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Three quarters of adults now have a bank or mobile money account; gender gap in account ownership narrows

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred financial inclusion – driving a large increase in digital payments amid the global expansion of formal financial services. This expansion created new economic opportunities, narrowing the gender gap in account ownership, and building resilience at the household level to better manage financial shocks, according to the Global Findex 2021 database.

As of 2021, 76% of adults globally now have an account at a bank, other financial institution, or with a mobile money provider, up from 68% in 2017 and 51% in 2011. Importantly, growth in account ownership was evenly distributed across many more countries. While in previous Findex surveys over the last decade much of the growth was concentrated in India and China, this year’s survey found that the percentage of account ownership increased by double digits in 34 countries since 2017.

The pandemic has also led to an increased use of digital payments. In low and middle-income economies (excluding China), over 40% of adults who made merchant in-store or online payments using a card, phone, or the internet did so for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The same was true for more than a third of adults in all low- and middle-income economies who paid a utility bill directly from a formal account.  In India, more than 80 million adults made their first digital merchant payment after the start of the pandemic, while in China over 100 million adults did.

Two-thirds of adults worldwide now make or receive a digital payment, with the share in developing economies grew from 35% in 2014 to 57% in 2021. In developing economies, 71% have an account at a bank, other financial institution, or with a mobile money provider, up from 63% in 2017 and 42% in 2011. Mobile money accounts drove a huge increase in financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“The digital revolution has catalyzed increases in the access and use of financial services across the world, transforming ways in which people make and receive payments, borrow, and save,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass“Creating an enabling policy environment, promoting the digitalization of payments, and further broadening access to formal accounts and financial services among women and the poor are some of the policy priorities to mitigate the reversals in development from the ongoing overlapping crises.”

For the first time since the Global Findex database was started in 2011, the survey found that the gender gap in account ownership has narrowed, helping women have more privacy, security, and control over their money. The gap narrowed from 7 to 4 percentage points globally and from 9 to 6 percentage points in low- and middle-income countries, since the last survey round in 2017.

About 36% of adults in developing economies now receive a wage or government payment, a payment for the sale of agricultural products, or a domestic remittance payment into an account. The data suggests that receiving a payment into an account instead of cash can kickstart people’s use of the formal financial system – when people receive digital payments, 83% used their accounts to also make digital payments. Almost two-thirds used their account for cash management, while about 40% used it to save – further growing the financial ecosystem.

Despite the advances, many adults around the world still lack a reliable source of emergency money. Only about half of adults in low- and middle-income economies said they could access extra money during an emergency with little or no difficulty, and they commonly turn to unreliable sources of finance, including family and friends.

“The world has a crucial opportunity to build a more inclusive and resilient economy and provide a gateway to prosperity for billions of people,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the supporters of the Global Findex database. “By investing in digital public infrastructure and technologies for payment and ID systems and updating regulations to foster innovation and protect consumers, governments can build on the progress reported in the Findex and expand access to financial services for all who need them.”

In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the lack of an identity document remains an important barrier holding back mobile money account ownership for 30% of adults with no account suggesting an opportunity for investing in accessible and trusted identification systems. Over 80 million adults with no account still receive government payments in cash – digitalizing some of these payments could be cheaper and reduce corruption. Increasing account ownership and usage will require trust in financial service providers, confidence to use financial products, tailored product design, and a strong and enforced consumer protection framework.

The Global Findex database, which surveyed how people in 123 economies use financial services throughout 2021, is produced by the World Bank every three years in collaboration with Gallup, Inc.

Regional Overviews: 

Global Findex 2021 Regional Overviews

EAP

In East Asia and the Pacific, financial inclusion is a two-part story of what is happening in China versus the other economies of the region. In China, 89% of adults have an account, and 82% of adults used it to make digital merchant payments. In the rest of the region, 59% of adults have an account and 23% of adults made digital merchant payments—54% of which did so for the first time after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Double-digit increases in account ownership were achieved in Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand, while the gender gap across the region remains low, at 3 percentage points, but the gap between poor and rich adults is 10 percentage points.

ECA

In Europe and Central Asia, account ownership increased by 13 percentage points since 2017 to reach 78% of adults. Digital payments usage is robust, as about three-quarters of adults used an account to make or receive a digital payment. COVID-19 drove further usage for the 10% of adults who made a digital merchant payment for the first time during the pandemic. Digital technology could further increase account use for the 80 million banked adults that continued to make merchant payments only in cash, including 20 million banked adults in Russia and 19 million banked adults in Türkiye, the region’s two largest economies.

LAC

Latin America and the Caribbean saw an 18 percentage -point increase in account ownership since 2017, the largest of any developing world region, resulting in 73% of adults having an account. Digital payments play a key role, as 40% of adults paid a merchant digitally, including 14% of adults who did so for the first time during the pandemic. COVID-19 furthermore drove digital adoption for the 15% of adults who made their first utility bill payment directly from their account for the first time during the pandemic—more than twice the developing country average. Opportunities for even greater use of digital payments remain given that 150 million banked adults made merchant payments only in cash, including more than 50 million banked adults in Brazil and 16 million banked adults in Colombia.

MENA

The Middle East and North Africa region has made progress reducing the gender gap in account ownership from 17 percentage points in 2017 to 13 percentage points—42% of women now have an account compared to 54% of men. Opportunities abound to increase account ownership broadly by digitalizing payments currently made in cash, including payments for agricultural products and private sector wages (about 20 million adults with no account in the region received private sector wages in cash, including 10 million in the Arab Republic of Egypt). Shifting people to formal modes of savings is another opportunity given that about 14 million adults with no account in region—including 7 million women—saved using semiformal methods.

SA

In South Asia, 68% of adults have an account, a share that has not changed since 2017, though there is wide variation across the region. In India and Sri Lanka, for example, 78% and 89% of adults, respectively, have an account. Account usage has grown, however, driven by digital payments, as 34% of adults used their account to make or receive a payment, up from 28% in 2017. Digital payments present an opportunity to increase both account ownership and usage, given the continued dominance of cash—even among account owners—to make merchant payments.

SSA

In Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile money adoption continued to rise, such that 33% of adults now have a mobile money account—a share three times larger than the 10% global average. Although mobile money services were originally designed to allow people to send remittances to friends and family living elsewhere within the country, adoption and usage have spread beyond those origins, such that 3-out-of-4 mobile account owners in 2021 made or received at least one payment that was not person-to-person and 15% of adults used their mobile money account to save. Opportunities to increase account ownership in the region include digitalizing cash payments for the 65 million adults with no account receiving payments for agricultural products, and expanding mobile phone ownership, as lack of a phone is cited as a barrier to mobile money account adoption. Adults in the region worry more about paying school fees than adults in other regions, suggesting opportunities for policy or products to enable education-oriented savings.

Entrepreneurship is flourishing— a key step toward tackling development challenges.

Alittle help. That’s what Koray Bahar needed.

In 2016, the Turkish entrepreneur founded Figopara, an online marketplace for small business loans. The platform would allow business owners to use pending invoices as collateral – a revolutionary idea in Türkiye – and see big banks compete for their business.

While the concept was sound, some Turkish lenders balked at joining a potentially disruptive platform. That’s when Bahar would mention that IFC was an investor in Figopara.

“We were the new guys. The IFC brand helped us a lot,” said Bahar, whose company now works with several major banks and serves 4,000 businesses. “It opened doors and the deals started turning.”

IFC’s backing of Figopara was part of a larger effort to support Türkiye’s technology scene, especially companies that have the potential to create jobs, funnel capital to small businesses, and tackle long-standing social and environmental problems. Since 2014, IFC has committed $95 million in venture capital funds that specialize in Türkiye and Eastern Europe, including $19 million since the start of the pandemic.

“Technology has the potential to make the lives of everyday people better,” said Ufuk Demirci, IFC’s global lead of venture capital funds. “That’s especially important in developing countries, like Türkiye, where it can democratize access to everything from bank loans to healthcare.”

A ways to go

Investments in Turkish startups have risen 10-fold in the last decade and the technology sector has seen the minting of several unicorns, companies worth $1 billion-plus. Those include delivery app Getir, which was valued at more than $7.5 billion following a funding round in mid-2021, Peak Games, which was acquired by Zynga in 2020 for $1.8 billion, and Trendyol, which was valued at $16.5 billion in 2021.

But capital remains hard to come by for many startups. From 2014 to 2020, venture capital investments in Türkiye were $48 per capita, according to market research firm PitchBook Data. In the United States, it was $2,253 and in Israel, $3,922.

That’s why IFC in recent years has focused on channeling money to entrepreneurs through Türkiye-focused venture capital funds. In 2020, the institution invested €15 million in a vehicle from Revo Capital that focuses on more established companies. In 2021, through its Startup Catalyst Program, IFC invested 2.5 million euros in a fund from 500 Istanbul, which targets early-stage startups. The idea is that those investments will help provide cash-strapped entrepreneurs with the funding they need to bring potentially game-changing ideas to market.

“No bank will listen to an early-stage startup. Five university students working out of their garage have no place to go,” said Sobhi Mahmassani, an IFC investment officer who specializes in venture funds. “Through investments in funds like 500 Istanbul we can reach hundreds of entrepreneurs and help set them on a path to success.”

One company that benefitted from IFC’s work is electronics retailer Anka Mobile. The Istanbul-based firm uses Figopara’s online service to convert pending invoices into working capital.

“Thanks to the service provided by Figopara, we can now access finance much faster,” said CEO Burcu Genç.

The middle-income trap

For years, Türkiye and its neighbours in Eastern Europe have leveraged low labour costs to become manufacturing and outsourcing hubs. But as they’ve become more prosperous, wages have risen and growth has slowed – the dreaded middle-income trap.

Technology is seen by many as a way for Türkiye to free itself from that and transition to a model of growth built on innovation.

That’s become increasingly important amid COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, a World Bank analysis found that 1.6 million people in the country have slipped into poverty.

“While growth has rebounded in the last year, the reality is that Türkiye needs to be thinking about how it can continue to be competitive over the long term,” said Arnaud Dupoizat, IFC Country Manager for Türkiye. “Embracing technology – and re-enforcing the whole startup ecosystem – is a way it can do that.”

Istanbul-based electronic payment provider Paycore is emblematic of that promise. Founded two decades ago, the company now reaches clients in 35 countries and employs more than 400 people. Its products include software that turns a tablet or phone into a point-of-sale device, a setup tailor-made for retailers.

“For businesses, including smaller ones, advanced technology leads to lower costs, better service quality, and increased production, all of which ultimately help create jobs,” said Ali Kancal, Paycore’s CEO. (Revo Capital owns 5 percent of Paycore.)

“Technology is also helping Turkish businesses expand their horizons,” said Kancal. “For companies in our region, it is opening up a global market.”

Success stories like Paycore are why IFC plans to ramp up its investments in the technology space in Türkiye, said Mahmassani.

“Getting involved with startups and venture funds is a way to have a large impact with a modest investment.”

Read more about IFC Disruptive Technologies and Venture Capital here.

Despite certain advances in the scope of women entrepreneurship in France, the latter remains far from the ideals of gender parity. To accelerate the progress, La Poste France breaks the silos and lends its hand to the most creative and impactful start-ups across the country.

According to a 2021 report by French firms EY and France Digitale, just 12% of digital start-up founders in France are women. The report, Social and Economic Performance of French Digital Start-ups Barometer 2021, surveyed more than 780 participants in France in 2020 and 2021. It also found that only 11% of respondents’ CEOs are women – up from 9% in 2018.

The reported noted that even with this upward trend for women CEOs as well as an increase in the overall parity among employees – 43% were women, versus 36% in the previous edition – more still needs to be done to support female digital entrepreneurs in France. One company seeking to do just that is the French postal operator, La Poste.

For the past three years, La Poste, along with its key partners, has run the #FemmesduNumérique Coups de Coeur awards, which are aimed at women entrepreneurs who have an innovative digital project or a digital service solution.

According to Vanessa Chocteau, Director of Transformation and Start-up Co-Innovation at La Poste, the awards “encourage women to realize their projects, by making them visible and by obtaining the first financing.”  They also act as “a first step towards entrepreneurship,” she added.

La Poste’s communications department launches and monitors the award campaign each year. Women entrepreneurs are encouraged to put forward their ideas, after which La Poste’s innovation team brings in its expertise and works with its ecosystem of more than 100 partners to go through all the entrants. A shortlist is then drawn up, which includes two entrants from each region in France. The public is then asked to vote for the overall winner – the “Coups de Coeur”.

“Finally, KissKissBankBank [a collaborative platform for funding innovative projects] assists in setting up the financing campaign on its crowdfunding platform,” Chocteau added.

This year, there were 13 award winners and one “Coups de Coeur,” which went to Laurence Havé, who created the Stand Me App. This application helps patients with cancer to practice physical and cognitive activities, according to Chocteau. Every award winner received €2,000 and the “Coups de Coeur” received €4,000.
Looking at the reasons behind the selection of these particular winners this year, Chocteau explained, “They are impact-driven innovations – all the chosen digital solutions have a positive impact on society, economy, and the environment.”

For La Poste, one of the key benefits of running such an awards programme is that the winning start-ups could end up being future partners of the company. “If detected and supported at the earliest opportunity, the projects can turn into solid companies and future partners of our Group,” said Chocteau. “They can then be supported by our other programmes for entrepreneurs and open innovation.”

One of those other programmes is La Poste’s business accelerator project, French IoT. French IoT supports start-ups at a more advanced level of maturity than those in the Coups de Coeur awards. The programme assists them with market launch and growth.

“Every year since 2015, we have selected around 15 start-ups for the French IoT programme,” Chocteau said. “They then follow a six-month programme meant to boost their project alongside experts with bootcamps, coaching and workshops. They develop business and investor connections to help develop their business and create more value. They also take part in the most popular innovation events within our Group.”

According to Chocteau, the French IoT project is a win-win for both La Poste and the start-ups. “Our ambition is to co-develop with the start-ups new digital useful services to answer the challenges of our society. The Group brings in its power and the start-ups – their agility. Together, we create value. Since 2015, we have had more than 30 active partnerships, with 14 projects currently under test, from around 110 accelerated start-ups. There have been more than 260 workshops led by experts and 180 hours of individual coaching and mentoring. Furthermore, today there are more than 300 start-ups who are part of the French IoT community, a pool of innovation for La Poste Group and its partners.”

The French IoT programme is also focused on economic empowerment of women, just like the Coups de Coeur awards are. “For the past three years, we have selected as many start-ups created by women as by men [within French IoT]. Thanks to the implementation of this parity goal, we have gone from 9% of start-ups created by women to 50%. We are proud of this progress, which promotes the leadership of women in the digital sector,” concluded Chocteau.

As part of its deepened engagement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Bank Board of Directors approved last week a $250 million development policy operation for foundational economic governance reforms and $500 million to strengthen transport and connectivity in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Both projects are financed by the International Development Association (IDA)*.

These two operations represent a strengthened engagement and dialogue between DRC and all levels of the World Bank Group. This dialogue has enabled us to redefine and take our partnership to a new level which we hope will help improve the lives of more than 90 million people,” said Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank Country Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Foundational Economic Governance Reforms operationthe first IDA financed budget support operation in the DRC since 2005will support the government’s program of reforms to address key governance challenges in public finance, market liberalization, and forestry aimed at accelerating a green, resilient and inclusive development. It will also support transparency, a prerequisite for enhanced government accountability, and the sustainable management of DRC’s vast rainforest, which is key to sustaining community livelihoods and represents a carbon sink of global importance.

After the signing of the two financing agreements today, Nicolas Kazadi, DRC Finance Minister, expressed satisfaction that the reforms undertaken by the Government of President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo were bearing fruit: “The return of budget support after more than fifteen years is a sign of the Government’s commitment to improve governance, free the potential for economic growth in key sectors, and improve living conditions for Congolese people. It reflects the deepening of development cooperation with our technical and financial partners and should catalyze significant funding allowing the Government to address the immense development needs of DRC.”

The Transport and Connectivity Support Project is the first in a series of three projects designed to provide safe, resilient and sustainable transport and digital connectivity in and between the Kasai region and the eastern part of DRC, while also supporting strengthening of sector governance. It will support the government’s ambitious program of better integrating the country by re-establishing the East-West road transport link, modernizing key transport infrastructure, and improving digital connectivity. Specifically, it will finance the upgrading and paving of 440 kilometers of climate resilient roads in the Kasai and North Kivu provinces, while laying fiber optic infrastructure along the roads financed by the project.

The Transport and Connectivity Support Project includes measures to mitigate and address the risk of gender-based violence linked to the sudden influx of workers in construction areas. These measures include third-party monitoring, capacity building to train all project stakeholders, and partnering with civil society and other community-based entities to manage potential grievances. The project will also support climate-resilient infrastructure and strengthen forest preservation. Local communities will be supported on improved management of natural resources and the project will finance reforestation activities along road areas.

*The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 74 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.3 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has provided $458 billion to 114 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $29 billion over the last three years (FY19-FY21), with about 70 percent going to Africa. Learn more online: IDA.worldbank.org. #IDAworks

The five advocates are successful women entrepreneurs and pioneers in the digital economy.

UNCTAD has appointed new “eTrade for Women advocates” to empower women in the digital economy and promote more inclusive e-commerce ecosystems.

Birame Sock from Senegal, Damilola Olokesusi from Nigeria, Lennise Ng from Malaysia, Mona Ataya from the United Arab Emirates and Pierangela Sierra from Ecuador are the third cohort of advocates since UNCTAD launched its eTrade for Women initiative in 2019.

“The global economic landscape has changed tremendously since we launched the eTrade for Women initiative almost three years ago,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics.

“But the challenge remains the same: we need to take action to reduce a growing digital divide. The advocates can help us change the rules of the game to level the playing field for women,” Ms. Sirimanne said.

Bridging the gender divide in the digital economy

The advocates will help tackle gender disparities in the digital economy.

They will serve as role models, using their knowledge and experience to help other women digital entrepreneurs across the world overcome gender biases and grow successful businesses.

Studies by the International Finance Corporation show that women could add over $14.5 billion to e-commerce markets in Africa alone and $280 billion in South-East Asia, between 2025 and 2030.

A critical part of the advocates’ mandate is to bring the voice of women to the policymaking table and help create more and better opportunities in the digital space.

They will engage with policymakers to ensure the needs of digital small and medium enterprises are considered by governments when making policies and regulations on digital ecosystems.

Over 200 women entrepreneurs supported

UNCTAD’s advocates have supported over 200 women digital entrepreneurs across the globe since 2019.

Under their leadership, the initiative has held eight regional masterclasses in Latin America, West and East Africa, South-East Asia, the Balkans, and the Arab region.

They have also created eTrade for Women regional communities of women digital entrepreneurs in 34 countries.

Meet the advocates


Birame SockBirame Sock

Ms. Sock is the new eTrade for Women advocate for French-speaking African countries.

She is the founder and CEO of Kwely, a new business-to-business wholesale sourcing marketplace for products made in Africa.

She is also the founder and managing partner of Founder 5, Inc. a startup management group focused on developing and advising ventures in the United States and Africa in various areas.

Ms. Sock is a tech visionary with over 20 years of experience as a technologist, entrepreneur, and high-level executive in digital media.

READ HER FULL PROFILE


Damilola OlokesusiDamilola Olokesusi

Ms. Olokesusi is the new eTrade for Women advocate for English-speaking African countries.

She is the founder and CEO of Shuttlers, Nigeria’s leading technology-driven transportation startup.

Shuttlers is revolutionizing how professionals and organizations commute in some of Africa’s busiest metropolises.

She is also behind the initiative “Shemoves Shuttles”, an all-female shuttle service turning female professionals’ commute into learning time.

READ HER FULL PROFILE


Lennise NgLennise Ng

Ms. Ng is the new eTrade for Women advocate for South-East Asia.

She is the founder and CEO of Dropee, an artificial intelligence-based business-to-business marketplace that allows brands and distributors to better serve over 100,000 mom-and-pop stores across Malaysia and Indonesia.

She is on a mission to help digitize small and medium enterprises – especially women-led companies – across South-East Asia as a source of economic growth and development.

READ HER FULL PROFILE


Mona AtayaMona Ataya

Ms. Ataya is starting the second year of her tenure as the eTrade for Women advocate for Arab States.

She is the founder and CEO of Mumzworld, a leading online marketplace for products for mothers, babies, and children in the Middle East, based in the United Arab Emirates. 

She has received over 80 awards and is considered one of the most influential businesswomen in the Arab region.

READ HER FULL PROFILE


Pierangela SierraPierangela Sierra

Ms. Sierra is starting the second year of her tenure as the eTrade for Women advocate for Latin America and the Caribbean.

She is the founder and CEO of Tipti, the fastest-growing groceries e-commerce company in Ecuador and Panama.

She is also the director of the Ecuadorian-American Chamber of Commerce.

READ HER FULL PROFILE

 

 


UNCTAD’s eTrade for Women initiative is funded by the governments of the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

Sustainable social and economic development in the years ahead will depend on efforts to build networks and partnerships between big corporate players and the world’s innumerable micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

And just as important will be a global networking push among MSMEs themselves, according to an online panel hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) earlier this month ahead of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day (MSME Day).

Celebrated annually on 27 June, the day was initiated by the UN General Assembly in 2017 to recognize the crucial role of MSMEs in sustainable development.

As drivers of promoting innovation, creativity, and decent work for all, these enterprises are a crucial factor in the pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are typically defined as those with annual turnover up to about USD 50 million or employing up to 250 people. Recent years have shifted emphasis increasingly to the micro players, those employing up to 10 people or with turnover of USD 2 million or less.

Economic engines

Formal and informal MSMEs make up over 90 per cent of companies worldwide, accounting for 70 per cent of total employment and up to 50 per cent of global GDP, according to United Nations estimates. With their innate flexibility and knowledge of local markets, MSMEs can be uniquely well placed to solve market-specific challenges or meet emerging needs on the ground.

“This day is a reminder that tech micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises are the engine of today’s digital economy,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “At a time when one third of humanity is still unconnected, MSMEs are essential to achieving the level of connectivity and digital transformation that countries are striving for.”

Over the last eight years, ITU has progressively increased its focus on the role of small businesses in the digital ecosystem, targeting small tech firms with knowledge-sharing and mentoring programmes, dedicated networking events, awards, and a discounted ITU membership category.

The ITU Telecom World SME Awards Programme, for example, has spotlighted innovations with the potential to change lives for the better using information and communication technologies (ICTs). The awards have also given small and medium enterprises (SMEs) a platform to connect with vital resources and partners for sustainable tech projects.

The winners of the 2021 ITU Telecom SME Awards Programme joined the MSME Day panel held as part of the World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2022, an annual gathering of the world’s ICT for development community.

Building the digital ecosystem

Receiving an award from the UN agency dedicated to ICTs boosts visibility and can help make early-stage projects bankable. The panel also highlighted the need for support from international organizations to forge and develop partnerships with large industry players, as well as local, regional and national governments.

“It was very important to win this award,“ explained Armando Aguirre, co-founder of Mexican connectivity provider and recent SME Award winner WIWI. “The follow up is to be able to work with ITU and other organizations to explain how important this is, to show authorities how connectivity benefits the underserved.”

Having claimed the top prize in ITU Telecom’s Connectivity category, WIWI is working to establish free, stable WiFi connectivity on public transport networks in cities across Mexico, enabling commuters who spend an average of two hours daily on a bus to connect to the Internet for free.

Another winner in the Connectivity category was China-based SME IPification, for a proprietary platform touting a unique blend of security, user experience, and privacy protection. Deployed in a telecom provider’s core network, the platform can identify and verify the user behind any given IP (Internet Protocol) address.

“The ITU award really helped put us on a global stage as our project depends on credibility,” said Stefan Kostic, Chief Executive Officer at the company. “The ITU and UN recognition put an additional stamp on our project and our company as a whole.”

The resulting plaudits and credibility boost have, in turn, helped solidify partnerships with 53 telecom operators covering 3 billion subscribers as IPification takes its solution to scale.

Bringing it to scale

While SMEs tend to be flexible and adaptable, they can benefit from aligning with large companies and organizations that can negotiate trade and development solutions worldwide to address regulatory restrictions. The advantages of such relationships flow both ways.

“Big companies can’t develop without small companies, and SMEs can’t grow without corporate support,” said Joaquin Patron, Executive VP of Urbit, Telecom award winners in the Digital Finance category and providers of fintech services to rural and underserved areas in the United States. “We are just one piece of the puzzle in serving underserved customers, so we need to find partners to grow and break the inertia of doing the same thing by taking a risk on innovation,” he added.

Secretary-General Zhao underlined how ITU’s SME-related initiatives help to foster this key component of sustainable development.

“I am delighted to see how this award has helped SMEs scale up and address societal challenges,” he said. “I encourage others to join ITU’s growing SME community and take a seat at the table alongside governments and larger businesses to address the world’s most urgent challenges and accelerate the achievement of the SDGs.”

The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the joint UN-WTO International Trade Centre (ITC) have also launched major initiatives to support MSMEs in the tech sector. These include ITC Global Trade Helpdesks and the WTO MSME platform, new online tools providing direct and practical support to tech entrepreneurs anywhere.

ITU’s support for small tech ventures continues to evolve. The organization’s recent World Telecommunication Development Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, affirmed the importance of enabling supportive environments where entrepreneurship-driven innovation can accelerate the achievement of the SDGs, with a new resolution: “Fostering telecommunications/ICT-centric Entrepreneurship and digital innovation ecosystems for sustainable digital development.”

The resolution calls on governments and ITU’s wider membership to:

  1. develop policies and strategies, and projects nurturing digital innovation at the national level,
  2. promote the uptake of entrepreneurship-driven technology-centric schools,
  3. ensure access to domestic procurement and international markets to allow small/new enterprises to test, validate and scale-up their innovations, and
  4. pursue multisector multistakeholder collaboration to support synergies in achieving these goals.

Are you an MSME interested in joining ITU? Learn more about ITU membership benefits for MSMEs.

The country’s support has helped build knowledge, capacity and consensus on how to harness the digital economy for development.

Sweden has committed 10 million Swedish krona (approximately $1 million) for research, technical cooperation, and consensus-building activities under UNCTAD’s e-commerce and digital economy programme  in 2022 and 2023.

The contribution will boost UNCTAD’s capacity to support member states in building inclusive digital economies – a shared challenge made more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic and growing digital and data divides.

“The digital transformation opens great opportunities for inclusive growth, jobs and sustainable development around the world,” said Krister Nilsson, state secretary to the Swedish minister for foreign trade and Nordic affairs.

“The post-pandemic recovery must include support for the participation of developing countries in the digital economy,” he added.

Making digitalization work for all

Supporting countries with the lowest levels of readiness to take advantage of the opportunities and mitigate the risks presented by digitalization helps make digitalization a force for a more resilient, equitable and sustainable world.

“We are proud to welcome Sweden among the core donors of the e-commerce and digital economy programme,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s division on technology and logistics.

She also noted that Sweden’s accession to the programme’s advisory board of core donors follows member states’ decision to strengthen UNCTAD’s mandate to support developing countries in digitalization.

Ms. Sirimanne said this is a welcome recognition of the results of UNCTAD’s work in this area, which were highlighted by a recent independent evaluation.

