular the most vulnerable, our children” said Fabrizio Hochschild, Under Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Digital Cooperation.

“This is the time to do everything in our power to keep children safe online. The virus knows no borders. And online perpetrators respect no borders. Therefore, we need to work together across borders,” said Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden. “Making sure that the recommendations that have been developed are turned into concrete action, is one very good way to start.”

Her Majesty welcomed global efforts to protect children online, highlighting the Broadband Commission COVID Agenda for Action, the joint technical note on COVID-19 and the joint call for action to protect children during COVID-19 by several global leaders.

International collaboration

Protecting vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure from cyberthreats during the COVID-19 pandemic calls for proactive action by multi-stakeholder action, greater capacity building to reduce vulnerabilities in underserved areas, and cross border collaboration, agreed leaders assembled for the webinar.

Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol, highlighted the importance of monitoring the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the cybercrime landscape, and advocated for investing in preventive educational campaigns and law enforcement activities to tackle increased cyber risks – in particular online child abuse.

“The right information at the right time can save lives,” said Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC). “This problem brings together the very actors we need to help improve global responses, so that children and vulnerable groups can be safe.”

Continue reading on ITU News

ITU

I joined the ITU Regional Office at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In responding to the pandemic and planning recovery, digital technology and connectivity have gained increasing recognition as an effective tool to tackle challenges in the health sector and ensure the continuation of essential social and economic functions across the globe. My journey at ITU started in the midst of a flurry of global and regional actions.

 

There is a growing consensus that COVID-19 recovery has to be led by digital technology and connectivity.

Digital technology enables telemedicine and e-health for quarantined patients without the risk of infection among doctors and nurses. In response to the shortage of medical equipment, 3D printing was found instrumental. E-learning and e-commerce provide platforms to continue education and business during the time of lockdown.

However, digital technology has been found effective where digital connectivity exists and COVID-19 has accentuated the digital divide more than ever. There are instances where information and services are not reaching remote and rural areas, low income families, people with disabilities and undocumented migrants and refugees. How to address the perennial problem of digital divide has become the urgent priority in the COVID-19 response and recovery across the globe.

ITU has a range of tools to assist governments and partners alike. Before I joined ITU, I worked for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) where some of the ITU products were used as essential policy development tools. For example, ITU Transmission Map was used as a basis for regional and sub-regional policy dialogues and consensus building when the need for broadband networks and Internet traffic management were discussed. Such dialogues led to the formulation of co-deployment projects in Central Asia and initiatives to establish IXPs in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

ITU has a range of tools to assist governments and partners alike.

Another example is the ITU telecom data which is the most comprehensive in geographical coverage and time series. At ESCAP, we used the ITU data to analyze the relationship between the development of artificial intelligence and broadband connectivity, digital divide and affordability and impact of universal access funds, among other research and analysis. The findings were helpful to engage other sectors, such as macroeconomics, transport, energy, disaster risk reduction and social development.

There is a growing consensus that COVID-19 recovery has to be led by digital technology and connectivity. It will not only ensure inclusive recovery but also advance digital transformation the governments set as development goals. The Transmission Maps, ITU telecom data, Emergency Telecommunications GuidelinesRegulation Toolkite-Health StrategyICT Development Index (IDI)Global Cybersecurity Index and other tools will be essential for the digital technology-led recovery, address the digital divide and build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Atsuko Okuda, Regional Director, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Original source : IT News
UNCTAD

UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi discusses how to rejuvenate the global economy and trade in light of the COVID-19 crisis in an interview with Didem Eryar Unlu of the Turkish newspaper Dünya.

 

Q:   Global shutdown have harmed economies and civilizations and we are now heading to slow reopenings.  This will be a different world. What should be the lessons that we should take from COVID-19 crisis?

A:   It’s too early to know exactly just how much the post COVID-19 world will be different, but some important lessons have already become clear. First, the pandemic has reminded us just how dearly we need to address persistent structural problems facing the entire world. The crisis has aggravated deep seated inequalities between and within countries.