The evaluation, covering 2019 to 2021, found that activities undertaken under the programme’s technical cooperation pillar, particularly the eTrade readiness assessments, help to boost the e-commerce and digital economy agenda within beneficiary countries.

Partnerships for development

Such partnerships and stakeholder engagement initiatives contribute to a more holistic and collaborative approach to e-commerce and the digital economy for development.

A long-standing partner of the programme, Sweden’s generous support to date has made possible a number of initiatives under the programme, including work on measuring e-commerce and the digital economyeTrade for alleTrade for Women and eTrade readiness assessments.

The advisory board, which also includes Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, meets once a year after the release of the programme’s Year in Review.

It allows members to share experiences and lessons learned from supporting digitalization for development efforts and outline priorities for future support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected poor urban communities and laid bare pre-existing inequalities – including a digital and social divide that has been further exacerbated by the pandemic. As per our recent study, only one of every 26 jobs can be done from home in low-income countries, and across the globe. Young, poorly educated workers and those on temporary contracts are least likely to be able to work from home and more vulnerable to the labor market shocks from COVID-19.  How can this digital divide be closed? The experience of a small team from the World Bank shows that efforts to collect data can offer opportunities to expand digital literacy in local communities.

In 2020, the World Bank team partnered with Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and Cities Alliance to collect geospatial data for the most vulnerable informal settlements (including access to basic services) in eight cities to improve and validate the COVID-19 contagion risk hotspot mapping. But what started as a data-gathering exercise became a larger pilot going beyond its original scope and leading to varied direct and indirect positive outcomes.

One such outcome was enhanced digital skills of local SDI affiliates  — support non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and urban poor federations – in five countries. The World Bank formed a small team of geospatial data experts and trainers to design and deliver these trainings, and, along with the broader SDI team, created an interactive seven-week virtual-training program. SDI country-based teams include mappers and urban planners with varying levels of geospatial skills (basic to semi-advanced). Therefore, we co-designed the content with SDI based on the existing skillsets of trainees and with their specific needs in mind.

Chart showing the process of data collection

The content of these trainings ranged from open data tools and mapping to remote sensing data tools, advanced geo-spatial data analytics, and data visualization tools. The team of trainers designed three modules, each six to seven hours and sub-divided into technical, demo, and practice sessions. We recorded and shared all trainings with trainees, and every week, we provided materials to practice tools offline. This interactive model allowed for a deeper level of understanding and better application of tools while making the transition from theory to actual implementation on-ground easier.

These capacity-building trainings came in handy for the local teams during field data collection and focus group discussions.  For example, the Open Data Kit (ODK) and Kobo toolbox was used to collect data more efficiently and accurately during the pandemic. Similarly, satellite imagery allowed teams to digitize, validate, and edit some of the data points while they could not travel to informal settlements due to lockdown and other mobility restrictions. Advanced QGIS tools helped in analyzing the data. By estimating the number of people using a public facility and network analysis to the proximity of these facilities. Lastly, story maps and other interactive visualization tools were helpful in SDI’s advocacy work.

Training community meetings in Nairobi, Kenya

The additional chain of people trained by the original cohort of trainees represented the positive spill-over effect. Each country team conducted a series of trainings for additional team members, traveling the field for data collection. For example, the SDI Kenya team of five trained 150+ mappers/volunteers/local community members within the course of a few weeks.

Focus group discussions highlighted a strong demand amongst local communities (especially youth) for digital skills trainings, as it can potentially improve their employability prospects.  As quoted by a Freetown resident during discussions, “we need more of these vocational training for our youth, as most of them are unemployed which leads them to steal and gamble for money.”

To conclude, community-led data collection can provide an entry point to engage with the community and deliver skills training, starting with geospatial skills to broader digital and vocational skills. This can have several collateral benefits for local communities in post-pandemic cities, from disaggregated data collected and owned by communities for evidence-based planning to improved skills for changing the job market, community empowerment, and opportunities to partner with cities in decision-making. The World Bank and SDI are jointly exploring avenues to scale up these trainings to a broader network of local mappers, volunteers, and community members in more cities.

SDI network brings together over a million informal settlement dwellers in over 30 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, who work together through federations and support NGOs to collect city-wide data and information on informal settlements, and in this process, they train youth, volunteers, and slum residents on a recurrent basis and advocate for their rights.


The World Bank team included Swati Sachdeva (Urban Specialist); Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep (Lead Environmental Specialist and Global lead for disruptive technology), Yves Barthelemy (Senior Geospatial consultant), Nuala Margaret Cowan (Senior Geospatial consultant), Hrishikesh Prakash Patel (Geospatial consultant) and Isabel Maria Ramos Tellez (Geospatial Consultant).

Pioneering research by The MetLife Foundation, Cenfri, UNCDF, UNSGSA, FSDK, and FSDZ (among others) on financial health has significantly increased doubt that bank and mobile money accounts alone are particularly meaningful for most people in the developing world. Access to formal financial services is generally considered an intermediate step towards meaningful outcomes like an improved ability to cover daily expenses, deal with unforeseen shocks, and effectively manage debt.

However, the body of evidence on this is quite mixed from randomized controlled trials (RCT)s that show increased consumption and consumption smoothing as a direct result of using mobile money, to RCTs that show no increase in savings or reduction in poverty and surveys that show negative correlations between increased formal account usage and financial health.

The term financial inclusion has become so confused in the literature, that many have abandoned it and are redefining impact through terms like financial health and financial wellbeing that have arrays of indicators. While these indicators make sense from a developmental impact perspective, they are difficult to measure and cannot be assessed from the GSMA dataset. However, this supply-side data does offer a useful perspective on what people use mobile money for and how useful they find it. Deeper analysis requires demand-side data, which will be available in the forthcoming Global Findex and UNCDF hopes to revisit this topic then.

Three Out of Four with Access Do Not Use Mobile Money

The last global demand side study for financial services (Global Findex) was done in 2017 by the World Bank and showed that only 4% of adults globally had mobile money accounts after about a decade of sector expansion. Whether this statistic is high/low or meaningful, depends on the analysis one is conducting. It is not very meaningful for this discussion as adults in many countries do not need mobile money services as they have superior options, and half the countries in the world do not even have a provider that offers the service.

It is more useful to examine places where mobile money is used, and its highest use is in low-income countries, where 18% of adults had a mobile money account in 2017. The model for mobile money was forged in Kenya, and the service is really designed to integrate seamlessly into informal cash-based economies. Those are the places where customers have found it valuable. The GSMA data helps understand the degree to which mobile money is useful in the places where it is used.

Assuming registered customers have access to mobile money is reasonable. The GSMA data shows that consistently over the last ten years, on average, 73%-81% of customers that were registered for mobile money did not make a single monthly transaction. This insight needs to be interpreted in juxtaposition to the goal to extend access to finance for all. Often, access to finance alone is not enough to inspire usage.

And while it is true that many still do not have access to mobile money accounts, this shows that for approximately three out of four people who likely do have access, they either hardly ever or possibly never use it. This seems to counterpoint assumptions that mobile money, on its own, alleviates poverty, transforms lives or is a solution to a commonly held problem for most people. It is likely only a component of solutions that strive to improve market efficiency and resilience in informal cash-based economies.

Mobile Money Usage is Limited to Six Products

Despite services like mobile money not being for everybody, there were still almost 350 million customers active on a 30-day basis at the end of 2021. While we showed in the last article that this growth rate has slowed significantly over the past years, it is still quite positive and robust, and all these statistics should be lauded by the mobile money and financial inclusion communities that have worked so hard to achieve them. It is also important to evaluate what these 350 million people are using the service for, as it has implications from a revenue standpoint, a systems evolution angle, and an impact perspective.

This analysis uses both the number of transactions made (volumes) and the amount of money transacted (values) for each mobile money product to measure their relative importance to the system. Cash-in and cash-out (CICO) transactions, which are 28% of volumes and 42% of values are excluded as they are not product-level transactions. t is worth noting that after 15 years of product development there are still only six product lines, showing limited innovation in the ecosystem.

Further, the pie charts in Figure 2 show that from a volumes perspective there are only four products of note, and the top two, airtime and P2P together account for 72% of volumes. The story is similar from a values perspective since there are again only four significant products and P2P itself accounts for almost two-thirds of transaction value. However, from a values perspective, merchant payments and bulk payments have surpassed bill pay as a use case, which is notable.

Mobile Money Product Suite is Evolving, But Slowly

The importance of a product depends on why it is being analyzed. Some may be important from a profit perspective, but not provide much impact for customers or only for customers wealthy enough to benefit from it, limiting its impact from a financial inclusion perspective. Some products, like P2P, we expect to decline as the mobile money system evolves, while others like merchant payments will determine whether mobile money can remain relevant in the digital era. To visualize product suite evolution, the next charts present five-year snapshots over the last 10 years (2011, 2016, 2021). Figures shown are percentages of the product suite from the corresponding year.

From an evolution perspective, airtime volumes have declined significantly, as have P2P transaction values. These trends are likely to continue as 3rd party providers increasingly sell airtime, and other emerging product categories erode the relevance of the P2P as a ‘catch-all’ function. The small yet steady growth of bulk payments and merchant payments are encouraging. However, bulk payments must solve its unidirectional flow issue to scale. Mobile money is designed for balanced flows into and out of the system, and bulk payments are unidirectional flows, which break the liquidity balancing mechanisms. This system will likely need to be redesigned for significant growth.

Merchant payments are very important from a systems evolution perspective as they are the most common customer transaction type, but they still account for a very small proportion of mobile money transactions. Growth has begun as the value proposition for the merchant has been cracked in some cases. However, it is unclear how deeply into the MSME category merchant payments will penetrate beyond some select verticals like petrol stations and restaurants. Bill payments started with strong growth a while back but may have leveled off, and international remittances remain a frustratingly difficult product to scale.

From an impact perspective, much has been written about the ability of domestic remittances to increase financial resilience, for which there is supportive evidence. However, P2P is a generic tool that customers use to solve many different issues, and it has never been well teased apart. Many describe it as a mechanism for domestic remittances from cities to rural areas.

However, data from the Helix Institute showed that the float and cash needs of agents did not match that narrative, and astute observers and long-time users understand much of this category is payments for services in the informal economy, and settling accounts within families and friends. To really understand the impact of P2P, we must first better understand how people use it.

The same is true for bill pay and bulk payments (G2P), especially since we know a portion of these categories is gambling, but we do not understand how much. In theory, G2P payments certainly have a high potential for impact, as they could make the delivery of government services and subsidies to low-income populations much more convenient and cost-effective, but they have struggled to scale.

For bill pay, it is unclear why growth has decelerated over the last five years, but it could be because this product is mostly for urban working class and wealthier families that can afford to have utilities, and those populations are relatively small and now served. While bill pay may generally not be designed for low-income populations, it has supported the evolution of selected businesses models like Pay-as-you-Go (PAYG) solar and smart device financing as well as school fee payments, which do have real impact.

Similarly, merchant payments are currently not for most people. For most adults in the developing world that earn cash and spend cash in small amounts close to their residence, the value proposition of merchant payments has yet to be articulated. Lastly, international remittances have the potential to be impactful for the portions of adults in the developing world that use them, if mobile money systems can make them less expensive and more convenient. However, the above figures show that this is still being solved as the service is seldomly used.

In conclusion, most impact narratives for mobile money discuss P2P payments as an anchor product that allow providers to earn revenue, garner a significant customer base, and then evolve a more sophisticated suite of products. Over the last 15 years, that has happened to some degree, but innovation has been quite limited and growth in other product categories has been slow. This weakens the narrative that mobile money is a gateway to product offerings in other categories that could offer more impact to customers.

The landscape changes when we include products developed by technology companies that could be delivered through mobile money systems. However, innovation from these stakeholders has been limited by the difficultly of partnering with the very mobile money systems that stand to benefit from them and are needed to enable their scale.

Even Active Mobile Money Users are Not Very Active

The next level of analysis focuses active users. We previously discussed how mobile money is used, but it is also important to understand how frequently. Given most people make several transactions a day in their daily lives, how many are made on a mobile money platform? Just focusing on the product level transactions (i.e. excluding CICO transactions), a 30-day active customer makes just over ten mobile money transactions a month, which is about one transaction every three days.

Examining the data by product category, that amounts to an airtime top-up and a P2P transfer about once a week, a bill payment and a merchant transaction about once a month, a bulk disbursement about once every two months, and an international remittance about once every three years. Therefore, on average, even active users do not use the service very actively.

Thus, arguments that mobile money itself is alleviating poverty or transforming lives and deserves significant public sector investment may be overextended. It is still a helpful service for many, and UNCDF supports the continued development of these systems as they can be essential to enabling people to interact with the digital economy. However, we should be circumspect about its ability to have an impact in otherwise analog environments.

Large Average Transaction Sizes do not Indicate Impoverished Users

While the previous analysis focused on how services are used and to what degree, this final analysis examines what can be gathered about the demographics of the users from this supply side data. To do this, we analyze the value of the average transaction by product category. Again, we would have preferred to use median values to account for skewed distributions, but they are not available.

This analysis is important because the average size of the transaction may be a proxy for the income-level of the user. For small transaction values this is less likely to be true as even high-income people may make small purchases of items like airtime. However, for high value transactions it is unlikely that low-income people are conducting them, and the data reveals transaction values are surprisingly high. International remittances stand-out having an average transaction value of over US$130, indicating that on average the users are not at the bottom of the income pyramid.

Further, the average transaction values around US$30 for cash-in, cash-out, P2P, and bulk disbursements are also remarkably high. For example, in leading East African mobile money markets, this would be 45% of monthly GNI per capita in Uganda, 33% in Tanzania, and 20% in Kenya. In essence, the average adult could only afford to conduct two transactions a month of this size in Uganda, or five in Kenya. This leads to the assumption that the average mobile money user has a higher income than the average adult. This would be a different understanding than what is popularly believed in the financial inclusion community and deserves more research.

Mobile Money Improves Lives, Just Not as Much as Advertised

This analysis points out some major discrepancies in the mobile money impact narrative. Namely, it is used less, for fewer reasons, and likely by wealthier people than commonly assumed. It has also been slow to evolve. However, these are not indictments of the system. They are just reason to recalibrate our expectations of it. Mobile money has reached hundreds of millions of people who use it to make their lives easier in very tangible ways, and it is probably particularly helpful to increase resilience during disasters as money can reach the affected more easily.

The financial inclusion community should applaud these gains, and also not be satisfied by them as much work is left to do. It will involve a new cadre of builders that use technology to better customize products and integrate them into the digital economy, and it will require the financial inclusion community to embrace an improved set of metrics to measure their impact. Future solutions may ride on these mobile money payments channels or just be inspired by lessons learned from building them. Either way, mobile money has pioneered mass-market finance in many developing countries. Its legacy should be celebrated, and its impacts accurately understood to drive further innovation.

Note to Reader: This article is part of a #MobileMoney Mysteries series that uses the last 15 years of mobile money data provided by GSMA to reflect on progress in the sector and gauge where we are in answering some of the big questions still being debated.

The fifth edition of the EU-Africa Business Summit, which was organized by the European Business Summits (EBS) and which took place held in Brussels, provided for high-level panel discussions among around 100 physical guests and over 3,000 online participants who discussed the future of economic relations between the European Union (EU) and Africa.

“In a context of increasing challenges, digital is key for the resilience of businesses”, said Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, Managing Director for Digitalization, Technology and Agri-business of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). “At the same time, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have the ability to bring together public and private finance to create resilient ecosystems as they mobilize investments while creating jobs”.

In addition to an interview with news media Euronews, the UNIDO Managing Director also contributed to the roundtable discussion on “Investment climate and trade within EU-Africa relations”, which was co-hosted by David Clarnival, Acting Minister of Foreign Trade of Belgium. Other roundtable participants included Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade and Industry of Ghana; Solomon Adegbie-Quaynor, Vice President of the African development Bank; and Soha Gendi, Assistant Foreign Minister for African Organizations of Egypt.

The Summit also allowed for strategic discussions towards increasing international cooperation, including with Janusz Wojciechowski, EU Commissioner for Agriculture; Arnaud Thysen, Director of the European Business Summits; and Cécile Billaux, Head of Unit, Micro-economic analysis, investment climate and private sector & employment, DG INTPA.

According to Visa, one of the world’s biggest financial services corporations, digital equity and inclusion rely on three key assets: access, trusted convenience, and knowledge. A key partner in the UPU’s Financial Inclusion Technical Assistance Facility (FITAF) project, Visa believes that the Post can advance each of these pillars, paving the way towards more equitable and prosperous communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated three years of digital innovation into one, transforming how many of us live, learn, work, shop and sell. More and more occurs through mobile phones, the internet and digital financial services, from the accountant managing the books for a construction company in another country to drivers delivering food and rides around town to whole new businesses launched on digital data and social communications. The World Economic Forum predicts that 70% of new value created in this decade will be based on digitally enabled technologies.* The opportunity for communities is equally massive. With livelihoods and well-being increasingly determined by participation in the digital economy, this rapid transition can provide opportunity for everyone, everywhere.

This vision of digital equity and inclusion is one of the reasons Visa is pleased to partner with the Universal Postal Union on the Financial Inclusion Technical Assistance Facility (FITAF) since 2017 and with national post offices around the world for many more years. Everyone needs a way to pay for daily needs and services, and receive income and money. Post offices have often provided that service to citizens through postal banks or in partnership with financial institutions. Today, that means digital payments, whether through a card, a virtual account or a mobile app.

With all the opportunity, there are also challenges to deliver new technology and services that people rely on day in and day out. As a network of networks providing 206 billion payment transactions in the last year and 70 million places of acceptance globally, Visa’s vision is that we must focus on three things to advance digital equity and inclusion: access, trusted convenience, and knowledge.

Providing access is table stakes.

Post offices in Egypt, Viet Nam and Japan, for example, are opening up access to digital payments by leveraging their large footprint, capillary networks, and daily touch points with billions of people, including in peri-urban and remote areas. By delivering government payments and social welfare support, posts in South Africa, France and beyond introduce people to formal payments and, when designed well, promote responsible use of other digital financial services. Yet, despite significant gains, much of the adult world is still excluded from the opportunities of increased incomes, gig work, or secure receipt of money because they deal in cash** or because they are not well connected digitally. About 40% of people globally have never connected to the internet, a situation more acute in less developed countries*** and for women.

Beyond access, people also want trusted convenience.

Here, the neighborhood post office coupled with technological innovation and local insights can be a winning combination. For example, PostePay in Italy and the Egyptian National Post Organization (ENPO), with partners including Visa, the Italian Ministry of Education and PaySky in Egypt, launched the IoStudio (“I Study”) account and Yalla mobile app, respectively, putting digital payments and integrated services directly into the hands of youth. With PostePay Green in Italy, children ages 11 to 17 are able to pay digitally for lunch and other purchases, and parents have oversight through wallet controls in the app. Establishing reliability, security, and responsibility are essential.

Finally, people and small business owners need knowledge around new digital financial services.

This means reaching people with practical and easy to understand product information. It also means enabling individuals, businesses, and economies to thrive through literacy, numeracy and financial education efforts. As part of its digitization strategy, KazPost partnered with Visa to raise national awareness about cashless payments, how to use them safely and build financial skills. The project reached adults and youth through pop up booths at post office branches, seminars at universities, student financial literacy days, mass media and social media.

Partnering for innovation, scale, and impact

Collaboration among post offices, governments, and the private sector is a key tool of economic inclusion. When examining how to curate global solutions around innovation, scale and impact, postal partnerships are an opportunity to close the gaps in inclusion, allowing everyone to participate in digital platforms and the economy.


* World Economic Forum, Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation, World Economic Forum, 2021.
** The World Bank’s upcoming release of a new Global Findex will provide updated information on access to and use of digital payments and financial services. The currently available data referenced here is from 2017.
*** World Bank, World Development Indicators Database, 2020 data.

  • The IDB presents a study mapping the main gender gaps in digital transformation.
  • Women’s participation in digital transformation at their organizations is limited by a lack of digital skills and competencies.
  • Access to financing is among the main barriers for female entrepreneurs in digital fields.

An Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), IDB Invest and IDB Lab study reveals that 62% of representatives of major institutions and entities in the digital ecosystem in Latin America and the Caribbean think the digital gender gap is a problem in their respective countries. The same proportion believe that women have little participation in digital transformation processes because of a lack of skills and competencies.

According to the unpublished surveys and analysis of recent research in the study The Gender Dimension in the Digital Transformation of Businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean (only Spanish), governments in the region need to implement specific public policies to reduce the gender gap in digital business transformations.

The survey shows that women’s participation in digital transformation processes was less than 50% at approximately half of the organizations surveyed. These organizations pointed to a lack of necessary digital skills and competencies as a primary reason for this lack of participation.

The study maps the main gender gaps in companies’ digitalization processes and recommends that governments help solve this problem through public policies that increase women’s access to and use of digital technologies and reduce gaps related to women’s participation in digital jobs.

“We want digital transformation processes to be guided by strong public policies promoting greater gender inclusion. This will help our region accelerate its growth and promote equitable and fair development,” said Jessica Bedoya, Chief of Staff and Chief Strategy Officer at the IDB.

“This study provides a roadmap for governments to incorporate gender equity into their digital agendas. It reinforces the commitment set forth in IDB Group Vision 2025 to promote gender equity and advance the region’s digital transformation.”

Currently, two-thirds of Latin American and Caribbean countries do not include gender as a cross-cutting pillar when designing efficient public policies for digital transformation of business.

When asked about the main barriers faced by female entrepreneurs in digital spaces, most respondents (73.6%) mentioned access to financing. The survey also found the high burden of family responsibilities among women to be the most common reason why more women are not starting companies in the digital sphere (70%). Moreover, a large majority of respondents (80.2%) believe women-owned digital businesses receive less investment than male-owned businesses.

The survey data is based on responses from leaders of digital transformation agendas in 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and on an analysis of digital public policies in 27 countries in the region. There was a total of 416 responses to the general survey questionnaire between October and November 2021.

Other gender gaps

In terms of access, more men than women have Internet access in over half of the region’s countries. There is also a higher share of men with mobile connectivity in 70% of Latin American and Caribbean countries. The primary demand-side factors contributing to this access gap are level of education, presence of children in the household, employment, and socioeconomic conditions. Meanwhile, the main supply-side factor is the affordability of telecommunications services and devices.

The study also indicates that women have less training on digital technologies and are less confident in their digital technology skills, which leads them to use these technologies less.

The study also warns that the gender gap in digital jobs is progressively widening, especially due to high levels of informal employment in the region, which, in turn, has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women make up 32% of employees in the information and communications sectors in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Finally, the study concludes that women’s limited participation in digital transformation is also tied to behavioral biases among women themselves and in the digital sector, which is dominated by men. It can also be linked to the scarcity of women in decision-making positions within companies.

Public policy recommendations

The study recommends various public policy measures to boost female participation in the digital sphere. In general, the recommendations highlight the need to change the culture through awareness campaigns and equitable early education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as to foster a culture of self-empowerment and ongoing training in digital technologies.

For the public sector, the study suggests accelerating digital infrastructure projects and reducing gender gap in digital skills, especially in rural areas. It also recommends activity attracting more women to digital professions and raising awareness in the private sector about how much value it loses by not including female talent in processes for digitally transforming businesses.

The study recommends legal reforms to distribute family responsibilities more evenly among the capable adults in a household. When financing entrepreneurship projects through tendering processes, governments should strive to consider an equal number of proposals from men and women.

For the private sector, the publication recommends companies develop gender equality policies and use data analytics to design them. In terms of recruitment, companies should ensure that application processes for certain positions in the organization are fair and use blind resumes, without referencing the gender of applicants.

To increase career opportunities for women, companies should consider implementing flexible or hybrid work mechanisms, creating mentoring programs to encourage more women to develop their digital skills, and adopting upskilling and reskilling measures for women in digital fields.

Finally, the study recommends creating funds or programs specifically to help female entrepreneurs obtain financing. These programs should be designed to mitigate a possible undesired effect of excluding these women from normal financing circuits.

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

About IDB Invest

IDB Invest is a multilateral development bank committed to promoting the economic development of its member countries in Latin America and the Caribbean through the private sector. IDB Invest finances sustainable companies and projects to achieve financial results and maximize economic, social, and environmental development in the region. With a portfolio of $14.8 billion in asset management and 376 clients in 25 countries, IDB Invest provides innovative financial solutions and advisory services that meet the needs of its clients in a variety of industries.

About IDB Lab

IDB Lab is the innovation laboratory of the IDB Group, the main source of financing and knowledge for development, focused on improving lives in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The purpose of IDB Lab is to drive innovation for inclusion in the region, mobilizing financing, knowledge, and connections to co-create solutions capable of transforming the lives of vulnerable populations due to economic, social, or environmental conditions. Since 1993, IDB Lab has approved more than $2 billion in projects developed in 26 LAC countries, including investments in more than 90 venture capital funds.

This podcast episode explores labour market skills needs, and how education, training and lifelong learning can effectively skill and re-skill workers throughout their lives in an evolving and increasingly digitalized labour market.

 

 

Digitalization is changing the nature, mode, and pace of work. This means the skilling and re-skilling of workers will be essential if enterprises and entire industries are to maintain and increase functionality and productivity, effectively manage shocks, ensure, and sustain the well-being and livelihoods of workers, and create decent jobs. Understanding and anticipating the evolving skills needs is a crucial step that can guide the training of workers. This episode explores labour market skills needs, and how education, training and lifelong learning can effectively skill and re-skill workers throughout their lives in an evolving and increasingly digitalized labour market.

The future of work podcast series was created on behalf of the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

GUEST:
Olga Strietska-Ilina
ILO Senior Skills and Employability Specialist, and Team Leader on Skills Strategies for Future Labour Markets

Under the theme “Global Gateway: building sustainable partnerships for a connected world”, the 15th edition of the European Development Days (#EDD22) was held in Brussels and gathered more than 4,000 participants from the development community.

Under the theme “Global Gateway: building sustainable partnerships for a connected world”, the 15th edition of the European Development Days (#EDD22) was held in Brussels and gathered more than 4,000 participants from the development community.

“Digital transformation requires innovative investments and funding as well as public-private partnerships and a strong focus on capacity building”, said Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, Managing Director for Digitalization, Technology and Agri-business of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). “At the same time, the role of a twin transition to achieve development challenges – including gender equality, sustainable agriculture, or access to health services – must be highlighted”.

The UNIDO Managing Director spoke during the European Commission-organized high-level panel “Contribution of digital to Africa’s green growth and progress”, which also benefitted from the experience of representatives from, among others, Expertise France, GIZ, SES, Afrilabs, and other civil society organizations. As an immediate follow-up to the session, the discussion continued at the Digital4Developemnt (D4D) Hub stand where further digital cooperation opportunities were explored.

Bilateral meetings were also held with Jérémie Pellet, Director General of Expertise France; Thierry Barbé, Head of the Science Technology Innovation and Digitalization unit at the Directorate General for International Partnerships of the European Commission (INTPA); and Caroline Kamaitha, Vice President for Fixed Data Africa, Société Européenne des Satellites (SES).

UNIDO also contributed to the United Nations’ stand, which advocated for a stronger UN-EU cooperation to scale up efforts towards achieving Agenda 2030, in synergy with the EU Global Gateway. Within the EDD Global Village, a joint UNIDO-EU photography exhibition was also organized and its closing ceremony was attended by numerous high-level participants, including the UNIDO Managing Director; Escipion Oliveira Gomez, OACPS Assistant Secretary General; Malte Gallée, Member of the European Parliament; Nong Sakal, Ambassador of Cambodia; and Junior Tagne, one of the EDD Young Leaders.

“International cooperation is essential to achieve inclusive and sustainable industrial development and to empower young generations”, said Patrick Gilabert, UNIDO Representative in Brussels, speaking on behalf of the development partners during the closing ceremony.

For more information, please contact:

Patrick Gilabert
p.gilabert@unido.org

Flora Demaegdt
f.demaegdt@unido.org

  • Global trade has been disrupted by the war in Ukraine, COVID-19 and other supply chain blockages.
  • In the digital age, new tools and systems can help streamline global trade.
  • These include non-fungible tokens, digital IDs and digital trade agreements.
  • A single digital identity that could allow any organization to trade globally is the ideal, says the World Economic Forum.

Global trade is under pressure.

The war in Ukraine has led to worldwide disruption, with global output predicted to drop 1%. And that’s after COVID-19 triggered some of the biggest falls in global trade since World War II.

But the pandemic also showed us the power of digital technology to keep the world going. For international importers and exporters, digital trade systems and tools offer huge opportunities.

Here are three developments helping to make global trade smoother and safer.

Non-fungible tokens

Non-fungible tokens – NFTs for short – are a form of secure digital ownership. They are unique digital tokens that can be used to buy, own and sell digital or physical items online, according to business news website Business Insider. This might include real estate, art or music.

It might be an image, 3D model, document, or anything else, says FinTech Magazine. These digital signatures can’t be altered or faked in any way, meaning new possibilities for handling sensitive data.

NFTs can also streamline international trade by removing document fraud and the need for multiple regulations and human interventions along supply chains, FinTech adds.

In 2021, more than $17 billion of NFTs were traded globally, up 21,000% from $82 million in 2020, reports payments news site PYMNTS.com.

Digital IDs

Before trade can happen, businesses need to verify each other’s identity. Instead of using paper documents like passports and driving licences, digital IDs are a way of verifying identities remotely over digital channels, explains research specialist, McKinsey Global Institute.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) says digital IDs can apply to people, organizations or things. They’re now critical to a wide range of international trade transactions and processes. For example, drawing up contracts, exchanging data, bringing new suppliers or partners on board and complying with regulations related to the environment, counterterrorism, finance and other areas.

Digital ID systems are typically used by government agencies like customs and business registration.

But as trade becomes more digital, so does the need for a digital ID system that works globally across borders and not just in specific sectors, the WTO says. In its work on Global Trade Identity, the World Economic Forum explores the use of a single digital ID that could allow any organization to trade globally.

Digital systems can streamline international trade, improve security and reduce costs. Image: World Economic Forum

Digital trade agreements

Digital trade agreements are a package of measures between governments designed to make trade easier in the digital age.

In February this year, the United Kingdom signed a digital trade deal with Singapore that includes shared digital systems for e-invoicing, e-payments and other electronic documents, according to law firm Pinsent Masons.

The UK government said the deal would “end outdated rules” for exporters of goods and services, cut costs and “pave the way for [a] new era of modern trade”.

Singapore has also signed a digital trade agreement with Chile and New Zealand. The deal is designed to help trade flow between different regimes, with benefits including enhanced security, quicker cargo clearance and faster payment processing.

The World Economic Forum is working with partners to develop a unified set of global rules for digital trade. In a blog, Ziyang Fan and Mike Gallaher of the Forum’s digital trade team say: “Existing digital trade rules are outdated, complex and fragmented, if they exist at all.”

They argue that modernizing digital trade rules would advance digital trade, create more jobs, lower costs and reduce inefficiencies.

Nearly a quarter of the world’s top 150 digital technology companies are set to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

Thirty-eight of the world’s 150 leading tech companies are on track to become carbon neutral by 2030, with several aiming to be carbon negative soon after, according to a report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA).

The new report, Greening digital companies: Monitoring emissions and climate commitments​, documents the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use of 150 of the world’s leading tech companies.

The study strives to enable tech companies to adopt best practices, accelerate emissions reduction, and “green” themselves to eliminate carbon-dioxide (CO2) and other GHG output from their operations.

If other digital companies would emulate those currently leading in the quest for carbon neutrality, it could make information and communication technologies (ICTs) one of the greenest sectors of the global economy, the report asserts.

“Tech companies are an essential part of the global economy,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “This new study serves as a roadmap to drive all these companies towards net-zero emissions. This is the way to ensure today’s digital transformation accelerates climate action – and to do so before it’s too late.”

Part of the solution

Operational GHG emissions among the 150 companies accounted for 239 million tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 0.8 per cent of the world total. Yet digital companies – defined as those that produce and sell ICT equipment, operate telecommunication networks, and provide software and other information technology services, including data centres and cloud computing – have also become prominent in the race to eliminate harmful emissions.

Gerbrand Haverkamp, Executive Director at WBA, said: “Digital companies and their innovative nature are indispensable drivers of change to build a future that is not only technologically connected, but also fair and sustainable for both people and the planet. This report is testimony that digital companies can and must play a notable role in the race to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in solutions aligned to the Paris Agreement. We hope this research can incentivise companies themselves to learn from best practices, reduce their emissions, and improve their energy efficiency across all their operations.”

Ramping up climate response

From renewable power purchases and investments in carbon capture to issuing green bonds, these companies are at the forefront of global GHG reduction efforts. Digital companies accounted for seven of the top ten largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy in 2020, making up almost half of the renewables purchased globally that year, the report found.

Corporate energy sourcing is a crucial factor as countries strive to cut their emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit the rise in average global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, said: “It is no secret that as we increase our use of technology services, networks and devices, energy consumption and emissions increase in tandem. But digital technologies can be part of the solution, too. They can directly address challenges related to climate change, help scale up renewable energy markets, support smart power grids and smart metering for buildings, and of course enable emissions reductions from our work through solutions like video conferencing.”

Overall, the 150 tech companies covered by the study consumed 425 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2020, around 1.6 per cent of the world total. Of that amount, around one third was renewable.

In many cases, companies purchase voluntary offsets to make up for unavoidable emissions. These offsets can support projects such as solar and wind farms in low- and middle-income countries, as well as the provision of environmentally friendly cookstoves and Pay-As-You-Go solar electricity services.

Renewable energy supply challenges

Low- and middle-income countries frequently face energy challenges, including limited electricity access or unreliable grids, resulting in over-reliance on dirty diesel-powered generator sets. To address such challenges, governments need to create favourable conditions for renewable energy use.

At the same time, tech companies are not always getting the renewable energy they pay for due to the design of electrical grids. In response, a multi-stakeholder group of energy buyers, energy suppliers, governments, investors and other organizations have partnered “to accelerate the decarbonization of electricity grids by adopting, enabling, and advancing 24/7 Carbon-free Energy (CFE)“, meaning that every kilowatt-hour of electricity consumption is met with carbon-free electricity sources, every hour of every day, everywhere.

About the report

The Greening digital companies: Monitoring emissions and climate commitments​ report draws on climate data published by tech companies themselves to uncover insights, assess where the industry will be by 2030, review climate performance by company and region, and highlight innovative practices to reduce the sector’s environmental footprint.

ITU’s work as the United Nations specialized agency for ICTs includes developing technical standards that provide guidance on achieving net zero emissions. This includes helping countries and the ICT sector meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations.

WBA is a non-profit organization that assesses and ranks the performance of the world’s most influential companies in terms of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Among various benchmarks published by the organization, the Digital Inclusion Benchmark assesses the world’s 150 most influential tech and telecom companies through evidence-based metrics on digital inclusion and sustainable development.


About ITU

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. Established over 150 years ago, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communication infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. For more information, visit www.itu.int

Is this the golden age of innovation?

It has been said that we now find ourselves in the “Golden Age of Innovation.” While it is undeniably true that we live in a time when the pace of technological change is faster than ever before, from available new digital technologies to the data that fuels them the picture is not always as rosy as some would have it.

Unsurprisingly, the Digital Age of Accelerated Innovation brings with it both opportunities and challenges and nowhere more so than when it comes to data.  On the one hand, data has the potential to solve some of our most pressing societal challenges, from the pandemic to poverty to climate change. But that data can only be effectively leveraged if individuals and organizations trust those bodies that are responsible for handling it, rather than suspect that their privacy and wellbeing might be compromised without their knowledge or consent. This is where the challenges lie.

Where do we stand on trust?

Many organizations, including the World Economic Forum, note that “declining trust, prompted by unease at the way some organizations are using digital technology, could undermine the societal benefits of digitalization.” No one can deny that new innovative technologies have brought a commensurate wave of data breaches, tech industry scandals, a rise in cyberattacks, and a general lack of transparency regarding personal data use.  Whether the facts support it or not, a general sense of wariness accompanies every new request for personal data.

Organizations have a role to play to build and maintain trust in how they handle data.  Indeed, there is a pressing need to establish comprehensive practices for the development, design, and deployment of emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence.  Without measured and responsible guardrails, heedless and irresponsible personal data collection threatens to run rampant. This project starts at home by setting high levels of Privacy and Information Governance. New privacy regimes are surfacing weekly across the globe to safeguard the protection of personal information, which is good news. However, trust is not a simple box-ticking exercise. This requires organizations to instill a culture of privacy and to invest in education and awareness at all levels. This translates into ethical commitments for a responsible data innovation system that safeguards and enhances privacy principles  – where people know and control what is being done with their data, how it is being used and shared, and how they are benefiting from these activities. Trust is an umbrella that, in data privacy terms, encompasses awareness, transparency, control, and security among others. Ultimately, this allows organizations to turn a heavy compliance obligation into a strategic imperative and business opportunity.

What’s next?

We are still at the start of our journey to re-establish trust in the digital era. Everyone – governments, industry, civil society, and academia – has a role to play in the collective effort needed to bring about real change. Therefore, the World Bank is so pleased to be working alongside Mastercard on a knowledge and thought leadership partnership to strengthen trust across the global digital economy.

Please view the replay of our Fireside Chat with Tami Dokken, Chief Data Privacy Officer, World Bank and Caroline Louveaux, Chief Privacy Officer, Mastercard which took place on June 21, 2022.

Nearly a quarter of the world’s top 150 digital technology companies are set to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

Thirty-eight of the world’s 150 leading tech companies are on track to become carbon neutral by 2030, with several aiming to be carbon negative soon after, according to a report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA).

The new report, Greening digital companies: Monitoring emissions and climate commitments​, documents the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use of 150 of the world’s leading tech companies.

The study strives to enable tech companies to adopt best practices, accelerate emissions reduction, and “green” themselves to eliminate carbon-dioxide (CO2) and other GHG output from their operations.

If other digital companies would emulate those currently leading in the quest for carbon neutrality, it could make information and communication technologies (ICTs) one of the greenest sectors of the global economy, the report asserts.

“Tech companies are an essential part of the global economy,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “This new study serves as a roadmap to drive all these companies towards net-zero emissions. This is the way to ensure today’s digital transformation accelerates climate action – and to do so before it’s too late.”

Part of the solution

Operational GHG emissions among the 150 companies accounted for 239 million tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 0.8 per cent of the world total. Yet digital companies – defined as those that produce and sell ICT equipment, operate telecommunication networks, and provide software and other information technology services, including data centres and cloud computing – have also become prominent in the race to eliminate harmful emissions.

Gerbrand Haverkamp, Executive Director at WBA, said: “Digital companies and their innovative nature are indispensable drivers of change to build a future that is not only technologically connected, but also fair and sustainable for both people and the planet. This report is testimony that digital companies can and must play a notable role in the race to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in solutions aligned to the Paris Agreement. We hope this research can incentivise companies themselves to learn from best practices, reduce their emissions, and improve their energy efficiency across all their operations.”

Ramping up climate response 

From renewable power purchases and investments in carbon capture to issuing green bonds, these companies are at the forefront of global GHG reduction efforts. Digital companies accounted for seven of the top ten largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy in 2020, making up almost half of the renewables purchased globally that year, the report found.

Corporate energy sourcing is a crucial factor as countries strive to cut their emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit the rise in average global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, said: “It is no secret that as we increase our use of technology services, networks and devices, energy consumption and emissions increase in tandem. But digital technologies can be part of the solution, too. They can directly address challenges related to climate change, help scale up renewable energy markets, support smart power grids and smart metering for buildings, and of course enable emissions reductions from our work through solutions like video conferencing.”

Overall, the 150 tech companies covered by the study consumed 425 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2020, around 1.6 per cent of the world total. Of that amount, around one third was renewable.

In many cases, companies purchase voluntary offsets to make up for unavoidable emissions. These offsets can support projects such as solar and wind farms in low- and middle-income countries, as well as the provision of environmentally friendly cookstoves and Pay-As-You-Go solar electricity services.

Renewable energy supply challenges 

Low- and middle-income countries frequently face energy challenges, including limited electricity access or unreliable grids, resulting in over-reliance on dirty diesel-powered generator sets. To address such challenges, governments need to create favourable conditions for renewable energy use.

At the same time, tech companies are not always getting the renewable energy they pay for due to the design of electrical grids. In response, a multi-stakeholder group of energy buyers, energy suppliers, governments, investors and other organizations have partnered “to accelerate the decarbonization of electricity grids by adopting, enabling, and advancing 24/7 Carbon-free Energy (CFE)“, meaning that every kilowatt-hour of electricity consumption is met with carbon-free electricity sources, every hour of every day, everywhere.

About the report 

The Greening digital companies: Monitoring emissions and climate commitments​ report draws on climate data published by tech companies themselves to uncover insights, assess where the industry will be by 2030, review climate performance by company and region, and highlight innovative practices to reduce the sector’s environmental footprint.

ITU’s work as the United Nations specialized agency for ICTs includes developing technical standards that provide guidance on achieving net zero emissions. This includes helping countries and the ICT sector meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations.

WBA is a non-profit organization that assesses and ranks the performance of the world’s most influential companies in terms of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Among various benchmarks published by the organization, the Digital Inclusion Benchmark assesses the world’s 150 most influential tech and telecom companies through evidence-based metrics on digital inclusion and sustainable development.

The global pandemic accelerated digital transformation by as much as 10 years, according to Rodney Taylor, Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), who spoke to the Universal Postal Union (UPU) about ICT and digitalization in the Caribbean earlier this month.

This is great news in terms of digital transformation, but in an increasingly digital world, companies, governments, and authorities are now even more at risk of cybercrime – a growing threat to organizations worldwide.

According to figures from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), data breaches caused by cyberattacks got off to a record start in 2022, following a record setting 2021. Q1 2022 data revealed that 90% of data breaches are cyberattack-related. Data breaches have increased for the third consecutive year.

Many Posts have suffered from cyberattacks in recent months. Hellenic Post in Greece, for example, was subjected to a serious cyberattack in late March, which brought down computer systems using malware. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, post offices were shut down by a cyberattack late last year. Other Posts including the Bulgarian Post, Correios Brazil, and Ukrposhta have all been impacted by cybercrime.

These recent events and rising cybercrime figures in general highlight the vital importance of Posts’ making cybersecurity a priority within their organizations. The CTU’s Rodney Taylor, who appeared in Episode 12 of the UPU’s Voice Mail podcast, believes that collaboration is key between countries, states, and organizations, to achieve cybersecurity.

“It is critical that we bring everyone together to cooperate on how cybercrime is addressed on a global scale,” he said. “We have leveraged this model in the Caribbean and developed an Internet governance policy framework to provide guidance to member states on various aspects of cybersecurity and policy guidelines.”

In the podcast episode, Rodney also highlighted the importance of raising the awareness of cyberthreats with the public and with governments to ensure that the right “legislative frameworks” are in place to deter cybercrime.

The UPU has developed several tools to help Posts tackle the challenge of cybercrime. Its .POST top-level domain, for example, provides a secure and trusted Internet space to serve the needs of the global postal community in the digital economy.

Furthermore, in May, .POST’s governance group launched a new tool to boost .POST members’ cyber resilience. The cybertrack.post solution is a fully automated, web-based dashboard tool, which provides real-time monitoring of .POST domains’ technical compliance with approved cybersecurity policies covering DNSSEC, secure e-mail authentication and secure online transactions. The tool supports access on an individual country basis, allowing nominated focal point(s) in this country receive email alerts in case of nonconformity events.​

Cybertrack.post also provides access to the .POST Learning Platform where the UPU will be hosting cybersecurity training and capacity building activities. A self-paced bootcamp in secure email authentication, which was developed by one of the UPU’s partners – the Global Cyber Alliance – has already been placed on the learning platform. The UPU has plans to work with partners to place additional materials on the platform over the next 6-12 months.

Tracy Hackshaw, .POST Projects Manager, who worked with the .POST Group to launch the new tool, said, “The tool is highly intuitive and requires minimal setup. Experience has shown that, even for high-level, executive, non-technical users, the onboarding process is done in minutes. All .POST domains are automatically added to the list of domains monitored in real-time by cybertrack.post.”

The UPU is currently working to onboard all the .POST Group members to use the tool. It will also be launching a series of webinars over the next 2-3 months highlighting and showcasing .POST Group members who have successfully launched solutions and services using .POST.

“We are also currently working on expanding the functionality of cybertrack.post in all aspects, including integrating elements of the .POST/UPU Cyber Incident Response Team (CIRT), DNS abuse/security threat reporting and monitoring and several other aspects designed to improve the cyber-resilience of .POST Group members, in particular, UPU members, and indeed, the global postal sector as a whole,” Hackshaw concluded.

The Commonwealth Digital Trade Hackathon was officially launched today at the Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF 2022), held on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali.

The Hackathon is a joint initiative between the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Connectivity Agenda (CCA) and the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO).

At the Youth Forum, Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC said:

“I am delighted that we are officially launching another important project for young people. We are asking you to lead the future charge in building resilient, sustainable and interconnected digital economies across the Commonwealth. We are asking you to take part in a unique HACKATHON: “Harnessing Technology to Transform the Digital Trade Economy”.

“This Hackathon will scout, select and support impact-driven teams with game-changing solutions – designed to harness the shift to digitalisation across the Commonwealth and beyond. Trade is a vital connection in our Commonwealth family, and this Hackathon will directly engage you to come up with fresh, innovative ideas to harness digital technology to facilitate trade and cross border paperless trade.”

 

Ahead of the launch, Secretary-General of the CTO, Ms. Bernadette Lewis said:

“There is no returning to December 2019 and while trade is recovering, there are many more opportunities for fostering digital trade. This Hackathon will challenge you to re-imaging trade – examine the existing barriers to digital trade and developing software solutions to overcome them. The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation is pleased to be a partner with the Commonwealth Secretariat to convene this Hackathon.

“This endeavour is part of our push to support The Commonwealth’s Connectivity Agenda, to explore and develop technologies that can facilitate cross border paperless trade. This project will bring together finance and technology innovators and major technology institutions. The winner of the Commonwealth Digital Trade Hackathon will receive a cash prize as well as entrepreneurial support.”

Game-changing solutions

The Commonwealth Digital Trade Hackathon’s theme, “Harnessing Technology to Transform the Digital Trade Economy”, will scout, select and support impact-driven teams with game-changing solutions that aim to address the shift to increased digital technology, as we strive to achieve a fairer and more frictionless international trade system across the Commonwealth and beyond.

This dynamic initiative  aims to develop  innovative solutions that increase the adoption of digital technology in the Commonwealth and beyond, the need for which has been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposed solutions will therefore seek to explore high-potential existing and new technologies that can facilitate trade and cross-border paperless trade.

The Commonwealth Digital Trade Hackathon is open to teams with scale-ready solutions that want to accelerate their impact. Among the solutions that this hackathon seeks to come up with are:

  • increasing accessibility to reduce barriers to trade through efficient digital infrastructure;
  • promoting inclusive growth, including experience sharing, digital skills development and industrial upskilling;
  • improving agricultural and fisheries connectivity; and
  • promoting business to business partnerships that support inclusive and sustainable economic recovery.

How to join

Unlike most Hackathons, the Commonwealth’s will feature scale-ready solutions. Teams will have 48 hours to prepare and present their exiting tech solution. Submission is through the Digital Hack Platform and hybrid presentation before the awarding in October. Workshops, mentorship and learning sessions are available throughout the event.

The delivery of the Hackathon is supported by Impact Hub. Sandra Akariza from Impact Hub Kigali, announced the timeline of the event. “This is a real opportunity for teams with proven solutions to make a huge difference to Commonwealth citizens by scaling their solutions internationally,” she said.

The winner of the Commonwealth Digital Trade Hackathon will receive exciting prizes and the unique opportunity to receive support to scale their solution across the Commonwealth.

E-mail the CCA team for more information about the Hackathon or to register interest in participating.

The creative industries contributed close to $3 trillion to global GDP in 2020, yet their ability to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth in emerging markets is often largely invisible ― especially compared to traditional sectors such as natural resource extraction, manufacturing, and financial services.

This happens largely because of the challenges in defining and measuring the creative industries and its impact, especially given that several of its development outcomes are intangible. By neglecting to capitalize on their rich cultural assets, emerging markets are missing major opportunities in pursuing economic diversification and promoting shared prosperity.

But now there are strong incentives for governments and the private sector to measure and invest in this industry. That is because new disruptive technologies, which have flourished since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, have the potential to create formal income-earning opportunities for hundreds of thousands of individual artists and generate economic growth for countries around the world.

A primer on creative industries

First, some background on creative industries.

These industries use creativity and culture as their main input to produce creative products. These products include music, film, fashion, and the visual arts, among others, and extend to a range of creative content production embedded within other sectors. The sector has the potential to constitute not only a source of cultural value, but also commercial value within emerging markets.

One good example is Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, which contributes around up to 3 percent to Nigeria’s GDP. Nollywood provides around 300,000 direct and 1 million indirect jobs and generates around 10 percent of foreign exchange earnings from non-oil exports. Still, much of Nollywood’s commercial potential remains unharnessed, as piracy of films is thought to constitute 50 percent of potential profits.

Creativity also supports economic growth through fostering productivity, promoting industrial innovation via supply chain linkages with other sectors, and improving country branding for the tourism industry. Further, unlike other economic sectors, the creative industries provide a broad array of socio-cognitive benefits for individuals, as consumption of creative goods supports educational outcomes, health and wellbeing, and inclusion. These spill over at the country level in the form of nation building, social cohesion, and diversity.

However, emerging markets historically faced substantial challenges in formalizing and commercializing their creative wealth. Broken creative value chains paired with a weak enabling environment have created a fragmented landscape with high costs of production of creative products and limited local and global distribution and monetization channels for artists from emerging markets. The fragmented nature of the sector also means there is limited coverage and enforcement of institutional frameworks to protect creative assets (intellectual property), limited public promotion of the sector, and a lack of available infrastructure, financing, and skills to develop the industries.

Enter disruptive technologies

Partly triggered by the challenges that creatives faced in developing and marketing their products during the pandemic, the adoption of emerging digital technologies is opening new avenues to produce, distribute, and monetize content. Drastic reductions in the costs of media recording technologies, such as cameras and microphones, have also helped more artists purchase equipment.

Consumer-facing digital technologies such as music streaming (Spotify, Pandora), movie streaming and production platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime), creator tech applications (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook), and e-commerce (Etsy) ― paired with mobile money solutions ― have similarly lowered barriers to entry for talent discovery, distribution, and drawing income from creative content.

For example, musicians in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda previously relied on live shows for most of their income earnings, but digital platforms such as Mdundo have enabled more than 90,000 artists in those countries sell their music to global audiences.

Importantly, disruptive technologies have enabled the creative industries to become an investable sector for the first time in many emerging markets. Digital platforms are enabling artists to track earnings and provide pathways for new forms of income generation, such as brand promotion and advertising. New technologies also support technological and legal barriers to production and thereby protect intellectual property.

Evidence about the potential effects of digitalization on protection of creative assets from developed markets highlights that appealing licensed streaming alternatives can thwart piracy rates. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), a relatively nascent blockchain technology that tokenizes and records digital assets on a digital ledger, help enforce copyright protections and enable artists to be rewarded for their work. These technologies also enable data generation on the creative industries, helping governments to understand the relevance of the creative industries and develop evidence-based policies to promote them.

The next frontiers

We are seeing the emergence of several pockets of excellence with the creative industries and the role of digitalization in amplifying them, or creating entirely new creative industries in emerging market. They include:

  • The re-emergence of Latin music has been driven largely by digital streaming and was spearheaded by a proactive private sector that sought to digitalize and address international demand. Latin music accounted for 5 percent of the total $12.2 billion recorded music revenues in 2020 in the U.S. market, achieving its highest revenues since 2005. The rise of Danny Ocean, a Venezuelan musician whose songs “streamed [their] way onto the airwaves,” is a case in point on how digital tools lower the barriers to entry for musicians to market their creative products.
  • Digitalization also created entirely new creative industries, such as the creator economy ― a software-facilitated economic ecosystem that allows digital content creators to earn revenue from their creative products. Leveraging affordable production technologies and creator tech applications, creative entrepreneurship has become a viable source of living and resulted in a number of economy-wide effects. Taking the example of the creator tech application YouTube, which directly and indirectly contributed around $875 million to GDP in India, and $710 million in Brazil, in 2020. YouTube also supported around 700,000 jobs in India and 122,000 jobs in Brazil. Creator tech applications have facilitated the emergence of new digital startups that support the creator economy, such as One Impression in India, a marketing platform for influencers that automates the brokerage of brand promotion contracts between creative entrepreneurs and businesses seeking to advertise their products.

The multiple benefits of developing a creative industry, paired with the unprecedented potential provided by digitalization, present opportunities for the sector to be transformed from a forgotten industry into a focal industry that supports economic growth and development. Yet much needs to be done to fulfill such promise. The industry needs a combination of investment by private and public stakeholders, including development finance institutions, and integration of the creative industries into the development ambitions of emerging markets. This could eventually help spur growth of their creative economies, create jobs, and in a broader sense lead to greater economic diversification.

WTO members welcomed at a meeting of the Committee on Trade and Development on 20 June the decision taken by the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) to reinvigorate activities under the Work Programme on E-Commerce, with the aim of increasing the participation of developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs) in digital trade. The Committee also received updates on initiatives to increase capacity-building training activities in these countries and on the preferential treatment extended to LDC exports.


Participation of developing countries in e-commerce

WTO members expressed their readiness to reinvigorate the development aspect of the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, as instructed in the decision that ministers adopted at MC12 on 17 June. The decision also extends the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until the 13th Ministerial Conference.(1)

WTO members continued discussing a paper entitled “Global Electronic Commerce for Inclusive Development” tabled by India and South Africa in November 2021. The need to intensify discussions on ways of boosting the participation of developing countries in digital trade was emphasized by many members. India shared its experiences in creating a public digital infrastructure and invited other members to follow suit.More information on the paper can be found here.