The epidemic is affecting rich and poor differently. Faced with the impacts of the spread of COVID-19, people fare vary differently – both health-wise and economically – depending on the resources at their disposal, depending on the country that they live in, and even depending on the type of home they live in or the type of job that they have.

Peoples’ fates faced with the pandemic are also intricately tied to the political choices of their leaders. Amidst the current uncertainties around the pandemic and its impact, the use and misuse of information has exposed a serious flaw in our unequal yet interconnected world.

The crisis has also deepened people’s skepticism of elites and their displeasure at behind closed doors non-transparent decision making. Across the world, whether from Washington to Beijing, from New York to Geneva this has further exposed the fragility of national, regional and multilateral institutions. This calls on leadership across the world to address these problems.

Second, the crisis has shown that we must build back better. Had we been further advanced in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, for example, we could better face this challenge – with stronger health systems, fewer people living in extreme poverty, less gender inequality, a healthier natural environment, and more resilient societies! We must seize the opportunity of this crisis to strengthen our commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. By making progress on our global roadmap for a more inclusive and sustainable future, we can better respond to future crises.

Continue reading on UNCTAD News

WBG

In today’s ultra-connected world, the fact that the mobile gender gap has significantly narrowed is welcome news. Recent research by GSMA shows that in low-and-middle countries, women are 20% less likely to use mobile internet than men,  down from 27% three years earlier, a reduction driven primarily by a significant improvement in South Asia. While this is cause for celebration, we have way more work to do in order to close the gender gap. This is particularly the case during the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), when digital technologies have become our lifeline. The crisis may in fact reinforce the digital gender divide, including through its impact on girls’ education. Now is the time to do something about it.

 

Three hundred million fewer women than men in low-and middle-income countries have access to mobile internet. This is roughly the equivalent of the entire population of the United States. At 51% (versus 67% in 2017), South Asia still holds the unfortunate distinction of having the world’s widest gender gap, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, at 37%. Why should we be worried? The digital divide could increasingly prevent women from accessing life-enhancing services for education, health, and financial inclusion in a world that has become virtual overnight.

As the digital transformation affects economies and changes the nature of work, strategies to make sure technology becomes a great equalizer—rather than a divider—are essential.

Continue reading on World Bank Blogs

ITU

Digital platforms have been the hidden hero of the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Global networks are being taxed to the limit. Operators and platforms are reporting huge surges in traffic, as the world transitioned almost overnight to online working, schooling, shopping and socializing.

Some providers are reporting demand spikes as high as 800% – surge levels that would have surely quickly knocked out other kinds of infrastructure.

We understood that digital resources were going to be absolutely critical in this global health emergency, and we moved quickly to set up our REG4COVID platform to serve as a repository of emergency actions that the digital community around the world is taking to ensure the continued availability, accessibility and resilience of networks and resources.

The list of actions and initiatives is impressive – and it continues to grow.

Here are just some of the latest examples:

  • An emergency session of the UN Broadband Commission announced three-pillared Agenda for Action for governments and the digital community to support not just first-response efforts, but the rebuilding of the global economy, post-crisis, focusing on access, resilience and online safety.
  • The World Bank, GSMA, the World Economic Forum and ITU launched a 5-point Action Plan to leverage digital technologies and infrastructure to support citizens, governments and businesses; stressing the need for bandwidth, accessible connectivity, digital financial services, online trust and safety, and big data.
  • We also found ways to tap into the 2G market by partnering with WHO, UNICEF and global operators to deliver accurate and timely health messaging via mobiles to the estimated two billion people who still rely on a 2G connection.

With 1.5 billion children now out of school, we’re working to accelerate our efforts with UNICEF and governments to expand our GIGA partnership to connect every school, with the aim of also making schools into community hubs for the delivery of vital services.

Continue reading : ITU News

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