Capacity-building activities for developing countries

The WTO’s Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC) presented its 2022 WTO Technical Assistance Annual Report, outlining how the WTO Secretariat delivered training activities to developing countries, LDCs and observer governments in 2021 despite the constraints posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beneficiaries were able to improve their understanding of WTO activities, the report notes, and to play a more active role in the multilateral trading system. The number of women and government officials from LDCs taking part in training activities bounced back after a decline caused by the pandemic. The report can be downloaded here.

In addition, after a year with almost no face-to-face activities, ITTC said it was able to hold in early June the first in-person training course for government officials from developing countries and LDCs since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

Preferential treatment for LDC exports

India said that it is providing duty-free access to LDC exports for 94.2 per cent of its tariff lines. India is the fourth most important destination for LDC exports, it added.

China noted that it would continue to work for the early entry into force of its improved duty-free treatment for 98 per cent of its tariff lines for LDC products, as announced in December 2021.

Regional trade agreements

WTO members took note of the notification by Seychelles of its accession to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) at the Committee’s dedicated session on regional trade agreements, which was also held on 20 June.

Future work

The Development Committee chair, Ambassador Usha Chandnee Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius, informed members of her intention to consult with them on how to make progress on the work of the Committee. This includes fully implementing the Committee’s mandate to act as the focal point for the WTO’s development work. It also includes implementing a “Monitoring Mechanism” to centralize, within  the WTO, the analysis and review of the use of special and differential provisions for  developing countries. Detailed information on the work of the Committee is available here.

Date of the next meeting

The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for mid-November.

  1. WTO members will hold consultations in the WTO’s General Council to decide on the date and venue of the 13th Ministerial Conference. back to text

Binta sells vegetables at a Dakar market to support her family. By using a low-cost tablet as a simple point-of-sales application, she learns to think more strategically and improves her management skills. She reduces the inventory stocks of what doesn’t sell and orders more of what sells well. She identifies her best customers and prints receipts to keep their loyalty. Fast food and laundry shops owners use the app to keep track of who already owes them money to collect on their next visit. Sellers such as Binta no longer need to keep this valuable information in their head or write it down on a piece of paper. As a result, their confidence grows and their business expands. Above all, digital technology enables continued learning, improves skills, increases earnings, and the hiring of more workers.

“Digital Senegal for Inclusive Growth: Technological Transformation for Better and More Jobs” presents new data on enterprises and households adopting and using digital technologies. Senegal is the first country to implement the Firm Adoption of Technology survey developed by the World Bank.  Enterprises were asked about the range of technologies they use for specific tasks such as planning stock levels relative to sales or preparing farming land, and which technology they used most frequently for each business task. The data shows strong links between the use of technologies and higher sales, and better and more jobs.

Adopting technology yields significant benefits. Where mobile Internet is available to households, consumption levels increase by 14 %, and extreme poverty decreases by 10 % – and more jobs with higher earnings are created.  Enterprises using better technologies have higher productivity, generate more jobs, and have more unskilled workers on their payroll. Using more sophisticated technologies, such as a software application, rather than writing accounting or inventory control by hand, generates a 14-% increase in the number of workers on average. For informal microenterprises, using a smartphone per se does not create more jobs. What makes a difference is the specific use of digital technologies such as inventory control and point-of-sales software for oversight and planning, and having access to electricity and a loan.

Small, medium, and large enterprises in Senegal seeking to upgrade their technologies face three key obstacles: 1) financial constraints, making them unable to pay for digital technologies; 2) lack of skills and technical capabilities; 3) lack of demand, because of lack of information, and technology not adapted to user needs and skill levels.

What stops Senegalese firms from adopting more sophisticated technologies

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What stops Senegalese firms from adopting more sophisticated technologies

To support enterprises in creating better and more jobs, governments can play an important role in three areas.

Technology and skills upgrading policies: Access to information and technical assistance can support enterprises in adopting technologies and developing capabilities. Informal microenterprises willing to use these technologies should have access to government support programs. By filling out the Firm Adoption of Technology survey, enterprises can benchmark themselves against others of their size in their business area and assess the technologies and skills most useful for them. By using technologies appropriate for their skill level, workers can learn as they work, improve their skills, and increase their earnings.

Business environment policies: The competitiveness of specific value chains should be strengthened by improving coordination and promoting market access. Policies should focus also on improving conditions for entrepreneurs who create tools accessible to all, including to lower-income workers, such as apps using local languages and voice-activated apps for illiterate workers. Rather than requiring workers to upgrade their skills for difficult-to-use technologies, apps should be designed to meet current skill levels and allow workers to build them up.

New financing mechanisms: By tracking users’ spending history, digital technologies can facilitate the delivery of financing in smaller amounts, without burdensome collateral requirements. Larger amounts can be provided progressively based on a track record of on-time payments. Micro, small and medium enterprises that previously would have been denied credit can be financed with partial credit guarantees and new forms of equity investments. These types of financing are critical to generate more sales, and better and more jobs.

What is the promising good news? These findings have helped Senegal design its national program to accelerate the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises and job creation. The World Bank is supporting this program through its “Senegal Jobs, Economic Transformation & Recovery Project.”

Efficient public policies require an ongoing process of learning from experimentation. Share your thoughts on how to improve support for digital technologies to create better and more jobs!

WTO members successfully concluded the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva on 17 June, securing multilaterally negotiated outcomes on a series of key trade initiatives. The “Geneva Package” confirms the historical importance of the multilateral trading system and underlines the important role of the WTO in addressing the world’s most pressing issues, especially at a time when global solutions are critical.

 

Round-the-clock negotiations among delegations produced the “Geneva Package”, which contains a series of unprecedented decisions on fisheries subsidies, WTO response to emergencies, including a patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, food safety and agriculture, and WTO reform.

“The package of agreements you have reached will make a difference to the lives of people around the world. The outcomes demonstrate that the WTO is, in fact, capable of responding to the emergencies of our time,” said WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. “They show the world that WTO members can come together, across geopolitical fault lines, to address problems of the global commons, and to reinforce and reinvigorate this institution. They give us cause to hope that strategic competition will be able to exist alongside growing strategic cooperation.”

DG Okonjo-Iweala expressed her conviction that “trade is part of the solution to the crises of our time” and noted that the WTO “can and must do more to help the world respond to the pandemic, tackle environmental challenges and foster greater socio-economic inclusion.”

The package adopted by members include:

  • an outcome document (WT/MIN(22)/W/16/Rev.1);
  • a package on WTO response to emergencies, comprising:
    • a Ministerial Declaration on the Emergency Response to Food Insecurity (WT/MIN(22)/W/17/Rev.1);
    • a Ministerial Decision on World Food Programme (WFP) Food Purchases Exemptions from Export Prohibitions or Restrictions (WT/MIN(22)/W/18);
    • a Ministerial Declaration on the WTO Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics (WT/MIN(22)/W/13); and
    • a Ministerial Decision on the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (WT/MIN(22)/W/15/Rev.1)
  • a Decision on the E-commerce Moratorium and Work Programme (WT/MIN(22)/W/23)
  • an Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (WT/MIN(22)/W/22).

In addition, ministers adopted two decisions – on the Work Programme on Small Economies (WT/MIN(21)/W/3) and on the TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints (WT/MIN(21)/W/4) – and a Sanitary and Phytosanitary Declaration for the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference: Responding to Modern SPS Challenges (WT/MIN(22)/W/3/Rev.3).

Ministers also agreed on a process for addressing longstanding calls for reform of the WTO.  The Ministerial Declaration (WT/MIN/(22)/18) commits members to an open, transparent and inclusive process overseen by the WTO’s General Council, which will consider decisions on reform for submission to the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13).

All documents can be found here.

Acknowledging the “vital importance of agriculture,” DG Okonjo-Iweala noted that differences on some issues, including public stockholding for food security purposes, domestic support, cotton and market access “meant that we could not achieve consensus on a new roadmap for future work.” However, she added, “members found a renewed sense of purpose: they are determined to keep at it on the basis of existing mandates, with a view to reaching positive outcomes at MC13.”

Her full remarks are here.

The WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference was held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 12 to 17 June 2022. Initially scheduled to end on 15 June, the ministerial gathering was extended by two days to allow more time for negotiations and reaching agreements. Co-hosted by Kazakhstan, the Conference was chaired by Timur Suleimenov, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Kazakh President.

In his closing remarks, Mr Suleimenov thanked the DG for never giving up. “Her determination, her leadership, her perseverance made all the difference. Dr Ngozi, the WTO owes you a great debt.”

He told members: “This week, you have all contributed to making what seemed impossible come to fruition. We have all engaged in frank and sometimes very difficult conversations. We may have not achieved everything that we set out for, but we have delivered, and this is something that all of us should be proud of.”

“Congratulations to you all. Congratulations on going beyond your national interests and looking to the common good that the WTO embodies, and in doing so, carrying out our shared responsibility to restore confidence in this organization. It is so much needed in these difficult times,” he added.

MC13

The Ministerial Conference requested the General Council to hold consultations with a view to deciding on the date and venue of the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13). The Chair recalled that the Decision on the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce contains an understanding that MC13 should ordinarily be held by 31 December 2023. Two proposals – by Cameroon and the United Arab Emirates – have been received to host the ministerial gathering.

Bishkek-based sewing enterprise expands its business worldwide through ITC support.

For almost three decades, “Sabrina-Amika”, a Kyrgyz sewing company, has been producing women’s clothing under the brand “DiSORELLE “and successfully distributing it in the Eurasian Economic Union.

DiSORELLE’s team, along with 200 other Central Asian small businesses, has gained new e-commerce and business skills by participating in the International Trade Centre’s e-commerce training programme under its EU-funded Ready4Trade project.

Since its rebranding in 2016, DiSORELLE’s progress has been gradual and constant, producing around 5,000 ready-to-wear units monthly.

“We want to create a thriving, expanding, and profitable business that brings success to all around us,” says Nevena Bondarenko, the CEO of the company. “We have implemented the ISO quality management system, our products are consistent in quality and have been successfully sold in the Eurasian Economic Union,” she adds.

Before joining the Ready4Trade project, DiSORELLE had experience with selling their products online, mainly on marketplaces Wildberries and Lamoda.   Thanks to ITC’s e-commerce coaching, DiSORELLE was able to optimize their website, create new social media accounts on YouTube and Instagram, and improve their listings.

DiSORELLE also was also able to create an eBay store as part of the eBay Central Asia Hub, a joint initiative with USAID, and started selling to the European Union and US markets.

Kirill Bondarenko, DiSORELLE’s business development director, says: “The special rates provided by DHL for project participants are a magic wand for the entrepreneurs in Kyrgyzstan. Standard shipping rates are significantly higher.”

He adds on the overall coaching experience: “Prior to the start of the project, we had limited e-commerce activities. Through individual support, we reviewed our business, starting from website photos and digital materials to packaging, shipping and delivery. The ITC Trade Map tool is also very useful to understand our export potential. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that we, as a Kyrgyz garment producer, have a zero rate for exports to the EU.”

“No doubt, our participation in the Ready4Trade Central Asia project was noteworthy as we could expand our online sales channels and explore new potential markets, especially when you consider the financial losses caused by COVID-19 pandemic,” Nevena explains.
About the project

The Ready4Trade Central Asia project is a joint initiative of the European Union and the International Trade Centre. It aims to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations.

Leaders at landmark ITU meeting in Kigali adopt roadmap for digital transformation in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) concluded today with the adoption of a forward-looking agenda to address the global connectivity gap that has kept 2.9 billion people around the world from using the Internet.

Organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) between 6 and 16 June, WTDC welcomed 2,152 participants in total, representing 150 Member States and 340 Sector members and partners, with 1,304 delegates present in the Rwandan capital, and another 848 joining the meeting remotely. The focus of the event was ‘Connecting the unconnected to achieve sustainable development’.

The Kigali Action Plan agreed at the conference charts a course for digital development that aligns closely with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations for 2030. It also defines the workplan of the ITU’s Development Sector (ITU-D) until the next WTDC.

Public-private partnerships were at the forefront with the conference’s Partner2Connect Digital Development Roundtable; since its launch, the Coalition has to date mobilized 418 ground-breaking connectivity pledges worth an estimated USD 25.05 billion, with more pledges still coming in.

“Having this conference take place in Rwanda is an important milestone,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Let’s build on this momentum to strengthen the image of ITU as a UN specialized agency not just for technology but also for development – and to accelerate digital transformation for all, here in Africa and the rest of the world.”

In her closing address, Rwanda’s Minister for ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, who chaired the conference, told delegates, “I want to thank all delegations for the zealous effort, spirit of collaboration, consensus exerted towards making this WTDC-22 a success and all the contributions made towards the Kigali Action Plan that will move us forward to bringing connectivity and its benefits to the unconnected over the next four years…I hope we can report positive results at the next WTDC.”

Committed to connectivity

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference set out to reinvigorate progress on SDGs and put digital uptake at the forefront for the remaining seven years of the UN’s Decade of Action.

Adopting the Kigali Declaration, delegates underscored their collective commitment to universal and meaningful connectivity, and approved new Regional Initiatives. Also agreed were various new ITU-D resolutions and new sets of Questions to be investigated by the two ITU Study Groups focused on development issues.

“It has been an intensive two weeks, but thanks to the tireless commitment and hard work of our delegates we have succeeded in finding consensus and building the solid global agreement on core principles to drive connectivity that has been the great talent of ITU for more than 155 years,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.

Newly adopted resolutions aim to:

  • Ensure every school is connected to the Internet through the joint ITU-UNICEF Giga initiative (Resolution on Connecting every school to the internet and every young person to information and communication technology services)
  • Confirm the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition as the primary platform to foster new partnerships around meaningful connectivity and digital transformation globally, focusing on the hardest- to-connect communities (Resolution on The ITU Partner to Connect Digital Coalition (P2C))
  • Drive efforts to advance digital transformation for sustainable development, recognizing the enormous potential that ICTs have to create positive, meaningful and lasting change (Resolution on Digital transformation for sustainable development)
  • Create a thriving environment for entrepreneurship and digital innovation ecosystems to help accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (Resolution on Fostering telecommunications/ICT-centric Entrepreneurship and digital innovation ecosystems for sustainable digital development)

Regional Initiatives outlined in the Kigali Action Plan address specific needs for each major region of the world to advance and accelerate digital transformation. Broad themes across ITU’s six global regions include: infrastructure development; enhancing cybersecurity; nurturing enabling policy and regulatory environments; advancing digital skills development; and developing smart and sustainable cities.

Updated digital development questions

The latest ITU-D Study Group Questions aim to further support the achievement of global and regional development goals through collaborative discussions and technical engagement among diverse stakeholders.

The 14 Questions fall under two broa​d categories:

​-  Study Group 1: Enabling environment for meaningful connectivity

–  Study Group 2: Digital transformation

​These two ITU-D Study Groups are tasked with drafting reports, guidelines, and recommendations on a range of topics related to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the context of digital development.

These include the use of telecommunications/ICTs for disaster risk reduction and management; economic aspects of national telecommunications/ICTs; consumer information, protection, and rights; sustainable smart cities and communities; enabling technologies for e-services and applications; and ICTs for the environment. See the full list.

New partnerships and engagement

WTDC featured ground-breaking events designed to mobilize new voices and partnership mechanisms.

The Generation Connect Global Youth Summit, held from 2 to 4 June, brought hundreds of young people aged 15-29 to Kigali’s Intare Arena, as well as engaging more than 5,000 virtual participants via 70 Generation Connect Hubs around the world. Key debate topics included the global digital divide, youth access to online education and digital skills, the digital gender gap, online safety, e-waste management, the future of work, digital entrepreneurship, and the role of technology in climate change.

The Partner2Connect Digital Development Roundtable from 7 to 9 June threw the spotlight on investment pledges from governments, the private sector and civil society to advance global connectivity, with commitments to be monitored transparently via a new ITU-hosted dashboard. Explore the pledges here.

ITU’s Global Connectivity Report 2022, released on 6 June, assesses the status of global connectivity and offers recommendations for accelerating progress. It notes that while easy, affordable access to fast broadband has become near-ubiquitous in most rich-world nations, vast swaths of humanity remain excluded from the immense possibilities offered by the online experience, stunting economic development and deepening global inequalities. The report calls for putting universal and meaningful connectivity – defined as the possibility of a safe, satisfying, enriching, productive, and affordable online experience for everyone – at the centre of global development.

A new Network of Women (NoW) for ITU-D programme supported women’s participation and professional development at the conference, with the goal of promoting better gender balance in national delegations and empowering women to take on more responsible roles as leaders of working groups and committees. In addition to dedicated in-person and online training sessions ahead of the conference, the programme featured a Women’s Lunch hosted by Qualcomm (9 June), a NoW Walk2Connect walkathon open to all delegates and Kigali citizens (12 June), and a Women’s Breakfast hosted by the Government of Australia (15 June).

WTDC registered delegates present onsite in Kigali included 64% male and 36% female delegates – an improvement over the previous WTDC in Buenos Aires in 2017 (74% male / 26% female), but still far from the gender-balanced conference that ITU is committed to achieving.

National Order of Honour conferred on ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on 14 June conferred the Agaciro (National Order of Honour) medal on Secretary-General Zhao for “distinguished service as the leader of ITU during a very consequential period for the globalization of telecommunications technology.” The medal is awarded to high-ranking officials for promoting political, economic, and social welfare consistent with Rwanda’s interests at the national or international level.

Zhao said the award would “inspire and encourage all to tackle digital development challenges and ensure no one is left behind, adding: “I would like to take this opportunity to pay my respects to President Kagame for his vision for the digital future, as well as his capable leadership in ICT adoption to transform Africa and facilitate global ICT development.”

Discover what others are saying on social media and join the conversation by searching and posting with the hashtag #ITUWTDC

Resources

WTDC: 

WTDC Newsroom

WTDC – World Telecommunication Development Conference | Trello

WTDC – Opening Video | Youtube

WTDC – Highlights Video | YouTube

WTDC | Photos on Flickr ​​

Global Connectivity Report:

Global Connectivity Report 2022 | Trello

Partner2Connect:

Partner2Connect | Trello

Partner2Connect Highlights Video | YouTube

Partner2Connect Digital Development Roundtable | Photos on Flickr

Generation Connect:

Generation Connect | Trello

Generation Connect Global Youth Summit Highlights Video | YouTube

Generation Connect Global Youth Summit | Photos on Flickr

  • The creative industries contributed nearly $3 trillion to global GDP in 2020.
  • The adoption of emerging digital technologies is opening new avenues to produce, distribute and monetize content.
  • These technologies can create formal income-earning opportunities for thousands of artists globally and generate economic growth for countries.
  • But the industry still needs further investment by private and public stakeholders to help spur growth, create more jobs and create greater economic diversification.

The creative industries contributed close to $3 trillion to global GDP in 2020, yet their ability to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth in emerging markets is often largely invisible ― especially compared to traditional sectors such as natural resource extraction, manufacturing, and financial services.

This happens largely because of the challenges in defining and measuring the creative industries and its impact, especially given that several of its development outcomes are intangible. By neglecting to capitalize on their rich cultural assets, emerging markets are missing major opportunities in pursuing economic diversification and promoting shared prosperity.

But now there are strong incentives for governments and the private sector to measure and invest in this industry. That is because new disruptive technologies, which have flourished since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, have the potential to create formal income-earning opportunities for hundreds of thousands of individual artists and generate economic growth for countries around the world.

A primer on creative industries

First, some background on creative industries.

These industries use creativity and culture as their main input to produce creative products. These products include music, film, fashion, and the visual arts, among others, and extend to a range of creative content production embedded within other sectors. The sector has the potential to constitute not only a source of cultural value, but also commercial value within emerging markets.

One good example is Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, which contributes around up to 3 percent to Nigeria’s GDP. Nollywood provides around 300,000 direct and 1 million indirect jobs and generates around 10 percent of foreign exchange earnings from non-oil exports. Still, much of Nollywood’s commercial potential remains unharnessed, as piracy of films is thought to constitute 50 percent of potential profits.

Creativity also supports economic growth through fostering productivity, promoting industrial innovation via supply chain linkages with other sectors, and improving country branding for the tourism industry. Further, unlike other economic sectors, the creative industries provide a broad array of socio-cognitive benefits for individuals, as consumption of creative goods supports educational outcomes, health and wellbeing, and inclusion. These spill over at the country level in the form of nation building, social cohesion, and diversity.

However, emerging markets historically faced substantial challenges in formalizing and commercializing their creative wealth. Broken creative value chains paired with a weak enabling environment have created a fragmented landscape with high costs of production of creative products and limited local and global distribution and monetization channels for artists from emerging markets. The fragmented nature of the sector also means there is limited coverage and enforcement of institutional frameworks to protect creative assets (intellectual property), limited public promotion of the sector, and a lack of available infrastructure, financing, and skills to develop the industries.

Enter disruptive technologies

Partly triggered by the challenges that creatives faced in developing and marketing their products during the pandemic, the adoption of emerging digital technologies is opening new avenues to produce, distribute, and monetize content. Drastic reductions in the costs of media recording technologies, such as cameras and microphones, have also helped more artists purchase equipment.

Consumer-facing digital technologies such as music streaming (Spotify, Pandora), movie streaming and production platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime), creator tech applications (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook), and e-commerce (Etsy) ― paired with mobile money solutions ― have similarly lowered barriers to entry for talent discovery, distribution, and drawing income from creative content.

For example, musicians in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda previously relied on live shows for most of their income earnings, but digital platforms such as Mdundo have enabled more than 90,000 artists in those countries sell their music to global audiences.

Importantly, disruptive technologies have enabled the creative industries to become an investable sector for the first time in many emerging markets. Digital platforms are enabling artists to track earnings and provide pathways for new forms of income generation, such as brand promotion and advertising. New technologies also support technological and legal barriers to production and thereby protect intellectual property.

Evidence about the potential effects of digitalization on protection of creative assets from developed markets highlights that appealing licensed streaming alternatives can thwart piracy rates. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), a relatively nascent blockchain technology that tokenizes and records digital assets on a digital ledger, help enforce copyright protections and enable artists to be rewarded for their work. These technologies also enable data generation on the creative industries, helping governments to understand the relevance of the creative industries and develop evidence-based policies to promote them.

The next frontiers

We are seeing the emergence of several pockets of excellence with the creative industries and the role of digitalization in amplifying them, or creating entirely new creative industries in emerging market. They include:

  • The re-emergence of Latin music has been driven largely by digital streaming and was spearheaded by a proactive private sector that sought to digitalize and address international demand. Latin music accounted for5 percent of the total $12.2 billion recorded music revenues in 2020 in the U.S. market, achieving its highest revenues since 2005. The rise of Danny Ocean, a Venezuelan musician whose songs “streamed [their] way onto the airwaves,” is a case in point on how digital tools lower the barriers to entry for musicians to market their creative products.
  • Digitalization also created entirely new creative industries, such as the creator economy ― a software-facilitated economic ecosystem that allows digital content creators to earn revenue from their creative products. Leveraging affordable production technologies and creator tech applications, creative entrepreneurship has become a viable source of living and resulted in a number of economy-wide effects. Taking the example of the creator tech application YouTube, which directly and indirectly contributed around $875 million to GDP in India, and $710 million in Brazil, in 2020. YouTube also supported around 700,000 jobs in India and 122,000 jobs in Brazil. Creator tech applications have facilitated the emergence of new digital startups that support the creator economy, such as One Impression in India, a marketing platform for influencers that automates the brokerage of brand promotion contracts between creative entrepreneurs and businesses seeking to advertise their products.

The multiple benefits of developing a creative industry, paired with the unprecedented potential provided by digitalization, present opportunities for the sector to be transformed from a forgotten industry into a focal industry that supports economic growth and development. Yet much needs to be done to fulfill such promise. The industry needs a combination of investment by private and public stakeholders, including development finance institutions, and integration of the creative industries into the development ambitions of emerging markets. This could eventually help spur growth of their creative economies, create jobs, and in a broader sense lead to greater economic diversification.

On Friday, 6 May 2022, UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the Rapid Financing Facility that will enable women entrepreneurs to access affordable digital financial products and services.

The Rapid Financing Facility takes a multi-pronged approach to address various barriers women entrepreneurs face in the formal and informal sectors. This includes supporting women entrepreneurs to:

  • Enhance their business capacity skills
  • Understand requirements to pitch at innovation funds
  • Know requirements to be able to sell on E-commerce platforms
  • Understand process and requirments to gain access to financial products.
  • The launch saw the signing of the performance-based grant funding agreements with five partners under two UNCDF Funds; the ‘Women’s
  • Entrepreneurship Capacity Building Fund’ and ‘E-Commence Support Fund’. Emstret Holdings, PNGX Markets, Tok Stret Consulting,
  • Westpac and Agbook were selected through a competitive process.

UNCDF Country Lead Jagdeep Dahiya said that “5,000 women entrepreneurs will benefit from digital and financial literacy training before the end of this year.” Mr. Dahiya added that “partners are expected to contribute at least 20% of the total project cost to ensure the services are well developed and embedded in their businesses.”

The project seeks to support the development of digital and financial literacy solutions targeting women-led MSMEs and women entrepreneurs to enhance their financial management and business skills in the country.

UNDP Resident Representative Dirk Wagener said that “the Rapid Financing Facility supports women entrepreneurs by working with financial service providers to promote solutions that are both fitting, suitable and affordable in terms of financial products and services”.

“We know that the informal sector is a large sector that drives the economy, primarily dominated by women here in Papua New Guinea. These women need access to those digital solutions and financial services to suit their needs. And the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women, youth, poor households, informal and self-employed workers and MSMEs who were not ready to meet some of the challenges presented to them”.

Acting Governor of Bank of Papua New Guinea (BPNG), George Awap said, “with the COVID-19 pandemic we all witnessed how important it is to leverage technology and digitization to keep us ticking and bring in new means and ways of doing business. These new things should trickle down to the women and entrepreneurs in the formal and informal sector, which are critical players in our economy”.

Small, Medium, Enterprise Corporation (SMEC) Chairman, Mr. John Pora said, “the MSME space has got a lot of room for growth, and that room for growth will be defined by how we make relevant the programmes, the re-architecture of what building and constructing looks like in terms of citizen participation”.

“Access to finance is one of the difficult areas, and it’s not only the responsibility of the government to provide money or our development partners to facilitate development funds, but it also requires our citizens to step up”.

Additional interventions are planned as part of the project for the year 2022, including the first-ever portfolio guarantee and innovation fund for digital financial services adoption by women entrepreneurs of Papua New Guinea.

 

On 10 June 2022, the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) held an inauguration ceremony to announce the official launch of a new electronic tariff platform, developed by the LRA in partnership with the EU-WCO Programme for Harmonized System in Africa (HS-Africa Programme), funded by the European Union.

At the invitation of the LRA Commissioner General Mr. Thabo Khasipe, the event was attended by senior representatives of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, SACU Secretariat, the European Union (EU) Delegation to Lesotho, the WCO and a wide audience of stakeholders, including private sector. The WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya delivered remarks at the opening of the ceremony.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Tseko Nyesemane, Deputy Commissioner Customs expressed his appreciation to the WCO, the EU and the e-tariff technical team of the LRA, stressing that the new platform would contribute to the automation and digitalization of Customs clearance processes. He pointed out that the initiative would enhance the efficiency of LRA services to stakeholders. He recalled the ongoing transformation of the revenue system in Lesotho emphasizing that the e-tariff platform would be an important achievement in the context of this process, contributing to modernization of revenue service across the country.

Congratulating the LRA on the inauguration of the electronic tariff platform, Dr. Mikuriya stressed that as the world was recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of digitalization of Customs procedures towards paperless trade could not be overemphasized as it contributed substantially to the ease of doing business. He recalled that the WCO theme of the year 2022 was “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem”, welcoming the new tariff platform as an important step towards that objective. He pledged continued assistance for Africa under the HS-Africa Programme, thanking the EU for its financial support.

In her welcoming address, Ms. Tsireletso Mojela, Deputy Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, thanked the WCO and the EU for their assistance in the implementation of the electronic tariff platform. She commended the LRA on the success of the project, stressing that trade facilitation work was high on the agenda of the government in Lesotho, with the National Trade Facilitation Committee coordinating the implementation of various initiatives with the relevant stakeholders. She stressed the key role of WCO standards, such as the HS and the Revised Kyoto Convention, in the modernization of Customs work, and reiterated her administration’s sustained interest in strengthening that work further.

Speaking on behalf of the EU Delegation in Lesotho, Mr. Tomás Pallás Aparisi, Trade and Private Sector Development correspondent, welcomed the successful implementation of the new electronic tool in Lesotho. He pointed out that the EU would be keen on supporting such initiatives as they contributed to facilitating international trade, and trade was creating jobs, reducing poverty and furthering economic development. He expressed his confidence in the success of the new tool, which would help remove trade barriers and contribute to the creation of the continental free trade area in Africa.

After a demonstration of the new platform, other speakers took the floor to welcome the implementation of the tariff platform, stressing that it would help bring Lesotho into a better alignment with international standards of the WCO, the WTO and the AfCFTA. The inauguration ceremony was preceded by a series of workshops to explain the functioning of the new tool to Customs officials. The ceremony concluded by activating the electronic tariff platform on the LRA website and making it fully operational.

For more details, please contact hs@wcoomd.org.

The South Centre provided its comments to the OECD Inclusive Framework’s Task Force on Digital Economy (TFDE) on the Tax Certainty Framework for Amount A. These rules are part of the overall OECD project on the taxation of the digitalized economy known as Pillar One. They determine the amount of a Multinational Enterprise’s (MNE) profits that will then be partially redistributed to market jurisdictions, which are expected to be largely developing countries.

The Tax Certainty Framework is a central element of the new tax architecture. It seeks to create a multilateral mandatory and binding dispute prevention mechanism for the first time in the history of international taxation.

The South Centre’s comments have been reproduced below.


I. Background

The South Centre is the intergovernmental organization of developing countries that helps developing countries to combine their efforts and expertise to promote their common interests in the international arena. The South Centre has 54 Member States coming from the three developing country regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. It was established by an Intergovernmental Agreement which came into force on 31 July 1995. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.

The South Centre in 2016 launched the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI). This is the organisation’s flagship program for promoting South-South cooperation among developing countries in international tax matters.

The South Centre offers its comments to the OECD Inclusive Framework’s Task Force on Digital Economy (TFDE) on the Tax Certainty Framework for Amount A.

II. Specific Comments

 

  1. Excessive power and discretion with Lead Tax Administration

The framework provides excessive power and discretion to the Lead Tax Administration (LTA), which in most cases is likely to be from the developed countries where the in-scope MNEs are headquartered. It generates a potential conflict of interest, as it is in the interest of the developed countries to cede as little tax as possible to other countries. It is a zero-sum game, as less revenues for the market jurisdictions imply more revenue for the headquarter jurisdiction. Hence, if they are able to decide whether companies are in scope and how much tax they have to pay, the outcomes will likely be unfavourable to the market jurisdictions which are largely the developing countries.

Recommendation: As a matter of principle, the role of the LTA must be restricted to that of a purely coordinating entity. It must have the least amount of discretionary power possible. By default, scope certainty, advance certainty and comprehensive certainty must be decided by Review Panels rather than the LTA. Throughout the text, wherever it is mentioned “Review Panel or Lead Tax Administration”, the option of the Review Panel must prevail. The power must be dispersed and distributed among multiple actors rather than be concentrated in the very country which has the most incentive to ensure that the tax paid is as little as possible to other countries.

  1. Unfilled Places on Scope Review and Review Panels

Paragraphs 11 and 12 of Section I.1 and Paragraph 6 of Section II.2 state that unfilled places on the Scope Review and Review Panels will remain unfilled if no Affected Party expresses interest.

Given the great disparity in capacity between the developed and developing countries, a likely outcome of such an approach will be that the developed countries will express interest and developing countries may not always do so, with the result that the Panels may end up being dominated by the developed countries, affecting the outcome in their favour. This scenario must be avoided.

Recommendation: It must be ensured that there are no unfilled places on the Panel. If there is a shortage of Affected Parties expressing interest, a randomized selection of Affected Parties can take place, only from a pool of developing countries, to fill the slots.  This is because the entire Amount A architecture is meant to redistribute taxes to market jurisdictions which, as noted, are largely the developing countries, and thus it is only fair that they be given the priority in participation in the Panels.

An added benefit is that such participation will help these countries build capacity.

  1. Panel Composition

The framework provides various options for the composition of the Review and Determination Panels and the Expert Advisory Group. The discussion is whether independent experts should be included or not.

Including ‘independent’ experts would exponentially inflate the costs, which would be prohibitive for developing countries. These processes are also likely to last years, despite efforts to minimize the time involved, and the longer it takes the more the costs would escalate. This would deter developing countries from pursuing claims and force them to give up valuable revenue. This will be an unfair advantage to the developed countries.

It would also hand over an essential element of State sovereignty to unaccountable private individuals. Further, the reality is that ‘independent’ experts may be biased in favour of the MNEs, on whom they may be professionally reliant. This is reflected in the rules themselves which make blatant exemptions for those who provide tax advisory services to MNEs, such as in Paragraph 6(e) of Section III.6. (Option A) and paragraph 5(e) of Section III.6. (Option C).

By contrast, having the relevant bodies comprised only of government officials, State sovereignty can be retained over the process, and the costs will be minimized, levelling the playing field for all countries. This will bring an essential element of democratic control over the power of the mega-corporations in scope of Amount A.

Analysis by the South Centre[1] shows that Amazon’s gross revenues in 2020 would make it the world’s 43rd largest economy if compared to countries by nominal GDP. If the Google-Apple-Facebook-Amazon-Microsoft (GAFAM) companies are taken as a collective, they would be the 19th largest economy in the world. This asymmetry in economic power also has political ramifications, and it is hence imperative that the multilateral system strengthen democratic control over these companies through appropriate State participation.

Recommendation: It is recommended that all the bodies involved in the tax certainty framework, including the Panels and the Expert Advisory Group, comprise exclusively of government officials.

  1. Determination Panel Composition if Independent Experts are included

In the event that it is decided to include Independent Experts in the Determination Panel, there are many aspects of the rules which need modification.

  1. Candidates for Standing Pool

Paragraph 4(i) of Section III.6. in both Option A and Option C provides, in part:

… If more than [two-thirds] of the Parties do not object to the addition of a candidate to the Standing Pool within [30] days, the candidate shall be added to the Standing Pool for a period of [five years] …

This means even if just less than 1/3rd of the Parties have an objection, that candidate will still be added to the Standing Pool for five years. This is very problematic.

Recommendation: A better approach would be if just one Party objects to a candidate, then that candidate should be removed from the draft roster of the Standing Pool. It is crucial that all parties should have trust in all the members of this Pool. Only if confidence in the system has broken down would such a veto be used to hinder its operation, and it should be designed to create mutual trust, not on the assumption that this is lacking.

  1. Independent Expert Status: International Organizations

Paragraph 6(f) of Section III.6. (Option A) and paragraph 5(f) of Section III.6. (Option C) refer to an unstated list of international organisations to be added to the Convention.

This poses the risk that a ‘whitelist’ will be created of international organizations that may not fully take into account and pursue the interests of developing countries. Their technical expertise maybe used to further support the interests of developed countries in the Determination Panel, on the argument that they have been included in the Convention and have been approved by the Parties. This may also mean that a de facto ‘blacklist’ may be created and used to exclude international organizations in which the developed countries do not have decisive influence. They will be prevented from supporting developing countries in the Determination Panel.

Recommendation 1: The option of including ‘independent experts’ from international organisations should be removed altogether.

  1. Independent Expert Status: Tax Advisors

Paragraph 6(e) of Section III.6. (Option A) and paragraph 5(e) of Section III.6. (Option C) refer to Limited Tax Advisory Services, which are defined based on whether they are less than a percentage [30 percent] of the individual’s total annual income. An individual may conduct such Limited Tax Advisory Services and still qualify as an Independent Expert.

Independent Experts will seldom, if ever, be truly independent if they have previously worked for or consulted with any MNE clients.

Recommendation: Independent Experts must exclude any individual that has conducted any work for or has received any compensation during the prior five years from any MNE (whether in-scope or not), or who has been an employee of any MNE or a partner, associate or employee of a consultancy, law or accounting firm that has provided services to any MNE during that period.

  1. Existence of Independent Expert Conflict

Paragraph 3(b) of both Section III.6. (Option A) and Section III.6. (Option C) include a definition to determine when an Independent Expert has a conflict of interest in relation to a particular Relevant Group. However, the rules proposed are too narrow and likely to be ineffective.

Recommendation: Any individual who has provided any services to any MNE within an extended period such as the last five years must be considered having a conflict of interest, and only those who do not meet this criterion should be considered.

  1. Financial Burden of Determination Panel Participation

Paragraph 2 of Section III.6. (Option B and C) provides, in part:

The Tax Certainty Secretariat shall invite Affected Parties covered by paragraph 1 to submit an expression of interest for a Government Official nominated by an Affected Party to participate in the Determination Panel …. An Affected Party should only express interest in participating in a Determination Panel if the person nominated by it is committed to taking an active role on the Determination Panel and the Affected Party concerned would apply sufficient resources to ensure this is possible. [Emphasis added.]

Placing the financial burden on the Affected Party would be detrimental to developing countries and deter them from participating in this process. It is also unjustified, as the entire process is triggered by a MNE, which is provided a “service” in the form of tax certainty. It is unclear why the provider of the service rather than the user should pay the cost. The very foundation of the economy is that the user pays for the goods and services consumed. Thus, since tax certainty is essentially a service provided to the MNEs, the entire cost should be borne by them.

Recommendation: The entire cost of the tax certainty framework should be borne by the concerned MNE.

  1. Composition and number of members in the Expert Advisory Group

The proposal is the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) consist of the LTA and two members from the Affected Parties. However, given the important role the EAG is likely to play, this number should be expanded.

Recommendation: The EAG can consist of six members, with the LTA and five from the Affected Parties. It should be ensured that in any event at least half the composition is from the developing countries. As mentioned earlier, EAG membership should be restricted to Government officials.

  1. Scope of Determination Panel

Para 7(e) of Section III.5 of the rules propose to give the MNE an opportunity to justify its position before the Determination Panel. This is unjustified and unnecessary, as the MNE has ample opportunities in the Review Panel and prior stages of the tax certainty framework to do so.

Recommendation: The MNE should not have yet another opportunity to provide additional explanations and justifications to the Determination Panel. Para 7(e) of Section III.5 should be deleted.

  1. Inclusion as Listed Party

Paragraph 5 of Section I.1 of Part Two and footnote 1 within that Section indicate that the Inclusive Framework has not yet reached agreement on whether a specific Party, which was not included in the Listed Parties submitted by a Coordinating Entity, can require that it be treated as a Listed Party or whether that status is subject to a determination process if the Coordinating Entity does not agree to that Party’s inclusion.

Recommendation: Any Party that desires inclusion as a Listed Party should automatically be added.

  1. Protection of Listed Parties in Event of MNE Group Withdrawal from the Scope Certainty Process

Paragraph 6 of Section I.1 of Part Two requires all Listed Parties to suspend all domestic compliance activities with respect to the calculation and allocation of Amount A and the elimination of double taxation, as well as the administration of Amount A to the Group for the Period specified in the request, for the duration of the Scope Certainty Process.

Since the timing for some of these procedures may take much longer than expected; perhaps years, that would mean countries will have to forgo tax collection during this time.

Recommendation: An automatic mechanism must be included that will also suspend each Listed Party’s statute of limitations so that adequate audit checking and enforcement is possible in the event that an MNE Group withdraws its request for Scope Certainty.

Paragraph 4 of Section II.2. of Part Two makes the same requirement of all Listed Parties in connection with a Covered Group’s request for a Comprehensive Certainty Review. Paragraph 8 of Section II.2. of Part Two extends this to non-Affected Parties. The recommendation applies in these cases as well.

  1. Defined Time Periods for Required Actions – Slow or No Actions Taken

Paragraph 14 of Section I of Part Two, for example, and numerous other paragraphs throughout the Public Consultation Document provide time periods in which certain actions must be undertaken by a Lead Tax Administration, a Scope Review Panel, etc.

Recommendation: If the applicable tax administration or other body is not timely in its actions, then there needs to be clear redress or guidance for affected persons including Affected Parties, the affected Group, etc. If the delay comes from the Group itself, there must be financial penalties on the Group for wasting the time of the involved bodies despite having initiated the request for certainty. This will also deter the Group from malicious requests aimed at delaying the eventual payment of tax.

  1. Limitations on Competent Authority of an Affected Party Regarding Certainty Reviews

Paragraph 32 of Section II.3. of Part Two provides materiality limitations on the Competent Authorities of Affected Parties concerning Certainty Reviews. While including materiality limitations is understandable, the present form of these limitations in paragraph 32 is problematic for many jurisdictions and will have the practical effect of silencing the voices of many developing countries and preventing them from raising objections.

Recommendation: At a minimum, Paragraph 32(b) of Section II.3 which provides the materiality limitations should be deleted.

  1. MNE withdrawal of request and/or refusal to accept the outcome

If the MNE withdraws its request from either the Review or Determination Panels, it would mean a massive waste of time and money. If the Panels are comprised wholly of Government officials, as it should be, then it would also mean a waste of taxpayer money.

Recommendation: The MNE must bear the entire cost of the process with added financial penalties if it chooses to withdraw the request or refuses to accept the outcome.


[1] Forthcoming South Centre Policy Brief.

THE IDB PRESENTED THREE STUDIES ON BRAZIL’S DIGITALIZATION PROGRESS AND ITS POTENTIAL IMPACT ON ECONOMIC GROWTH.

 

Brazil’s great strides in digitalization in recent decades have positioned it well to bolster its exports and participation in global trade. This was the message shared by Mauricio Claver-Carone, President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in his opening address at the Brasil Investment Forum (BIF) 2022 on Tuesday.

The BIF is organized by the IDB, ApexBrasil (the country’s export agency), and the Brazilian government. Now in its fifth iteration, the event has become the largest private investment forum in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is being held in São Paulo on June 14 and 15th and highlights opportunities in the Brazilian economy, such as its advances in digitalization.

“The IDB has been working tirelessly to boost Brazil’s exports, improve its participation in global trade, all while creating more jobs and inclusion by leveraging its digital readiness,” said President Claver-Carone. “We offer our technical and financing capacity to the public and private sectors to transform Brazil’s potential into opportunities,” he added.

Recent IDB-sponsored studies show that Brazil leads Latin America and the Caribbean in hiring via LinkedIn and in number of fintech companies. The country also holds $9.5 billion in broadband investment potential, according to an analysis performed by the IDB with Anatel, Brazil’s telecommunications authority.

Shaping policies that accelerate digital transformation is one of the strategic pillars of Vision 2025 and a driver of infrastructure growth, job creation and higher revenue.

Three specific digitalization achievements in Brazil

Recent IDB studies highlight Brazil’s good performance on digitalization:

  • Brazil has had the highest rate of hiring via LinkedIn in the region since the start of the pandemic, and it also has the broadest technological skill penetration, according to the study LinkedIn in Latin America and the Caribbean: a rapid transformation of the labor market due to the pandemic.
  • The third edition of the study Fintech in Latin America and the Caribbean: A well-established ecosystem for recovery, conducted by the IDB, IDB Invest, and the innovation company Finnovista, highlights the boom of the fintech industry in Latin America and the Caribbean, which grew 112% from 2018 to 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic drove digitalization processes and supercharged the uptake and maturation of digital finance. Brazil leads the region in number of fintech platforms (31% of the total), followed by Mexico (21%) and Colombia (11%).
  • In the third study, under preparation, the IDB, IDB Invest and the National Telecommunications Agency of Brazil (Anatel) found that Brazil has potential for $9.5 billion in broadband Internet infrastructure investments. The report also estimates that expanding broadband penetration could trigger GDP growth of 2.4%.

This week the Commonwealth Secretariat held a four-day workshop in the Maldives for grassroots female entrepreneurs to help them leverage digital infrastructure opportunities for E-Commerce and Digital Marketing.

Approximately 75 women attended the workshop hailing from countries across Commonwealth Africa and Asia. During the workshop, many participants spoke of the struggles they had faced in running their businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The workshop was held by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Physical Connectivity Cluster of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) South and South-West Asia Office.

The goal of the workshop is to help equip women entrepreneurs to use digital and online platforms and leverage digital infrastructure to help them join the global supply chain and contribute toward the development of the global economy.

This workshop is a part of the implementation of the Agreed Principles of Sustainable Investment in Digital Infrastructure for the Physical Connectivity Cluster of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, which is led by The Gambia.

In her address the Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC said:

“The economic disruption of the pandemic has been profound, and women have been the hardest hit. To ensure that women are central to the covid recovery, a key focus of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda is closing the digital divide. Our aim is to train policy makers and women entrepreneurs to ensure that they benefit from this rapid digitalization. The Commonwealth Secretariat has engaged in peer-to-peer learning, knowledge exchange and capacity building.  We launched a new e-learning course on digital infrastructure and the digital divide, and we’ve developed community partnerships with tech companies such as Oracle. These initiatives help to shape policies to provide practical skills to help overcome the digital divide.”

During the workshop, participants learnt about www.wesellonline.org a trading platform exclusively for women entrepreneurs to sell their products online. At the end of the workshop 81 women entrepreneurs registered on the platform.

The training was delivered by Dr Radika Kumar, Adviser infrastructure policy from the Commonwealth Secretariat and resource persons from ESCAP Asia Pacific.

In many ways, digitalization has made the world of work a better place. Yet many groups of workers, in particular, those who are already disadvantaged and marginalized, face challenges associated with unequal access to digital technologies. This podcast episode examines the digital divide and offers some ideas for narrowing it.

In many ways, digitalization has made the world of work a better place, supporting growth in both productivity and incomes. Yet many groups of workers, in particular, those who are already disadvantaged and marginalized such as women, older persons, and persons with disabilities, face dual challenges associated with unequal access to digital technologies compounded by the lack of capacities to use them. This lack of access to modern technologies has been even more pronounced in traditional divides – rural versus urban, and developing and emerging economies versus developed economies. Other characteristics such as age, and skills levels add to the widening of the gap. In this episode, Professor Balaji Parthasarathy of the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore, India, and Matteo Sostero of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre discuss the digital divide and offer some ideas for narrowing it.

The future of work podcast series was created on behalf of the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The temporary importation of private and commercial vehicles is managed through “carnet de passages en douane” (CPD) on the basis of two international conventions (the 1954 Customs Convention on the Temporary Importation of Private Road Vehicles; and the 1956 Customs Convention on the Temporary Importation of Commercial Road Vehicles), counting a total of 96 Contracting Parties, hosted by UNECE. The CPD system is implemented and managed by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) on behalf of the AIT/FIA CPD network and their and its affiliated members.

In October 2021, UNECE and (FIA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalize their cooperation in the digitalization of the CPD procedure. The future eCPD is expected to greatly improve the efficiency, speed and transparency of the system. Through enhanced data management, the eCPD system will reduce administrative burdens for customs procedures, make border-crossing operations more secure, and further support global mobility.

On 9 June, contracting parties, interested countries and national associations gathered to the Palais des Nations for a workshop, co-organized by UNECE and the FIA, to discuss the benefits of the Conventions and current efforts to advance digitalization.

UNECE Deputy Executive Secretary Dmitry Mariyasin recalled the relevance of the two conventions within the framework of the United Nations legal instruments in the field of border crossing facilitation and the urgent need to digitalise them.

FIA Senate President Carmelo Sanz de Barros stressed that digitalization would facilitate cross-border mobility for many motorists, expatriate workers and transport operators throughout key economic corridors, while giving customs authorities and other government agencies the necessary financial and security guarantees.

Konstantinos Alexopoulos, Chief of UNECE’s Transport Facilitation and Economics section and FIA Tourism Services Director Habib Turki described how the digitalization of CPD will build on the lessons learnt from the conversion of the TIR system into eTIR. The new system should be developed using state-of-the-art technologies that ensure efficiency, flexibility and sustainability, while minimizing required efforts and resources. Such an approach will deliver a service covering the requirements of all stakeholders within a short time frame.

Christopher Davies from the Australian Border Force talked about the Australian experience with the CPD system and highlighted the many benefits the future eCPD system will bring, in particular improving storage efficiency and verification processes.

The Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO) Mobility Director Adel Sarris presented a case study on how the United Arab Emirates have moved to an electronic CPD service.

If you wish to subscribe to the UNECE Weekly newsletter, please send an email to:  unece_info@un.org

Ministers of Australia, Japan and Singapore — co-convenors of WTO e-commerce negotiations — have welcomed the good results achieved by the participants in the initiative. In a statement issued on 13 June during the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, they underlined the importance of developing global rules on e-commerce and, together with Switzerland, launched the E-commerce Capacity Building Framework to strengthen digital inclusion and to help developing and least developed countries harness the opportunities of digital trade.

The ministers emphasised participants’ commitment to agreeing on a global set of digital trade rules as rapidly as possible and to ensuring these rules help developing and least developed countries unlock the opportunities of the digital economy.

In their statement, ministers acknowledged the barriers faced by developing and least developed countries seeking to benefit from the digital economy. The E-commerce Capacity Building Framework will help these countries better address those barriers and enjoy the benefits of digital trade, they said.

The Framework will offer a wide range of technical assistance, training and capacity building to support countries’ participation in the e-commerce negotiations.  This includes through a new Digital Advisory and Trade Assistance (DATA) Fund, to which Australia and Switzerland are contributing funding, as well as digital capacity-building support provided by Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and by Singapore through the Singapore-WTO Third Country Training Programme (TCTP).

The co-convenors emphasised that inclusion remains an important principle in the negotiations, as reflected in the inclusive and transparent work of the group, which is open to all members.

The co-convenors noted calls from 105 trade associations from around the worldfor the continuation of the multilateral moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions. It is crucial that the initiative makes this practice permanent among participants in the negotiations, they said.

The ministers said they are committed to a timely conclusion of the negotiations and the co-convenors will issue a revised Consolidated Negotiating Text by the end of 2022.

There are currently 86 WTO members participating in the negotiations on e-commerce, accounting for over 90 per cent of global trade.

The full statement is available here.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cloud services offer governments cost savings, capacity to rapidly scale, advanced cybersecurity features, and access to powerful analytical tools for processing big data.
  • Hybrid cloud models that mix public and private cloud services for data storage and processing can unlock enormous benefits for governments and citizens.
  • Cloud services are essential for maximizing digital dividends and advancing digital transformation in developing countries.

Cloud services play a critical role in accelerating digital transformation and delivering essential public services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cloud services proved life-saving in Rwanda where an acute shortage of health-care workers was resolved through artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted medical triage using a cutting-edge application that required a connection to the cloud. The application checked patients using an AI symptom checker and monitored them during recovery, freeing up health-care workers to support other people as needed.  AI also facilitated near-realtime language processing so patients could speak their indigenous language, Kinyarwanda.  Sensitive medical records shared by this application were safeguarded with cybersecurity and data protection measures.The intensive AI and security requirements used in projects like this one in Rwanda are too expensive and technically sophisticated for a single local cloud provider to manage. Instead, the job must be shared between two cloud providers in an increasingly common hybrid-cloud solution that resolves challenges like this that would be otherwise impossible. In this case, one cloud hosts basic digital services involving personal identity and health information collected from patients, while a public cloud service provider takes on the heavier workload involving AI applications that require more processing power.

Turning to innovative cloud solutions made much sense in this case, given the deficit of skilled health-care workers needed to meet public demand, and an enabling ecosystem that facilited adoption of this hybrid-cloud solution.

Cloud-based options for managing data

To achieve the next stage of digital transformation and enable countries to reap the benefits of the global digital economy, governments must prioritize adoption of cloud services where feasible. Cloud technologies offer cost savings, the ability to scale rapidly, access to advanced cybersecurity features and big data processing using AI.  In addition, enhanced capacity for innovative business applications through the cloud  can facilitate e-Government platforms and services, as demonstrated by the case in Rwanda.

Additionally, there is an ever-growing number of sophisticated Software as a Service (SaaS) business applications delivered through the cloud to solve specific public sector challenges, such as invoicing, citizen engagement, and managing registration databases. Cloud solutions can further support governments with cloud-based backup systems to enable a layer of redundancy in the case of a system crash, and ensure service continuity.

To realize these benefits, governments in developed countries have long shifted focus away from relying on legacy IT systems to utilizing more cloud-based solutions to manage their data, and increasingly, using public cloud services delivered over infrastructure shared by multiple clients.  In contrast, governments in developing countries often maintain or expand legacy-IT systems, limiting the cost savings and advanced functionalities that cloud services could yield.



Countries leading with cloud policiesThe government of the United Kingdom adopted a “Cloud First” policy, where organizations must first consider and assess public cloud solutions before seeking other alternatives when integrating technology with public services. British ministries are empowered to select the cloud solution that best suits their needs based on security, flexibility, and value for money.Singapore took a different approach, with the government creating a private cloud for the government, the “G-cloud,” to meet security and governance requirements, paving the way for hybrid solutions where public and private cloud solutions can operate together. Singapore’s various ministries can choose appropriate solutions if a public cloud or the G-cloud doesn’t cover their needs.

While public ministries across digitally advanced countries are increasingly integrating hybrid cloud solutions, the mix of public and private cloud procurement in any country will be determined by government objectives, performance requirements, data classification systems, and data governance laws and regulations. To help navigate the available cloud options, a three-step framework focusing on policy objectives, strategic goals, and operational requirements can help governments identify the best solution.



Government cloud migration as a catalyst for the private sectorWhen a government takes a big step towards adopting cloud services, it can also encourage local businesses and entrepreneurs to embrace cloud solutions. Governments—especially in developing countries—are uniquely positioned to signal and generate considerable trust in a system where there is confusion around cloud benefits or concern about placing sensitive data into the cloud. This mistrust can ultimately leave countries expanding legacy IT-storage systems, losing out on cloud benefits and risking a widening of the global digital divide. A government’s adoption of cloud services can act as a catalyst that advances digital transformation not only in the public sector, but across local industry sectors, helping them maximize capture of digital dividends.

This feature story integrates findings from a Government Cloud project supported by the Digital Development Partnership (DDP) which is administered by the World Bank Group. The DDP offers a platform for digital innovation and development financing, bringing public and private sector partners together to advance digital solutions and drive digital transformation in developing countries.

The Ethiopia Coalition launches today, June 9, 2022, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This will mark the official beginning of WDFI Advocacy Hub activities in the region. Follow along below.

 

Follow the event live here:


About the Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion (WDFI) Advocacy Hub

UNCDF is launching a new gender initiative in Ethiopia, with a specific focus on advancing women’s digital financial inclusion.

The Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion (WDFI) Advocacy Hub is UNCDF’s flagship gender initiative to promote WDFI policy change and support the creation of gender-inclusive digital economies through Local Coalitions. The Hub is a partnership with Women’s World Banking.

Local Coalitions enabled by the WDFI Advocacy Hub are designed to be platforms for civil society, the public sector and the private sector to discuss, strategise and collaborate for greater impact. UNCDF will support the members of the Coalition, including the first one in Ethiopia, by facilitating access to trainings and insights, and by channeling financial resources to support the implementation of innovative practical solutions. In addition, the Hub will create unified messages on the priority issues identified by the Coalition in partnership with global organizations, as well as open opportunities for country stakeholders and their work to gain visibility at global platforms, such as the Generation Equality Forum.

The setting of this Coalition in Ethiopia is designed to complement the efforts of the NBE to implement the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, the National Digital Payments Strategy and Digital Ethiopia 2025 Strategy, as these are key to building an ecosystem where all women can leverage technology to live financially secure lives.

H.E Ato Ahmed Shide, Minister of Finance and Ms Myriam Said, Digital Advisor at the Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and State Minister of Innovation and Technology will address digital and financial experts at the launch event on June 9, 2022, in Addis Ababa.

Along with high-level representatives of the National Bank of Ethiopia, Safaricom, EthSwitch, International Finance Corporation, European Investment Bank, and others, they will provide insights into the state of women’s digital financial inclusion in Ethiopia and how to advance women’s economic empowerment through digital technology.

Learn more about the WDFI Advocacy Hub and the Ethiopia Coalition.

As a key part of the socioeconomic system and a public service provider, the Post not only accelerates digitalization, but also ensures that digital transformation includes all population groups and serves them in the best and most equitable way. Viet Nam’s national postal operator, Vietnam Post, provides essential support to each of the three key pillars of the National Digital Transformation Programme: digital government, digital economy and digital society. UPU spoke with Pham Anh Tuan, Vice Minister of Information and Communications of Viet Nam, about what defines the key role of the Post in the national digitization plan and what should be done to fully unfold this potential.

What is Viet Nam working to achieve with the National Digital Transformation Programme?

In pursuit of digital transformation, the Government of Viet Nam has recently issued a number of important policies and decisions, which form the basis for the implemention of the national digital transformation. These include the National Digital Transformation Programme by 2025 with a vision towards the year 2030, the E-Government Development Strategy for 2021-2025 with a vision towards the year 2030, and the National Strategy for Developing a Digital Economy and a Digital Society by 2025 with a vision towards the year 2030. Those national strategies aim to realize development goals based on eight pillars: digital awareness, digital institutions, digital infrastructure, digital human resources, cybersecurity, digital government, digital economy, and digital society.

Digital transformation based on three key pillars – digital government, digital economy, and digital society – has overarching effects on every institution, agency, city, and province. It has a far-reaching impact on every socioeconomic sector, contributing to increased productivity, innovative production models, and improved national competitiveness.

In Viet Nam, digital transformation is considered a revolution involving all people. However, it can only work when each person actively engages with it and enjoys the benefits that it brings about. The digital transformation thus carries the vital mission of universalizing and individualizing various services, such as education and healthcare, for every public member to serve them better. In addition, digital transformation creates opportunities for people in remote, border and insular areas to access services online in a fair, equal, and humane manner that leaves no one behind.

What is the Post’s role in Viet Nam’s digital transformation strategy?

Postal service plays a vital role in ensuring smooth material and data flows, supporting electronic commerce with delivery services, meeting socioeconomic demands, and providing timely response to natural calamities, catastrophes, and pandemics. In our National Digital Transformation Programme, the Post is defined as an essential national infrastructure, supporting the creation of the digital economy, primarily e-commerce, and contributing to the development of the digital government and digital society.

In terms of the digital government, Vietnam Post is a leading partner entrusted by the Government with the task of developing a number of digital platforms and providing digital services to the public, including through the “Developing a Digital Address Platform for Vietnamese Households” project.

In terms of the digital economy, the Post facilitates e-commerce and provides an infrastructure for the digital economy. Vietnam Post has a significant advantage with a nationwide network of nearly 28,000 service points and a 100 per cent postal coverage of every commune in the country. This enterprise can bring products from local household businesses and cooperatives to every corner of the country and beyond for consumption, thus promoting the development of the digital economy in agricultural and rural areas.

In 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, postal businesses were involved in the Agricultural and Rural Digital Economic Promotion Programme as part of the Viet Nam National Digital Transformation Programme. Almost 6 million agricultural production households have been trained to gain digital skills to operate on e-commerce platforms and about 100,000 agricultural products have been listed on e-commerce platforms established by Vietnamese postal enterprises. Those results bridge the e-commerce gap between urban and rural communities.

In terms of the digital society, the Post has become a service industry involved in improving the quality of life, ensuring social welfare and consolidating social trust. In addition, the Post contributes to the prevention of and response to natural disasters, diseases, and emergencies as directed by the Government.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, in cities and provinces where social distancing measures were applied, postal businesses have actively engaged in providing essential commodities to people by establishing 4,346 distribution points for essential items and distributing 102,974 tons of goods with a total worth of 994 billion VND.

How does Vietnam Post help facilitate the digital inclusion of underrepresented groups, including the un(der)banked and small and medium enterprises (SMEs)?

Vietnam Post is a leader in digital transformation. As a national postal operator controlling the public postal network, Vietnam Post actively implements programmes that popularize digital skills and deploys new digital utilities in remote areas where access to the benefits of digital transformation is limited. Furthermore, Vietnam Post is a licensed payment intermediary, for it provides mobile applications that allow online money transfer and payments for essential services via smartphones and acts as a digital channel for other financial and banking services. Additionally, Vietnam Post works with many banks and other financial institutions to facilitate on-behalf collection and payment of loan services to customers safely and conveniently.

To support SMEs on their digital transformation journey, Vietnam Post distributes digital business administration solutions for SMEs, and provides them with delivery monitoring tools in the form of Open API that can be used interoperably and easily with their existing IT systems. Finally, through a digital address platform that is linked to the national digital map, the Post further boosts the growth of e-commerce and the digital economy.

In parallel, what are some ways the Ministry is working to help facilitate the digital transformation of the Post itself?

As the governmental agency in charge of implementing Viet Nam’s National Digital Transformation Programme, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has undertaken many steps to promote the digital transformation of the Information and Communications sector, including the Post. Some key efforts included:

  • In 2021, the Ministry implemented a programme to assist SMEs with digital transformation, which benefited 16,000 businesses. In 2022, this programme was further expanded to target an additional 30,000 companies, including postal businesses. In addition to other forms of support, the programme participants are provided with a 50 per cent cost deduction when renting or buying digital platforms and solutions from a certified list published by the Ministry.
  • At the beginning of 2022, the MIC developed a “Strategy on Postal Development by 2025 and vision towards 2030” and submitted it to the Prime Minister for adoption. The Strategy envisions the Post becoming an essential infrastructure for the country’s digital economy and e-commerce, digital government and digital society, thus helping realize the goal of a digital Viet Nam by 2030. The Strategy also identifies digital transformation as a primary tool to further the development of the Post, with a particular emphasis on:
  1. Building regional hubs and mega-hubs compatible with the plans for national logistics systems.
  2. Developing a Viet Nam digital address platform linked to the national digital map to support the growth of e-commerce and the digital economy.
  3. Expanding the postal service ecosystem based on the application of digital technology.

What are the main challenges of postal digital transformation and how can the UPU help member countries address them?

According to the UPU’s report “The Digital Economy and Digital Postal Activities – A Global Panorama”, global or regional digital studies or reports do not seem to specifically address the Post. Although digital transformation is happening vigorously across most parts of the economy, it is less true for the postal sector. Therefore, it is essential to foster postal digitalization programmes and deploy innovative technologies to improve postal business management, operations, and production efficiency.

In Viet Nam, while carrying out digital transformation in the postal sector, we have encountered some challenges, namely:

  • Due to the characteristics of the postal sector, many processes remain in the form of manual labour and thus require a large workforce with long processing times, which prevents digital transformation from being conducted quickly and comprehensively.
  • Postal businesses are mainly small and medium enterprises with limited resources and capital available to invest in technology, which makes them unable to develop technological solutions and digital platforms to support business production.
  • Postal workers face difficulties in using and applying new technologies in business management and operations due to the lack of digital skills.

To help the Union’s members overcome these challenges, from our point of view, the UPU could consider some of the following actions:

  1. conducting research and evaluation of the benefits and challenges of digital transformation for its member countries for them to refer to and base their policies upon;
  2. developing several primary digital platforms to share among designated postal operators to help them save resources;
  3. studying the possibility of a digital transformation support fund for developing and least developed nations (similar to the UPU’s Quality of Service Fund – QSF).

Finally, the UPU should continue implementing its technical assistance projects, which are essential to support member countries in the research and development of digital platforms that meet their needs.

  • Internet penetration rate in Africa is 43% as of December 2021.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the critical importance of Internet connectivity.
  • Community networks and Internet exchange points are a cost-effective way to bridge the digital divide.

As the Internet Society celebrates its 30th anniversary as a global nonprofit advocating for an open, globally-connected Internet, the organization is calling for accelerated action to further Internet development throughout the African region. During the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) 2022 taking place in Kigali, Rwanda under the theme “Connecting the unconnected to achieve sustainable development”, Dawit Bekele, Regional Vice President – Africa of the Internet Society, lauded the progress made by stakeholders in expanding access throughout the continent, while encouraging more collaborative efforts to bridge the digital divide.

​​Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest growth in global Internet penetration, increasing from less than 1% in 2000 to 30% today. Between 2019 and 2021 Internet use in Africa jumped by 23%. Despite this impressive growth, there is still a coverage gap of over 840 million people who don’t have access to reliable and affordable Internet access.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the value of Internet connectivity which has been an essential lifeline for the continuity of business, healthcare, education, government, and other critical activities. We applaud the significant investments in the last decades to develop Internet infrastructure, which have made the Internet available to more people across the continent. However, the pandemic also highlights the digital divide that remains, particularly in rural, remote and even urban areas around the world.”

Dawit Bekele, Regional Vice President – Africa, Internet Society

Community networks are a way to help address the digital divide. They are communications infrastructures built, managed, and used by local communities and are a sustainable solution to address connectivity gaps in underserved regions. The Internet Society has a long history of working with communities worldwide to fund, build and train people with the skills needed to run and maintain community networks.

In Africa, the Internet Society has helped build community networks in South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia, Morocco, Senegal, and Ethiopia.

At WTDC, the organization will be making a pledge to support 100 complementary solutions to connect the unconnected, and to train 10,000 people to build and maintain Internet infrastructure, all by 2025 as part of the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, an initiative led by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that aims to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the hardest-to-connect communities around the world.

Also vital to expanding the Internet throughout Africa is the interconnection between local networks, content providers, and users. Currently, millions of dollars are spent every year to route local Internet traffic through expensive international links. This not only makes the Internet slower and more costly for Internet users, but it also limits the kinds of applications that can run on the local Internet. For this reason, the Internet Society has been at the forefront of supporting the establishment and growth of Internet exchange points (IXPs) that enable and encourage local traffic.

The Internet Society’s research shows that IXPs improve the end-user experience, lower the cost of access, and stimulate the development of local Internet ecosystems and cross-border interconnections. By improving local Internet services and reducing their costs, well-managed IXPs open new worlds of possibility with modest investment.

About the Internet Society

Founded in 1992 by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society is a global non-profit organization working to ensure the Internet remains a force for good for everyone. Through its community of members, special interest groups, and 120+ chapters around the world, the organization defends and promotes Internet policies, standards, and protocols that keep the Internet open, globally connected, and secure. For more information, please visit www.internetsociety.org.

About WTDC 2022

The World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) will be held from 6-16 June in Kigali, Rwanda. Organized by the International Telecommunications Union and held every four years, the conference brings together government representatives from around the world to determine the topics, programs, and priorities for telecommunications development globally for the next four years.

WTDC is a uni​que opportunity to develop innovative approaches and new models of collaboration for connectivity in the final decade that is left to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For further information, please visit the conference website.

The basic concept of Policy Notes for the Group of Twenty (G20) Trade, Investment, and Industry Working Group (TIIWG) regarding digital transformation in trade was the subject of a meeting of trade experts as a follow-up to the Road to G20 event titled Digital Transformation in Trade, a webinar held on 8 June 2022. Present at the meeting were Dr Lili Yan Ing, lead advisor on Southeast Asia of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA); Dr Bayu Krisnamurthi, advisor to the minister of trade of Indonesia; Dr Hari Widodo, head of the Center for the Study of Foreign Trade; Dr Iskandar Panjaitan, head of the Center for the Study of International Trade Cooperation; and Dr Widyastuti, head of the International Trade Analysis and Policy Studies (ITAPS).

During the meeting, ITAPS presented key points as takeaways from the previous Road to G20 event. Dr Krisnamurthi added some important points on the issue of digitalisation and the existing gap in trade activity. He cited the importance of cooperation in digitalisation and provision of digital facilities, especially in the G20 forum. Dr Ing addressed the importance of having quality digitalisation privacy and competition laws to support cross-border data flow. She said ERIA will keep supporting Indonesia’s G20 and developing key points for TIIWG and ministerial meetings.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Digital connectivity links people to markets, jobs, and opportunities.
  • Comprehensive information on fiber optic networks, along with open data, and infrastructure mapping are critical to inform policy and investment decisions that can make internet more widely accessible.
  • The World Bank supports these building blocks to help close the digital divide.

Mapping fiber optic networks, cables, and telecom carriers. Building standards and tools for public input and management. Creating regulations and laws that equitably govern and organize data and ownership. This is the practical work of building digital connection for people all over the world.

Broadband is high speed internet access delivered to users many ways, including fiber optics, wireless, cable, telephone modems, and satellites. It is the way to digitally connect to the modern world to markets, banking, school, healthcare, and opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic starkly highlighted the importance of access to broadband internet connectivity to keep communities and services functioning in a locked-down world.

“We have seen that digital technologies are what’s keeping people, governments and businesses connected. Now, more than ever, we are focused on supporting meaningful access and bringing digital opportunities to all, especially those in the hardest-to-connect communities, so that no one is left behind,” said Christine Zhenwei Qiang, Director for Digital Development at the World Bank.

However, many people in developing countries remain unconnected to the internet. And many of those, who are connected, must cope with poor quality of service and spotty reliability. This number, in total, is huge—2.9 billion people, without connectivity, are cut off from the benefits of the digital age.

The World Bank supports significant investment in global fiber digital infrastructure to expand broadband connectivity to all— people and businesses– by 2030. But there are challenges: the size of investment required; potentially lower returns in connecting rural areas, where the unserved population mostly lives; and major gaps in data regarding existing telecom infrastructure. For example, the fact that digital infrastructure is mostly privately owned by over 3,000 internet service providers around the world means there is limited publicly available information on telecom and fiberoptic networks, which can hinder decision making around planning, maintenance, and expansion. For the data that is available, it’s not published according to commonly agreed standards. More readily available and usable information about infrastructure is critical to support decisions for targeted and cost-efficient digital infrastructure investments by the private and public sectors.

This is why the World Bank and its partners are working to create a digital map of terrestrial fiber infrastructure worldwide (kicking off with an initial focus on Africa), using open standards for data entry and sharing with public and private stakeholders. One of the most important tasks is to build a culture of openness and trust among regulators, infrastructure owners, and operators. The system can only work well with goodwill and cooperation, and trust is essential.

This mapping project with open standards aligns with the goals of the Partners2Connect Digital Coalition (P2C), which is working to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation globally across four pillars. The first is to link people everywhere, including in traditionally hardest-to-connect in rural and remote areas. The second aims to ensure that people have the skills and know-how to use digital technologies, content, and e-government services safely, inclusively, and equally. The third is to bring digital transformation to people using what’s called a “whole-of-ecosystem” approach, which relies on inclusive, collaborative policies and regulations to support entrepreneurship, innovation, start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses, trade, and job creation. And, finally, P2C strives to speed this transformation via innovative financing models and changes to public policy and regulations to accelerate public and private investment in meaningful access and affordable connectivity.

Affordable, accessible, and reliable connectivity can change lives for the better. To make that happen for the millions around the world who remain offline requires a focus on open data, common standards and data sharing initiatives to inform policy and investment decisions that can expand broadband connectivity to all.

Recent months have seen Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, take several leaps forward in digital development, underlining the rapid momentum of the East African country.

Last November, the Rwanda Innovation Fund (RIF) was launched to support disruptive and innovative companies that offer solutions to the region’s challenges, through a public-private partnership between the government and investment manager Angaza Capital.

A few weeks later, Swedish investment fund Norrsken Foundation opened its first hub outside Scandinavia. The Kigali facility is expected to host 1,000 entrepreneurs in its first year of activity.

These two examples show how Rwanda is quickly becoming one of Africa’s major innovation hotspots. The country ranks eighth among start-up ecosystems across the Middle East and Africa, and fourth in Africa as a whole, with Kigali ranking fourteenth among cities in the region, according to the 2022 Global Startup Ecosystem Index.

Over the past two decades, forward-looking digital policies have served as major drivers of Rwanda’s economic transformation. Although the scope remains wide to build further on these changes remains wide, several milestones already demonstrate practical results.

The technology sector currently represents 3 per cent of Rwanda’s annual GDP. But the government’s goal is to more than triple this figure and reach 10 per cent within a decade. “We see ourselves as a proof-of-concept destination for innovative companies and start-ups to launch, test, and scale,” says Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, who is also chairing the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) in Kigali from 6 to 16 June.

Stellar ambitions

The country’s aspirations to set regional benchmarks focus on building up digital capacities with a positive social impact. These include the Rwandan satellite programme, begun with a cube satellite that helps monitor water supply and anticipate natural disasters.

Rwanda launched its first telecommunications satellite, Rwa-Sat-1, into space in 2019 in partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The “CubeSat” now obtains data from terrestrial sensors to help keep the government informed on national water resources, agriculture, meteorology, and disaster risks.

The agreement with Japan also includes training specialists in the design and production of mini satellites. The Rwandan authorities ultimately aim to build their own capacity to collect and analyse geospatial data and apply these insights to different areas of government, Ingabire said.

Following the creation of the Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) in 2021, the government intends to promote the aerospace business and industrial development and eventually nurture competitive products and services for export.

Last October, Rwanda filed an application with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to launch two satellite constellations: Cinnamon-217 and Cinnamon-937. These groups of satellites – both planned for launch by the end of 2023 – are meant to function as a unified system to enable permanent, near-global connectivity.

Visionary e-waste policies

Without policies focused on sustainability, accelerated digital transformation can result in negative effects.

Take for instance the 53.6 million tonnes of discarded electronic waste – or e-waste – generated globally every year. As of 2019, only 78 countries were covered by some kind of e-waste legislation, policy or regulation, according to ITU’s 2020 Global E-Waste Monitor.

Today, Rwanda is one of only 13 African countries with specific legislation in place on e-waste. The law passed in 2016 establishes common principles for the management of discarded electronic devices, as well as shared responsibilities on this topic among the country’s institutions.

Four years later, in 2020, the country inaugurated its first e-waste management plant.

The Enviroserve Rwanda Green Park, promoted through a partnership between the government and Dubai-based company Enviroserve, can process up to 10,000 metric tons of e-waste per year. This facility offers services such as repair and refurbishment of electrical products, e-waste collection services, dismantling and recycling, and provides technical assistance to individuals and organizations handling e-waste.

Enviroserve’s services give a second life to computer monitors, old phones, and other devices, which, once repaired, can be sold at a lower price. Several countries in the region have expressed interest in the facility as an example of how sustainable digital development can reduce environmental impact, spur economic activity, and create jobs.

“Enviroserve has already deployed 20 e-waste collection centres across the country,” according to Minister Ingabire. “The programme is set to be expanded through the World Bank-funded Digital Acceleration Project, which will add 30 collection centres across all 30 districts of the country.”

Rwanda actively promotes the regional e-waste management strategy of the East African Communications Organisation (EACO), together with Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The initiative seeks to jointly enhance regional infrastructure, strengthen coordination at the regional and national levels, and promote research and innovation to build circular economies.

“Together with ITU, we are working on a project to introduce and implement the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) concept in our regulatory frameworks,” Minister Ingabire adds. “This project includes an awareness campaign to teach the public how to treat e-waste, and procedures for disposal at designated collection points to increase collection rates and public participation in the exercise.”

Global Collaboration Will Feature IBM SkillsBuild to Deliver Digital Learning to Women and Youth

UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) today announced that it is working with IBM to address the digital skills gap by delivering digital learning to youth and women, as part of UNCDF’s Digital Futures initiative. IBM will support the implementation of Digital Futures through the IBM SkillsBuild initiative to offer digital and workforce skills training for students and job seekers.

The Digital Futures initiative will endeavor to deliver advanced digital and 21st century workforce skills in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Digital Futures is designed to mobilize an international digital and workforce skills partnership ecosystem to deliver digital skills training, consisting of public and private sector organizations as well as educational institutions and donors. The initiative will focus on delivering digital training to youth, women and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) students with a specific geographic emphasis on least developed countries (LDCs). Digital Futures will aim to train 50,000 youth, women and TVET students.

“The key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals agenda is to scale all impactful solutions, including solutions to enhance digital literacy and to strengthen skills building to ensure competitiveness in the global digital economy and in light of the 4th Industrial Revolution,” said UNCDF Executive Secretary Preeti Sinha. “Our partnership with IBM will look to leverage their expertise in digital skills building alongside our primary commitment to serve the LDCs. Through this, now global partnership, IBM and UNCDF will endeavor to leave no workforce behind; notably in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.”

Digital Futures will be supported by IBM through IBM SkillsBuild. IBM SkillsBuild is a free, digital training program aimed at students, educators and job seekers offering access to learning courses, resources, and support focused on reskilling or upskilling learning on core technology and workforce skills needed to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. IBM SkillsBuild operates in 159 countries, offering over 1,000 courses in 19 languages in technical disciplines such as cybersecurity, AI, quantum computing, or data analysis, as well as workplace skills.

“At IBM, we are committed to investing in the future of work and to provide free education on disruptive technologies, which is why we’re excited to partner with UNDCF on Digital Futures to help democratize opportunity and fill the growing digital skills gap,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, Vice President, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG. “We look forward to working together with UNCDF and help prepare youth and women in Africa, Asia and the Pacific for in-demand technology jobs in the market as part of IBM’s commitment to equitably skill 30 million people worldwide by 2030.”

UNCDF will lead in the implementation and execution of Digital Futures with a pilot phase already underway in East and Southern Africa. Digital Futures will build on the learnings of an ongoing digital skills building programme deployed by UNCDF in collaboration with IBM and the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MInT).

The Digital Futures initiative is an outgrowth of the Partner2Connect (P2C) Digital Coalition, which was launched by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). P2C is a multi-stakeholder alliance to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation globally, with a focus on but not limited to hardest-to-connect communities in least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states.

“I welcome this pledge towards Partner2Connect. The Partner2Connect Coalition is a game-changing opportunity to take a holistic approach, catalyze new partnerships, and mobilize the resources needed to connect those who are still offline,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. “I am calling on all players to step up and help us connect those 2.9 billion that are unconnected. I look forward to welcoming many more pledges soon so that we can truly “Partner2Connect the World.”

Digital Futures will serve as an anchor for P2C’s ambition of rolling out advanced digital and workforce skills relevant for the digital economy and future of work. Digital Futures is one of three initiatives led by UNCDF supported by P2C.

About UNCDF

UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development.

UNCDF’s financing models work through three channels: (1) inclusive digital economies, which connects individuals, households, and small businesses with financial eco-systems that catalyze participation in the local economy, and provide tools to climb out of poverty and manage financial lives; (2) local development finance, which capacitates localities through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance to drive local economic expansion and sustainable development; and (3) investment finance, which provides catalytic financial structuring, de-risking, and capital deployment to drive SDG impact and domestic resource mobilization.

About IBM Education

As part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, IBM’s education portfolio takes a personalized, diverse, and deep approach to STEM career readiness. IBM’s pro bono programs range from education and support for teens at public schools and universities to career readiness resources for aspiring professionals and job seekers. IBM believes that education is best achieved through the collaboration of the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors.

IBM SkillsBuild offers more than 1,000 online courses, and shareable badges upon their successful completion, on topics ranging from professional workplace proficiencies to technical skills for many industries, roles, and technologies, including hybrid cloud computing, AI, cybersecurity, data analytics, help desk, and project management. It also offers access to mentors, resume-building projects, as well as partner-led job fairs, and job referrals. As of February 2022, IBM SkillsBuild has helped 1.72 million students and job seekers globally to complete 4 million learning hours in cybersecurity, data analysis, and other technical disciplines.

“Our partnership with IBM will look to leverage their expertise in digital skills building alongside our primary commitment to serve the LDCs. Through this, now global partnership, IBM and UNCDF will endeavor to leave no workforce behind; notably in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.”
Preeti Sinha, UNCDF Executive Secretary

“We look forward to working together with UNCDF and help prepare youth and women in Africa, Asia and the Pacific for in-demand technology jobs in the market as part of IBM’s commitment to equitably skill 30 million people worldwide by 2030.”
Justina Nixon-Saintil, Vice President, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG

“I welcome this pledge towards Partner2Connect. The Partner2Connect Coalition is a game-changing opportunity to take a holistic approach, catalyze new partnerships, and mobilize the resources needed to connect those who are still offline.”
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

Countries worldwide—and developing countries in particular—recognize the need for digital transformation to foster economic growth, improve efficiency, enable skills development, and advance human and social development. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, digitization has become an even more crucial enabler of economic and social development. It is also critical for achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—all of which include digital components.

Realizing the desired economic and social prosperity from increased digitization is only possible if the digital infrastructure and systems underpinning them are safe and secure.   Addressing the fast-evolving nature of cybersecurity risks is challenging, largely due to the speed of digital innovation and the proliferation of threats that can impact the safety, prosperity, and resilience of a country.

To address these issues, many countries are developing national cybersecurity strategies (NCSs). Several multinational organizations have also affirmed the importance of adopting comprehensive NCSs. The latest reports by the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) and Group of Government Experts (GGE), for example, highlighted how developing cyber capacities at a global level—including by adopting NCSs—can help build trust and stability in cyberspace. Governments are getting the message. In the last three years, there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of countries that have adopted NCSs. But despite recent progress, 60 percent of least developed countries (LDCs) still do not have strategies, and most developing countries that have adopted one struggle to implement them due to a lack of financial and human resources.

Fortunately, tools and methodologies exist to help governments tackle these problems. The Guide to Developing a National Cybersecurity Strategy, now in its second edition, provides a useful and flexible framework to support policymakers in developing, updating, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating their strategies. It was developed by a consortium of over 20 expert organizations from the public and private sectors, inter- and non-governmental organizations, academia, and civil society. The guide serves as an important resource and blueprint for developing and implementing comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable NCSs that take a country’s specific socio-economic vision, political context, and cultural and societal values into account and encourage the pursuit of secure, safe, and resilient digital societies.

The guide inspired the Global Policy Dialogue and Briefing on Cybersecurity Strategy Design and Implementation. The event, co-organized by the World Bank and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and moderated by the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE), was designed to help governments think strategically about developing their NCSs and effectively implementing them. It brought together government leaders from across the globe—from Ecuador to Tonga—to reflect on their respective governments’ experiences, discuss priorities and challenges in designing and implementing NCSs, and facilitate partnership opportunities within the international community.

Developing country representatives shared some of the most common challenges to implementing NCSs. One of the biggest, for example, is developing and retaining a professional cybersecurity workforce. With over 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs expected by 2025 worldwide, governments—especially in developing countries—will be particularly hard-pressed to develop a professional cybersecurity workforce and prevent the brain drain towards better jobs abroad and in the private sector.

Andrew Toimoana, Director of Tonga’s Digital Transformation Department, said, “Here in Tonga—and I can speak for most of our Pacific neighborhood islands—we’ll be facing the same issue with employing human resources and trying to keep our experts in the island.”

Bolor-Erdene Battsengel, the State Secretary for Mongolia’s Ministry of Digital Development, expressed concerns about the low adoption rates of national cybersecurity strategies in LDCs and emphasized the importance of cybersecurity and digital skills development to securing the digitization process and, more broadly, ensuring successful development outcomes. “We live in a world where we already face several inequalities about gender, education, income, and economic levels,” she said, adding that rapid digitization can worsen these disparities. Battsengel concluded that when building cybersecurity capacity, countries should “start with those who have been left out of digital development.”

The Global Policy Dialogue addressed many of these issues and served as a catalyst for future engagements and partnerships. Moving forward, governments and the international community must channel the necessary resources into capacity building and workforce training initiatives to ensure the long-term sustainability, continuity, and scalability of their digital development and cybersecurity projects. A number of initiatives and resources can support ongoing collaboration in this area, for example, the GFCE. The exchange of information on the development and successful implementation of national cybersecurity strategies, coupled with new and enhanced financial assistance mechanisms and stronger international partnerships, will do much to strengthen the cyber resilience of developing countries and accelerate a safer digital transformation across the globe.

Digital transformation, as commonly defined, is the cultural, organisational, and operational change of an organisation, industry, or ecosystem through a smart integration of digital technologies, processes, and competencies across all levels and functions in a staged and strategic way. Particularly in trade, it is playing a key role in changing modern human life and leading changes in what and how people trade. But whilst digital transformation improves productivity and trade, it also raises inequality through displacement effects and impacts on developing countries through premature deindustrialisation and disappearance of manual and routine.

Such observations were shared by Dr Lili Yan Ing, lead advisor on Southeast Asia of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), in a webinar titled Digital Transformation in Trade held on 8 June 2022. The webinar was one of the side events of the Road to Group of Twenty (G20) and conducted by the Ministry of Trade of Indonesia with ERIA and the International Trade Analysis and Policy Studies.

Citing privacy, cyber security, competition, and digital divide issues as the key challenges in digital transformation and digital trade faced by countries, particularly the G20 countries, Dr Ing suggested to the G20 four main points to achieve digital transformation development for all. First, it is important for the G20 to implement what has been committed in digital transformation and digital trade, including the frameworks. Second, G20 needs to commit to improve the quality of digital enablers, from physical to human capital. Third, G20 should promote efforts to improve the preparedness for digital adoption to reduce digital divides between and within countries. Finally, she said, it is important to have privacy and competition laws be implemented worldwide. In the question and answer session, Dr Ing cited the importance for governments to provide estimations and an outlook for the economy and communicate them well to small and medium-sized enterprises. The economic outlook and credible forecast, she said, could help them anticipate ongoing development issues as well as upcoming economic disturbances.

Other speakers in the webinar were Albert Park, chief economist of the Asian Development Bank; Haroon Bhorat, professor of economics and director of the Development Policy Research Unit of the University of Cape Town; Torbjörn Fredriksson, head of the E-commerce and Digital Economy Branch of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development; Leonard Theosabrata, director of the Ministry of Cooperatives and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises of Indonesia; Zahra Murad, head of UKM Center FEB UI; Pamitra Wineka, chief executive officer (CEO) of TaniHub; and Edward Tirtanata, CEO of Kopi Kenangan.

IDB Lab, the innovation laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is launching a call to identify innovative solutions that make use of digital tokens to promote biodiversity conservation and facilitate climate action. The Digital Tokens for Biodiversity Innovation Challenge is a joint effort from the Natural Capital Lab, the IDB Group’s one-stop-shop for promoting financial innovation in natural capital, and LACChain, the global alliance for the blockchain development in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), led by IDB Lab.

Digital tokens, crypto assets, or purely digital assets can become amplifiers of actions that halt and reverse biodiversity loss and promote nature-friendly solutions. However, the possibilities of these instruments in this field have hardly been explored globally and minimally in LAC, a region that has 40% of the world’s biological diversity, 30% of the drinking water available on earth, and almost 50% of the world’s tropical forests.

IDB Lab, fully aligned with the promotion of actions against climate change established by the IDB Group’s Vision 2025, launches this call to explore the true potential of digital tokens aimed at startups, SMEs, foundations, non-profit organizations, corporations, universities, think tanks, public innovation agencies, accelerators, and other organizations with experience in the subject, ready to implement models, and duly registered and located in one of the 26 IDB borrowing countries. Organizations from non-borrowing countries may also participate if they do so in association with any of the above.

We expect to receive proposals that promote the conservation and/or regeneration of biodiversity with novel solutions of an innovative nature and appropriate use of technology, paying special consideration to the context, the social and economic inclusion of poor and vulnerable populations, as well as the participation and leadership of local communities in the conservation and management of natural resources. A second track of the challenge seeks solutions that raise awareness and create networks of actors working in the technology industry in the field of biodiversity, as well as favoring inclusive and binding governance protocols for this field of application, including monitoring systems.

The challenge will remain open until August 12, 2022. The selected proposals will be announced in September 2022 and may receive funding to develop their projects in any of the aforementioned 26 countries. They will also be included among IDB Lab´s network of global innovators working in LAC to exchange knowledge, experiences, best practices, and may have opportunities to participate in networking events organized by the IDB Group and its partners.

For more information about this challenge, please visit the following link: https://convocatorias.iadb.org/en/bid-lab/digital-tokens-biodiversity

The Personal Data Protection Office (PDPO) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), have today launched a data protection and privacy portal that will ease reporting, processing, and resolving of data protection and privacy complaints and breaches. It will also ease registration of persons and organizations collecting and processing personal data. The portal includes SMS/USSD functionality to enable universal access and usage by most citizens. A two-month long awareness campaign to publicize and drive usage of the portal, as well as create awareness on the rights of individuals whose personal data is collected, was also launched.

“The Personal Data Protection Office is open to individuals to file their complaints if they are concerned that their personal data protection rights have not been respected and have not managed to resolve the matter with the organisation involved, whether it is a public or private organization. The data protection and privacy portal makes the filing and resolution of such complaints an efficient process,” Ms. Stella Alibateese, National Personal Data Protection Director said.

The Personal Data Protection Office was set up by the Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019 as an independent Office under the National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (NITA-U) with the mandate to oversee the implementation and enforcement of the Act. The Office was operationalized in August 2021.

The Data Protection and Privacy Act aims to: protect the privacy of the individual and of personal data by regulating it’s collection and processing; provide for the rights of the people whose data is collected and the obligations of organizations that collect this data; and to regulate the use or disclosure of personal data. The law provides that all personal data must be handled in accordance with the principles of data protection and privacy as provided in the Act which include; Accountability, Lawfulness, Minimality, Retention, Quality, Transparency and Security.

“Today’s launch is not about the portal, but rather about what the portal will enable us to achieve, that is, building trust in the digital systems and solutions that have and will increasingly become part of our daily lives. Trust in the digital economy, as we call it today, will drive usage of digital solutions to improve the wellbeing of Ugandans,” Richard Ndahiro, Technical Advisor – Inclusive Digital Economy, UNCDF said.

The potential of digitalization in transforming the livelihoods of individuals, communities, businesses, and the wider economy is never in doubt, and many communities are already reaping the benefits. Yet, digitalization presents several risks which we must work to mitigate. These risks include: (1) That some people are being left behind, and this – if not addressed – will perpetuate significant inequalities, (2) That one’s personal data can end up in the wrong hands or be used contrary to the owner’s wish.

UNCDF’s support to the PDPO to develop the data protection portal is part of its ‘Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era Strategy’, funded by SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The strategy aims to empower millions to use digital services that will leverage innovation and technology to improve their wellbeing, while contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

To access the portal, visit https://pdpo.go.ug/file-complaint

About the Personal Data Protection Office

The Personal Data Protection Office is Uganda’s statutory body established as an independent office under the National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (NITA-U) and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of and enforcement of the Data Protection and Privacy Act. The Office is headed by the National Personal Data Protection Director. The Personal Data Protection Office’s statutory functions include the following; overseeing the implementation of and being responsible for the enforcement of the Data Protection and Privacy Act; coordinating, supervising and monitoring data collectors, data processors, and data controllers; monitoring, investigating and reporting on the observance of the right to the privacy and receiving and investigating complaints relating to violation of the Act. More information on the Office can be found on www.pdpo.go.ug

ABOUT UNCDF

The UN Capital Development Fund makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 46 least developed countries (LDCs). UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development. UNCDF’s financing models work through three channels: (1) inclusive digital economies, which connect individuals, households, and small businesses with financial eco-systems that catalyze participation in the local economy, and provide tools to climb out of poverty and manage financial lives; (2) local development finance, which capacitates localities through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance to drive local economic expansion and sustainable development; and (3) investment finance, which provides catalytic financial structuring, de-risking, and capital deployment to drive SDG impact and domestic resource mobilization. www.UNCDF.org

For further information contact:

Baker Birikujja, Manager Licensing and Legal Affairs, baker.birikujja@pdpo.go.ug

Rachael Kentenyingi, Communications Specialist, UNCDF Uganda, rachael.kentenyingi@uncdf.org

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved a credit of $40.7 million from the International Development Association (IDA) to help Mongolia improve online public services to citizens and businesses, boost digital skills training, and increase digital-enabled jobs.

The Smart Government II Project aims to improve Mongolia’s legal and regulatory environment for building trust and cybersecurity in the use of digital technologies. The project will also enable the development of public services, shared use of cloud computing, and cybersecurity services in the public sector.

The project also aims to help develop Mongolia’s digital economy in response to the impact of disruptive technologies transforming economies and societies globally, and to provide new opportunities for Mongolia’s development. For the digital economy, the project will provide skills and literacy training to 13,000 civil servants and citizens, create 3,000 new digital jobs for youth and women, and help digitalize 2,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to improve their competitiveness and resilience in the global economy.

The project will expand on the successful interventions of the first SMART Government Project that will close on August 31, 2022. The closing project had built and strengthened critical enablers for public sector transformation and online service delivery, including the national-level disaster recovery center, government enterprise architecture, e-Mongolia and open data portal, and e-property registration system.

“It is important that all Mongolian citizens and businesses be able to benefit from the global digital transformation and their country’s digital development efforts,” said Andrei Mikhnev, World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia. “This project will provide Mongolian women, persons with disabilities, and rural or remote inhabitants with easy-to-use and efficient digital public services, and allow youths to develop digital skills and access a wider range of jobs. It will help SMEs – especially those owned or led by women – increase their competitiveness in the global digital market and build their resilience for future crises.”

The Mongolian government has succeeded in providing online public services to citizens and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This experience has added momentum to the government’s longstanding commitment to use the digital transformation as a new driver of economic growth, to develop efficient and accessible public services, and to become a “Digital Nation” in the next five years.

The new project will assist the government in adopting an integrated, whole-of-government approach for its online public services and digital investments.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) today opened a landmark digital development conference aimed at bringing affordable, meaningful connectivity to the estimated 2.9 billion people worldwide who still lack an Internet connection.

The World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), taking place at the Kigali Convention Centre over the next two weeks, promises focused negotiations to connect the unconnected and accelerate global digital development.

The ITU conference will produce a globally agreed Declaration and Action Plan for Connecting the Unconnected to Achieve Sustainable Development.

“Access to high-speed internet has not kept up with the fast pace of digital transformation, and the digitization of the economy in general,” said Rwanda’s President, H.E. Paul Kagame, who opened the conference this morning. “If such inequalities are left unchecked, development will accelerate more and more in some parts of the world, while elsewhere it slows down. The numbers speak for themselves. One third of the world remains offline, and the majority are women in developing countries. The responsibility to shape the future of the digital economy, and ensure no one is left behind, lies with all of us, working together.”

Under the auspices of ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, WTDC brings together more than 2,000 members of the international community, including Heads of State, government ministers, national delegations from 153 countries, prominent leaders from the digital sector, high-level representatives of regional bodies including the African Union and European Union, and top officials from non-governmental bodies.

Between 6 and 16 June, they will strive to draw up a bold new roadmap for harnessing digital technologies to drive socio-economic development and re-energize progress towards the  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN for 2030.

Ramping up global connectivity has gained greater urgency amid the COVID-19 pandemic of the past three years. While Internet use surged in 2020, reaching 4.9 billion​ users worldwide, some 2.9 billion people remain unconnected and in growing danger of being left behind.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, addressing more than 1,000 delegates present at the opening ceremony via video message, said: “The potential of digital technologies to help us make up lost ground in our efforts to achieve the 17 SDGs is tremendous. But so too are the challenges. Over one third of humanity still has no access to the Internet…Your task is to is to map out a new Action Plan to bring the nearly three billion unconnected people into our global digital community, because leaving no-one behind means leaving no-one offline.”

Addressing key development priorities

Rwanda’s Minister for ICT & Innovation and Chair-Designate of WTDC, Paula Ingabire, told delegates gathered at the Kigali Convention Centre: “WTDC is our opportunity to conclusively address the issue of affordable and meaningful connectivity. We must mobilize ourselves to agree on urgent issues that require our consensus now, if we are to continue building foundations for a successful digital future. We can and we must take action over the next four years to ensure connectivity that enables the world’s sustainable development.”

“I echo the UN Secretary-General’s call for universal connectivity with affordable services by 2030 and hope WTDC will make headway on removing all remaining barriers to connectivity,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “We have obligations to the world’s youth, and to each other, to connect the unconnected, drive the development of new technologies central to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and continue to show the world what ITU can do as a technical and, equally important, development agency.”

The Kigali Declaration and the Kigali Action Plan will set out the priorities of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) for the next four years. To strengthen international collaboration, this 8th WTDC is placing added emphasis on new strategies to encourage commitments from both the private and public sectors to rapidly ramp up inclusive, sustainable connectivity through the Partner2 Connect Digital Coalition.

“This conference is all about mobilizing leaders from government, the global tech sector and beyond, to bring digital inclusion to even the hardest-to-connect communities and unleash the power of digital partnership to deliver on our 2030 sustainable development pledges,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which organizes the conference in support of ITU’s mandate to ‘connect the world.’​

Pioneering initiatives: 

This current gathering features a series of ‘firsts’ for an ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference, including:

Generation Connect Global Youth Summit, 2-4 June

A pre-event youth summit, the Generation Connect Global Youth Summit, which welcomed hundreds of young people aged 15-29 onsite in Kigali, with another 5,000+ joining online from around the world via livestream links. The resulting Generation Connect Call to Action​​ will be presented to WTDC delegates and will inform their discussions as they work towards agreement on the Kigali Action Plan.

Launch of the Global Connectivity Report, 6 June

An important new ITU data study, the Global Connectivity Report 2022, will be launched at the WTDC opening press conference on 6 June. The comprehensive report looks at the evolution of connectivity around the world and offers in-depth analysis on the barriers and issues still needing to be resolved to achieve full digital inclusion.

Partner2Connect Digital Development Roundtable, 7-9 June

The P2C Roundtable sessions, organized through the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition from 7 to 9 June, will bring in leading players from the private sector and civil society with the aim of actively advancing commitments to accelerate global connectivity. The event will showcase more than 100 major connectivity pledges from partners around the world.

WTDC Spotlight Sessions

The Roundtable programme also features five Spotlight sessions offering deep-dives into specific issues: Partnering to Transform Education; Advancing the Doha Programme of Action; the Secret Ingredients of Last-Mile Connectivity Investment; Accelerating Universal Meaningful Connectivity through the UN Global Digital Compact; and a special session on Assistance and Support to Ukraine in Rebuilding the Telecommunications Sector.

Network of Women @ WTDC 

A series of WTDC Network of Women (NoW) events, including a NoW breakfast, NoW Walkathon, and NoW lunch, will promote women’s leadership opportunities in the digital sector and the broader international arena.

WTDC Webcasts

Selected sessions, including the WTDC opening and closing ceremonies, the Partner2Connect Roundtable sessions, and the opening press conference will be viewable via webcast.

Find more information, including in-depth backgrounders, in the 
WTDC Newsroom

Growing ‘connectivity canyon’ emerging between the hyperconnected and the ‘digitally destitute’, with more than one third of humanity still totally offline.

The immense potential of the Internet for social and economic good remains largely untapped despite 30 years of steady growth, according to a new report from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies.

Launched to coincide with the opening of ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, the Global Connectivity Report 2022 argues that while easy, affordable access to fast broadband is near-ubiquitous in most rich-world nations, vast swaths of humanity remain excluded from the immense possibilities offered by the online experience, stunting economic development and deepening global inequalities.

While the number of Internet users surged from a just a few million in the early 1990s to almost five billion today, 2.9 billion people – or around one third of humanity – still remain totally offline, and many hundreds of millions more struggle with expensive, poor-quality access that does little to materially improve their lives.

The report advocates for putting ‘universal and meaningful connectivity’ – defined as the possibility of a safe, satisfying, enriching, productive, and affordable online experience for everyone – at the centre of global development. It also evaluates how close the world is to achieving that universal and meaningful connectivity, using the connectivity targets for 2030 recently released by ITU and the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology.

The cost of broadband subscriptions and digital devices remains a major barrier to connectivity, the report confirms. While Internet access has become progressively cheaper in richer countries, getting online is still prohibitively expensive in many in low- and lower-middle-income economies.

And although the cost of broadband – especially mobile broadband – has fallen significantly over the past decade, the majority of low- and middle-income economies still fall short of the global affordability target of 2% or less of gross national income per capita set by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

“Equitable access to digital technologies isn’t just a moral responsibility, it’s essential for global prosperity and sustainability,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “We need to create the right conditions, including promoting environments conducive to investment, to break cycles of exclusion and bring digital transformation to all.”​

While the COVID-related surge in demand for Internet access brought some 800 million additional people online, it also dramatically increased the cost of digital exclusion, with those unable to connect abruptly shut out of employment, schooling, access to health advice, financial services, and much more.

“Universal, meaningful connectivity has become the global imperative for our decade,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which produced the report. “It’s no longer just about linking people – the catalytic role of connectivity will also be absolutely critical to our success in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Still looking for the ‘missing link’ 

The Missing Link’ report, published in 1984 by the Independent Commission for World-Wide Telecommunications Development set up by ITU , identified a clear correlation between access to telecommunications and socio-economic development and urged all countries to make connectivity a priority.

Nearly 40 years on, that ‘missing link’ still persists, but has morphed to multiple digital divides:

  • The Income Divide – the level of Internet use in low-income countries (22%) remains far below that of high-income countries, which are approaching universal use (91%)
  • The Urban-Rural Divide – the share of Internet users is twice as high in urban areas as in rural areas
  • The Gender Divide – globally, 62% of men are using the Internet, compared with 57% of women
  • The Generation Divide – in all regions, young people 15-24 year are more avid Internet users (72% online) than the rest of the population (57%)
  • The Education Divide – In nearly all countries where data are available, rates of Internet use are higher for those with more education – in many cases, far higher.

The report notes that the biggest challenges in connecting the unconnected are no longer related to network coverage, but rather to uptake and use.

With just 5% of the global population still physically out of reach of a mobile broadband signal, the ‘coverage gap’ is now dwarfed by the ‘usage gap’: some 32% of people who are within range of a mobile broadband network and could theoretically connect still remain offline, due to prohibitive costs, lack of access to a device, or lack of awareness, skills, or ability to find useful content.

Youth

While young people are enthusiastic users of online platforms and services in all parts of the world, gaping divides between and within countries limit the ability of many young people to harness the online world to improve their lives.

Only 40% of school-age children have home access to the Internet, with many only able to access online services via a mobile phone with limited functionality for activities like e-learning.

As the digital environment becomes more complex, children and youth also need greater competence to critically understand the digital world in which they are increasingly immersed. Access and digital skills are key to ensuring that children and youth enhance their prospects, and there is growing recognition that all stakeholders need to collaborate more effectively to protect youth from online risks and harm.

Issues directly affecting young people’s digital access and experience were debated at ITU’s first-ever Generation Connect Global Youth Summit, which took place in Kigali, Rwanda, from 2-4 June, just ahead of the opening of the WTDC.

Access a full range of Global Connectivity Report 2022 collateral, including charts and images, here.

WTDC Webcasts 

Selected sessions, including the press conference launching the Global Connectivity Report, the WTDC opening and closing ceremonies, the Partner2Connect Roundtable sessions will be webcast and can be viewed here.​

Find more information, including media backgrounders, on the WTDC Newsroom 
here.

Commissioners meeting in Kigali outlined next steps for accelerating inclusive universal connectivity, setting the stage for tomorrow’s opening of the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development met in Kigali, Rwanda, this weekend to pinpoint new actions that can drive faster progress towards universal meaningful access to digital networks and services.

The high-level advocacy group came together for its annual Spring Meeting at the invitation of the Commission Co-Chair, H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, ahead of the landmark digital development conference held every four years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU): the  World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC).

In his opening remarks to the meeting, President Kagame told Commissioners: “We are still living in tough times, economically, politically, and in terms of global public health. The immediate future is full of uncertainties and risks. But one thing is sure: All of the challenges we face can be handled faster, better, and more equitably, by investing in universal, affordable broadband.”

Commission Co-Chair Carlos Slim also emphasized the importance of connectivity in the wake of the ongoing global health crisis. “For the adoption gap, carriers could provide the devices, and government programmes could pay the monthly subscription for families that qualify, ensuring reasonable packages with unlimited minutes and enough data. This would support remote education, e-health, and e-commerce, among many other digital services,” he said.

Commissioners and Special Guests representing government leaders, heads of international organizations and private sector companies, along with civil society and academia, discussed the power of digital transformation to create broad and positive socio-economic impact and looked at ways to rapidly increase access to broadband, foster innovative partnerships, empower youth, and build trust in online spaces.

In particular, they confronted chronic connectivity challenges and discussed how to ensure affordable, sustainable, and equitable access to digital services across regions, especially in the world’s 46 Least Developed countries, where 17% of the population is still without a mobile broadband signal, and hundreds of millions more kept offline by high prices, lack of digital skills and awareness, and a dearth of usable, relevant and accessible content.

Recognizing the role digital technologies play in all facets of economic activity, Commissioners shared government and business strategies that are incentivizing investment in digital literacy, connectivity, and skills.

Commission Co-Vice Chair Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, noted that “One of the challenges we need to overcome is reducing the cost of broadband subscriptions and digital devices, especially in low- and lower-middle-income economies. Affordability of broadband services in developing countries is also one of the Commission’s 2025 targets. I do hope that we can use this moment to accelerate the achievement of these targets and break down these last barriers to connectivity.”

“Digital and media literacy skills are among the most empowering of human transformations: in terms of our livelihoods, in terms of our access to quality and lifelong education, in terms of decisions guiding our health and safety, and in terms of understanding and exercising our civil rights,” said Dr Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, representing UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, who serves as the Commission’s other Co-Vice Chair. “Broadband Commissioners have a unique awareness of this. We have a unique capacity to lead change, through innovation, investment, advocacy and partnership.”

This latest Commission meeting – the first in-person meeting in two years – provided clear synergies with WTDC, set to kick off tomorrow with the theme of “Connecting the unconnected to achieve sustainable development”.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau and the Commission’s Executive Director, emphasized the urgent need for strong partnerships to step up connectivity.

“In alignment with the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and the 2030 Common Agenda, the Commission will leverage the strength of its membership and collective expertise to advocate for meaningful, safe, secure, and sustainable broadband communications services,” she said.

The Broadband Commission made an advocacy pledge to the ITU Partner2Connect Digital Coalition to help reach inclusive universal connectivity, through policy recommendations addressing broadband policy, access, affordability, use and skills and the advocacy actions to realize 2025 Broadband Advocacy Targets. Pledges were also received by 16 Broadband Commissioners and their entities.

The meeting also highlighted the new Call to Action: My Digital Future​, presented by Generation Connect Visionaries Board members as an outcome of the first-ever Generation Connect Youth Summit, calling for inter-generational efforts to build an equitable, inclusive digital future.

A video,  Broadband Transforming Lives, addressed Broadband Commission Advocacy Target 4 on digital skills for youth and adults, highlighting the work of young changemakers who are embracing technology to make a positive impact on their communities. These voices of the younger generation, together with Commissioners’ input, will be conveyed to the upcoming UN Transforming Education Summit 2022, which aims to shape the future of education and learning.

Commissioners also reported on the progress of the Commission’s four current Working Groups:  Virtual Health & CareSmartphone AccessData for Learning; and AI Capacity Building.

A preview of the forthcoming report of the Working Group on The Future of Virtual Health and Care, co-chaired by Dr Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation, and the World Health Organization, emphasized the need for sound stewardship of the global explosion in virtual health triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure it drives equitable health access and does not exacerbate existing health inequities.

Note to editors
Founded in 2010, the Broadband Commission promotes a multi-stakeholder approach to digital cooperation by seeking to align Internet and connectivity growth to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Commission is recognized for the publication of the annual State of Broadband Report and more than 30 thematic research and advocacy reports addressing such topics as digital health, education, online safety and inclusion of vulnerable populations.

About the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010 by ITU and UNESCO with the aim of boosting the importance of broadband on the international policy agenda and expanding broadband access in every country as key to accelerating progress towards national and international development targets. Led by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helù of Mexico, it is co-chaired by ITU’s Secretary-General Houlin Zhao and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. It comprises over 50 Commissioners who represent a cross-cutting group of top CEO and industry leaders, senior policymakers and government representatives, and experts from international agencies, academia and organizations concerned with development. Learn more at: www.broadbandcommission.org

 About ITU
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. Established over 150 years ago, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communication infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. For more information, visit www.itu.int.

This is the second in a series of blogs about internet access in Indonesia.

A well-functioning digital economy requires widespread access to high-quality internet. Although internet use in Indonesia has nearly quadrupled over the last decade, every second Indonesian adult remains unconnected.

In addition, almost all internet users Indonesia connect through mobile devices. Although mobile broadband (3G, but now increasingly 4G/LTE) is the most widely used internet service in Indonesia, it is not on par with fixed broadband with respect to capacity, quality of service, high bandwidth performance, and cost-efficiency. Distance learning efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic recently highlighted the limitations of mobile internet as millions of students and teachers across Indonesia found their mobile data plans inadequate and prohibitively costly for high bandwidth applications.

Such limited access to high-quality internet prevents the population from unlocking its productive capabilities to fully reap the benefits of a digital economy and points to two key challenges: how to make fixed broadband internet access universal and increase internet quality.

Increased optical fiber network coverage is a necessary but insufficient solution to meeting the key challenges. While investment by private service providers, along with government projects such as Palapa Ring[1] have steadily increased connectivity and service availability across Indonesian districts, internet subscriptions have not increased in parallel. Only 26 percent of homes with access to a fixed broadband provider subscribe to this service.

The low subscription rates are attributable to a large extent to cost and quality concerns. While Indonesian mobile broadband data packages are relatively affordable compared to similar packages offered by Indonesia’s regional peers, fixed broadband packages are not. In the 2019 ITU rankings on fixed line subscription fees, Indonesia ranked 131st in affordability out of the 200 countries and territories observed, confirming that Indonesia is one of the most expensive markets for fixed broadband. Almost half of Indonesia households — 44 percent — cite high costs as the main reason they do not subscribe for fixed broadband services.

On top of expensive fees, the quality of internet service in Indonesia is among the lowest compared to its ASEAN neighbors. Indonesia records the second slowest mobile broadband (17.24 Mbps) download speed—only narrowly surpassing Cambodia, at 16.4 Mbps—and the third slowest fixed broadband speed in ASEAN, after Cambodia and Myanmar.

Mobile and fixed broadband throughput (Mbps)

Source: Ookla Speedtest, February 2022.
Note: Mobile broadband speeds in the left panel and fixed broadband speeds in the right panel.

Why is internet in Indonesia relatively expensive and slow?

Two main factors contributing to the high price and low quality of Indonesia’s internet connectivity. While infrastructure sharing is a common practice among mobile networks, it is not prevalent in the fixed internet broadband market. Between 70 percent and 80 percent of the costs for fixed broadband are typically attributable to passive infrastructure such as ducts, poles, right-of-ways, and civil works. Sharing costs among providers would bring benefits, lower outlays for acquisition, leasing, and maintenance.

Secondly, the restrictive licensing scheme makes service providers bid for service-specific licenses instead of providing a single uniform license for all services. This reduces competitiveness in the broadband market by limiting market entry, which leads to higher prices for consumers for lower quality service, inhibiting broadband internet adoption.

While the mobile broadband space is competitive, the fixed broadband market is more concentrated, with Telkom dominating the market share

(Subscription shares of various providers)

Source: Subscription data, various sources. Estimates for subscription number are extracted from each respective company’s 2018 Q3 investor memo.

Note: Mobile broadband subscription share in the left panel and fixed broadband subscription share in the right panel by providers

To address these regulatory bottlenecks, Indonesia could consider two policy measures as suggested in the World Bank’s Beyond Unicorn report. First, the government could act to encourage active and passive infrastructure sharing. Recently enacted rules are a good start demonstrating government efforts to boost passive infrastructure sharing. Follow-up enforcement will be important. In addition, the regulation of passive infrastructure sharing and rapid and effective dispute resolution should be the responsibility of a single entity. Finally, public-private partnerships could be leveraged to accelerate investments in connectivity. For example, internet service providers could cooperate with public service providers to use already available public telecommunication poles and underground lines for fiber optic deployment.

Second, Indonesia should strengthen competition along the broadband value chain by simplifying the licensing process to encourage entry of new participants and development of more advanced products. Consumers should also be given the possibility to switch between service providers by enabling transferability of telephone numbers across providers.

Do you have any views on how to improve Indonesia’s internet access and quality? Please share in the comments box below.

This blog post is part of a series of blogs discussing the digital divide in the context of broadband internet access, mobile internet access, digital economy and digital governance, relying on results of the Beyond Unicorn report.

[1] The Palapa Ring project, a private-public partnership (PPP) led by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (Kominfo) and implemented during 2015–19, has succeeded in extending the domestic backbone to the entire country. The original Palapa Ring project was divided into a commercially feasible part and a commercially non-feasible part. The commercially feasible part (457 districts/cities) was undertaken by the private sector and included the routes from Lombok to Kupang, SMPCS (Sulawesi-Maluku-Papua-Cable-System) up to Jayapura and Merauke, and several smaller cable projects. The commercially non-feasible part of Palapa Ring (57 districts) was financed through the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund (financed by a levy on the net revenues of the telcos) and was also deployed in 2015–19.

Digital companies are playing a growing role in the race to eliminate harmful emissions from industry, transport, energy production, and other activities. By purchasing growing shares of renewable energy, investing in carbon removal, and issuing green bonds, the technology firms driving the world’s digital transformation have also come to the forefront in efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

A report to be published later this month by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) documents the emissions and energy use of 150 of the world’s leading tech companies. Beyond assessing corporate climate data and targets, the report – Greening Digital Companies: Monitoring Emissions and Climate Commitments – highlights best practices for digital companies to slash their emissions and achieve carbon-neutral operations.

To mark World Environment Day (5 June) and this year’s #OnlyOneEarth campaign, here are five key takeaways from the report:

1. The 150 digital companies consumed 1.6 per cent of global electricity production in 2020

Operational GHG emissions of the companies accounted for 239 million tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 0.76 per cent of the world total. The overall footprint of digital companies is estimated to be much higher, but it cannot be determined precisely as not all companies calculate their upstream and downstream emissions. The 150 digital companies in the study consumed 425 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2020, accounting for 1.6 per cent of global electricity production.

2. A few companies account for the bulk of digital company emissions

Just 20 companies account for three quarters of the operational emissions, while 9 companies headquartered in East Asia accounted for half of all the emissions of the 150 reviewed in the report. Compared to others, East Asian-headquartered companies use relatively little renewable energy. They have delayed adopting climate-friendly strategies, and will largely not reach carbon neutrality until after 2050 or around two decades later, on average, than companies headquartered in other regions.

3. The purchasing power of digital companies helps scale up renewable energy markets

Digital companies are helping to build viable markets for renewables and accelerate global progress towards carbon neutrality. Seven of the world’s top ten largest corporate purchasers of renewables in 2020 were digital companies, and the digital sector accounted for almost half of the renewables purchased that year. Digital companies are also working with their suppliers to encourage them to use renewables and reduce emissions. But reflecting solar and wind use correctly in power bills can get complicated. Although the companies pay for their renewable electricity, constraints in electrical grids mean it is not always delivered to them. Google is partnering with UN Energy and Sustainable Energy for All to boost the availability of renewables to purchasers over the grid 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

4. Sixteen digital companies report they are already carbon neutral

In all but two cases, firms reporting carbon neutrality are headquartered in Europe or the United States and are offsetting remaining, unavoidable emissions through climate-friendly projects, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. Along with helping to reduce emissions, such projects can achieve positive spill-over effects for sustainable development. Examples include solar and wind farms, reforestation, providing sustainable cookstoves, and pay-as-you-go solar power schemes. Forward-looking firms plan to move beyond carbon neutrality to net zero, where unavoidable emissions in a company’s footprint are removed from the atmosphere. Digital companies are investing over USD 4 billion in carbon removal technologies.

5. Digital products and services are making an impact by enabling wider emission reductions

The products and services of digital companies have become crucial to enable emission reductions in other sectors, including through video conferencing, as well as smart metering for buildings and transport systems. Telecommunications operators report that their services are enabling customers to avoid emissions more than six times what the operators generate in their operations.

Join the report launch webinar on 23 June to discuss key findings and hear from experts across civil society, the private sector, and governments. Register here.

Youth in Gaza collectively tackled digital challenges, enhancing their problem-solving skills and innovative abilities.

Almost 150 trainees of the International Trade Centre’s Go Digital project in Gaza recently faced off against each other in a hackathon, honing their collaborative and innovative skills while competing for cash prizes. The three-week hackathon culminated in a three-day competition during which they had to tackle four challenges involving a food delivery app, a personal finance app, a digital resource platform and an e-learning platform.

A hackathon is an event where participants get together for a short period of time to collaborate on a project. Participants work quickly to develop novel solutions and achieve their tasks. The four Go Digital hackathon challenges simulated the experience of delivering real work projects under tight deadlines. They enabled the trainees to put the skills they gained during their Go Digital training into practice and increase their own job readiness, so judges – including technical trainers and owners of tech companies in Gaza – could assess their employability and reward individual high achievement.

The trainees were asked to network and form teams of 5–8 people, each from different Go Digital training groups, namely, SEO, Translation, Bookkeeping, React.js, Flutter, WordPress and e-learning and UX/UI trainees from the former cohort of the ITC intervention in Gaza (Work Online 2). The 13 competing teams were asked to develop creative solutions for each challenge, using their expertise alongside innovative ideas to develop digital and virtual outputs that were new in Gaza. A networking session helped the trainees adopt a collaborative problem-solving approach.

The first challenge asked the trainees to design and develop a food delivery mobile application listing nearby home-cooked meals that could be delivered or picked up and the second was to create a personal mobile app that allows financial planning, review, expense tracking and personal asset management. The third challenge was to develop a digital resource centre featuring tools for start-ups, freelancers and entrepreneurs, while the fourth asked the trainees to design a self-paced online course based on a software simulation programme and using a learning management system.

‘The word hackathon reminds me of the word marathon,’ said Noor Alagha. ‘There’s a competition, there is running (metaphorically) in a tight time period. The challenge for us was how to form our team properly and how to develop the idea in the fastest way and the shortest time to present our product to the audience and the evaluation committee in the best way possible.’

That product was Tools Gate, a website that gives freelancers and entrepreneurs the tools to facilitate their work, shows them how to use these tools and explains what tools they may need. The website, which is in both English and Arabic, won the third challenge and a cash prize.

‘The competition was intense’

The evaluation committee of experienced judges from different fields assessed the results based on six specific criteria, ranging from the capabilities of the team and the pitching quality to the solutions the trainees developed and whether there was a clearly defined target market. The solutions that were developed have become real products, opening the door for more jobs in Gaza.

Four winning teams were selected (one for each challenge) and they divided the prize money of $1,000 per team.

‘The competition was intense and the challenge was considerable,’ said Mohammed Algoul, whose team developed the prize-winning Fino App, which helps people manage their finances. ‘The competing teams worked really hard.’

But the hackathon was about more than money, Alagha said.

‘It has been a great opportunity to network with colleagues from other majors, to broaden our horizons and to develop not only in our major, but in others, too,’ she said. ‘I am really glad I was part of the hackathon as I adopted new viewpoints and met new people, a valuable addition to my life.’

About the project

Go Digital is an International Trade Centre initiative in partnership with the Business and Technology Incubator in the State of Palestine, funded by the Government of Japan. The project seeks to enhance the self-employment opportunities of refugees and youth in Gaza through digital channels.

The first-ever Generation Connect Global Youth Summit opened its doors today at Kigali’s Intare Conference Arena to more than 500 young people aged 15-29 from around the world to discuss a wide-ranging ‘tech for development’ agenda ahead of a landmark digital development conference.

Organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with host country Rwanda, the three-day summit aims to drive meaningful youth engagement, consultation, collaboration, and participation in determining policies that will shape our increasingly digital world.

With a total of more than 1500 delegates from over 115 countries and 5,000+ joining online, it brings young leaders, entrepreneurs, social change-makers, engineers, policy specialists, and students together with today’s regional and global business leaders, decision-makers, and community advocates in the run-up to ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC).

“The United Nations system needs to become more inclusive as we strive to build a better world for our children to inherit,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhou. “Among the concrete steps taken to address this, the ITU Youth Strategy calls for supporting youth empowerment, bringing young people together for direct engagement, and fostering youth dialogue and participation in decision-making processes.”

Key topics at the three-day Youth Summit include the global digital divide, youth access to online education and digital skills, the digital gender gap, online safety, e-waste management, the future of work, digital entrepreneurship, the role of technology in climate change, and more.

Addressing young delegates gathered at the Intare Arena this afternoon, Rwandan Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dr Édouard Ngirente, said: “The extent to which our economies can grow will depend on the ability to ensure equitable access to technology as well as upskilling and reskilling our populations, especially the young people. These are global opportunities that require global cooperation. It is in this spirit that the Generation Connect Global Youth Summit is kicking off, because young people around the world are central to the vision to connect the unconnected.”

The high-level representatives welcomed at this morning’s opening ceremony also included Hon. Rosemary Mbabazi, Minister for Youth and Culture, who told assembled delegates that “The advancement of technology in today’s world is a constant factor, and youth are the early adopters, developers of these new technologies. Given an enabling environment, youth can bring the change and transformation needed in the world.”

Preparing a Call to Action

The summit programme, co-designed with young people from ITU’s global Generation Connect Youth network, will culminate with a consensus-based Call to Action on ‘Our Digital Future’.

This will comprise recommendations to enhance youth engagement in building an inclusive, sustainable digital future for all. Key aims include direct participation of youth in devising government digital strategies, as well as in the work of ITU and the wider UN system.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), encouraged young delegates to be bold, and be creative. “As the first true generation of digital natives, your youthful perspective, combined with your digital skills, offer us a real chance to navigate a new and better path, to break down old barriers, and to finally create that elusive, equitable, ‘World We Want’,” she said.

Youth envoys will present the Call to Action to leaders and decision-makers at WTDC – the main development-oriented conference held every four years by ITU, the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). See what young people are saying at the summit​.

Addressing diverse needs 

ITU’s Youth Strategy is aligned with the vision and objectives of the United Nations Youth Strategy: Youth 2030 – ‘working with and for young people’. As part of this, summit participants will share the positive and negative impacts of technology on their lives.

The programme features a special focus on the needs of young women, young people with disabilities, and young indigenous people. It also highlights the challenges of young people who are not yet connected to the Internet, or who struggle with connectivity that is too limited to help them flourish and realize their dreams and ambitions.

The Generation Connect Global Youth Summit’s global footprint reflects preparatory activities at over 70 hubs in over 40 countries. Hosted by academic institutions, not-for-profits, and private-sector companies, these hubs have mobilized close to 5,000 youth, who will connect live throughout various summit sessions.

In this research paper, we attempt to estimate the tax revenues to be gained (or lost) by the South Centre and African Union’s Member States under the Amount A and Article 12B regimes. Our analysis relied on sources of information available to private sector researchers but did not involve review of any information that taxpayers provide to tax authorities. Our research demonstrates that the comparative revenue effects of the Amount A and Article 12B taxation regimes largely depend on (a) design details of the Article 12B regime, (b) whether the country hosts headquarters of MNEs that may be in scope of Amount A or Article 12B taxation, and (c) what relief from double taxation, if any, the country will grant to domestic taxpayers subject to taxation under either the Amount A or Article 12B regimes.

Download the research

During their transformation from a network distributing correspondence (letters) to a network distributing goods (parcels and small packets), Posts are facing increased competition and smaller profit margins. The exchange of data is critical to maintaining a competitive quality of service; however, electronic advance data (EAD) compliance can be costly. UPU is working to facilitate that data exchange in an efficient yet affordable way through its EAD Customs Declaration Mobile App.

The key to EAD compliance is collecting good quality data and submitting it to an item’s destination Post as soon as possible. However, organizing this data in an efficient, secure and cost-effective way can be challenging for the Post of origin. For this reason, the UPU’s Postal Technology Centre (PTC), which manages and coordinates the UPU’s telematics and technological activities, has developed a number of tools available to help posts capture and transfer reliable, quality data to partners across the postal network.

One of the latest technologies developed by the PTC is the EAD Customs Declaration App, which is available through the Apple and Google Play stores and provides postal customers and MSMEs an easy means to input any Customs information related to their postal item before sending. This then helps ensure the Post can capture all required data to ensure timely Customs clearance.

The process is simple: when the customer hands over the mail item to the Post of origin, the Post can call the draft directly from the CDS database, or scan the QR code on the mobile device of the sender, and retrieve all information for validation before sending.

The benefits of using the App are evident across the supply chain. Having an application right in the palm of their hand saves the customer precious time when depositing their item at the post office. The sending Post also minimizes time spent with each customer in order to key in the necessary data. As a result, Customs receives good quality data monitored and validated within the App itself.

With the App and the other technical tools provided by the PTC, Posts can better organize to reduce their compliance costs. In addition, such technologies contribute to modernizing and digitizing the full postal supply chain from end to end, offering to customers an experience that is competitive with other logistics networks.

In addition to this, it also ensures that data is safeguarded through the PTC’s secured Post*Net network. With the EAD App, Posts and their customers can be sure that their personal data is protected from end-to-end.

These benefits were recently recognized by the World Summit on the Information Society, which awarded the App as a champion project during its 2022 conference in Geneva.

A postal perspective: Correios Cabo Verde

The EAD Customs Declaration Mobile App helps post offices in the process of digital transformation and diversification, like Correios Cabo Verde, transform their operational models and processes, as well as helping them develop a new way of interacting with their customers.

According to our experience, the EAD App has helped optimize the end-to-end digital supply chain process, improve partner relationship management and increase the effectiveness of our service. It has also helped us implement paperless transactions between the Post and Customs, increase transparency by ensuring all items are handled the same way, and given us more control throughout the shipping process. This digital tool has also helped us improve our enforcement of and reduction of tax evasion as all transactions are recorded digitally. This digital mechanism has also led to cost reductions and improved our statistics.

We cannot forget another crucial benefit of implementing this App: security. The EAD App has helped to prevent security gaps, ensuring a secure postal supply chain through built-in mechanisms that help control prohibited and restricted goods before they enter the postal stream.

The App is a great contribution to the development of e-commerce worldwide.

See how Correios Cabo Verde is using the UPU’s EAD

Mobile phones generate a staggering amount of data, allowing researchers to address previously unanswerable questions, and answer existing questions with new depth and granularity. How are researchers making use of mobile data to address global development challenges? We discussed this question at Measuring Development 2022: The Role of Mobile Data in Global Development Research, the 8th edition of a conference co-organized by the Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) department, the Development Data Group’s Analytics and Tools (DECAT) unit, and the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) at the University of California, Berkeley. Below, we share a roundup with links to recordings.

Session 1: Mobile Data for Development (video)

Melis Guven, Global Lead for Social Protection Delivery Systems, highlighted the great promise mobile data holds for social protection, jobs, and resilience programs.

Emily Aiken (UC Berkeley) discussed using mobile phone data to target social assistance programs when recent data on socioeconomic status is not available. Working with the government in Togo, researchers used machine learning, combined with phone and survey data, to identify low-income individuals among all six million mobile subscribers.

Emily Aiken presents her research using mobile data to predict poverty and target aid in Togo.
Emily Aiken presents her research using mobile data to predict poverty and target aid in Togo.

 

Daniel Putman (UPenn) presented research in Haiti, showing how mobile phone data can be used to document activation of the social network in a time of crisis.

Xiao Hui Tai (UC Berkeley) showed how mobile phone data can be used to measure seasonal migration in Afghanistan. She uses location data from call detail records to estimate migration, combined with measures of poppy yield (derived from satellites), to remotely measure seasonal agricultural labor flows.

Mobile Data for Health (video)

Session 2A, chaired by Olusoji Adeyi, President of Resilient Health Systems, featured research on the use of mobile data to improve global public health.

Kibrom Tafere (World Bank) shared a paper suggesting that access to mobile technology correlates with substantial decreases in infant mortality, both directly (increasing access to health information and health services), and indirectly (improving welfare).

María Díaz de León Derby (UC Berkeley) discussed how her lab used machine learning to develop a unique mobile-based tool (LoaScope) to test for neglected tropical diseases. The LoaScope allows field staff with minimal training to identify diseases such as schistosomiasis without expensive equipment like microscopes.

María Díaz de León Derby describes a mobile device to diagnose neglected tropical diseases
María Díaz de León Derby describes a mobile device to diagnose neglected tropical diseases.

 

Heather Amato (UC Berkeley) presented research on the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Mobile data collection allowed the team to map bacterial loads in stool samples to risk factors from high livestock production areas.

Mobile data and COVID-19

Session 2B, chaired by Norbert Schady, Chief Economist for Human Development at the World Bank, focused on the uses of mobile data for research related to COVID-19. Watch the session here.

Victor Orozco (World Bank) demonstrated the value of educational technology apps and social media to amplify the effect of social behavioral change campaigns. He noted that the distribution stage is often the most important but neglected stage of public health interventions (as was the case with COVID-19 vaccination).

Arman Rezaee (UC Davis) discussed a social media platform experiment in Pakistan, testing how moderation impacts the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and subsequent engagement. Moderation reduced engagement, but aggressively disseminating accurate information counteracts this effect.

Lorenzo Lucchini (Bocconi) presented on the disparate impact of COVID-19 in developing countries, specifically on self-isolation, commuting patterns, and migration. Wealthier people reduce their mobility more than poorer people in response to COVID-19 restrictions.


State of Play: Mobile Data in Global Development Research (video)

 

Sveta Milusheva gives an overview lecture on the use of mobile phone data in development.
Sveta Milusheva gives an overview lecture on the use of mobile phone data in development.

Sveta Milusheva (World Bank) discussed the challenges of mainstreaming mobile data for global development research, including data access, privacy, data limitations, and interpretation. Access to mobile data is restricted due to the sensitivity of the raw data. Mobile data is not research-ready: limitations include incomplete data and anomalous data points. Interpretation of mobile data is not straightforward: the way people use phones changes over time. To truly mainstream mobile data, capacity must be improved at all levels of the ecosystem. Sveta proposed a call to action: open-source tools and trainings would allow mobile network operators to produce aggregate indicators themselves; sharing aggregated indicators facilitates access and addresses privacy concerns at the same time.

Mobile data for transport (video)

Session 3, chaired by Nicolas Peltier, Global Director for Transport at the World Bank, focused on the use of mobile data in transport.

Girija Borker (World Bank) presented on the use of mobile technology to report violence against women. Her research team created a smartphone app to encourage reporting of sexual harassment and violence in public transport. The pilot showed that incidence (measured by the app) was 59%, but only 1% was formally reported.

Robert Marty (World Bank) discussed how mobility restrictions from COVID-19 policies impacted road safety in Kenya. The team combines administrative police data with traffic reports and congestion data. They find that COVID-19 restrictions reduce mobility and congestion, but there is no proportional decrease in crashes, suggesting even greater incidence of crashes for the vehicles remaining on the road.

Alice Duhaut (World Bank) shared early-stage research on the impact of adding bus rapid transit in a highly congested city (Lagos). This collaboration with the Lagos transit agency, explores whether bus transit reduces congestion, and whether commuters value it or prefer cheaper informal options.

Florence Kondylis (World Bank) presented research using crowdsourced data from the Brazilian metro to measure women’s willingness to pay for the metro car reserved for women. They find that use of the gender-reserved car reduces incidence of harassment by half.

Methods for Mobile Data (video)

Session 4, chaired by Aart Kraay, Director of Development Policy and Deputy Chief Economist at the World Bank, covered the challenges and limitations of mobile data.

Vanessa Frías-Martinez (UMD) shared work using CDR-based measures of spatial dynamic and social ties to predict individual internal migration decisions. This can be used to create migration flow maps in contexts where primary data collection is not feasible.

Oscar Barriga Cabanillas (World Bank) spoke about testing use of CDR data for targeting or program evaluation for an emergency cash transfer program in Haiti. Only 34% of the target population had phones, and those that had phones rarely used them, which imposed strong data limitations.

Megan Lang (UC Santa Barbara) presented studies in Rwanda and Uganda on whether SMS surveys are sufficiently informative given low response rates, and showed that complimenting SMS with infrequent in-person surveys can reduce bias.

Dan Björkegren (Brown) discussed whether smartphones are informative about how people move. Smartphone penetration is still low, and smartphone owners are different from other phone owners, in terms of both who they are and how they use their phones. Smartphone owners use data, and make more transactions, so their location is observed more in CDR data; downsampling data users is important for comparability.

The conference ended with a round of short Lightning Talks by several researchers and industry experts, which you can watch here.

In a world where information travels within seconds and a single data breach can threaten national and individual security, multistakeholder engagement and regional cooperation have become the only way to reap the benefits and address the dangers of omnipresent technology. Founded in 1989, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is one cooperation channel with a mission to harmonize ICT policies and practices and create a single yet diverse and prolific Caribbean ICT space. Supporting the single market, driving investment, and modernizing government services are only few of the critical issues that comprise the Caribbean digital transformation agenda, of which Posts are both drivers and beneficiaries. In a new episode of Voice Mail, Rodney Taylor, CTU Secretary General, shares his experience of leading digitalization in small island developing states (SIDS) along with his thoughts on the role of the postal sector in ensuring the growth and the security of post-COVID Caribbean digital economies.

Artist Feruz Temirov from Uzbekistan creates hand-painted miniatures for the global market, selling through eBay.

Feruz Temirov is an artist and painter from Bukhara, one of Uzbekistan’s ancient cities. It was a prominent stop on the Silk Road trade route between the East and the West, and a major medieval center for Islamic theology and culture. It still contains hundreds of well-preserved mosques, madrassas, bazars and caravanserais, dating largely from the 9th to the 17th centuries.

After his graduation from the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts at Bukhara State University, Feruz decided to specialize in Uzbek miniature and teach this art major at the same university. During his academic career, Feruz opened a private gallery in the old city of Bukhara, creating miniatures and compositions on various topics: the Great Silk Road (caravan), famous scientists and travelers in history, the Tree of Life, and more. The painter uses a variety of materials, including ancient silk paper, modern Samarkand mulberry paper and brushes made of natural materials. The process of creating miniatures is complicated and time-consuming: it requires perseverance, great patience, a steady hand and keen eyesight, as well as the artist’s boundless imagination.

“It is a great achievement and a great happiness for me if the miniatures I create will please not only modern art lovers, but also future generations,” says Feruz.

The artist has participated in international exhibitions around Europe, travelling to Austria, Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland, where he sold many miniatures.

In 2020, Feruz Temirov joined the International Trade Centre’s European Union-funded Ready4Rade Central Asia programme that supports small businesses in e-commerce.

“Being part of the programme gave me the opportunity to learn, explore new business opportunities and discover new markets. I now know how to build an e-commerce strategy, do market research, identify potential customers and audiences, create e-commerce content, evaluate and select payment and logistics providers, and promote my business online,” says Feruz.

He goes on to explain: “With the support of my coach and ITC’s ecomConnect experts, I learned how to operate and sell online through virtual marketplaces. Now, I can sell online from Uzbekistan using my eBay store and provide international customers with 24/7 support and service. In addition, through ITC’s partnership with DHL, we receive preferential rates for our international shipping which makes us more competitive.”

After completing the training within Ready4Trade programme in 2022, Feruz is planning to create online stores on Amazon Handmade and Etsy next to participating in international exhibitions.

About the project

Uzbekistan is one of the five beneficiary countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project, funded by the European Union with €15 million, and implemented by ITC. The e-commerce trainings were also launched in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and include up to 200 participating small businesses.

The Ready4Trade Central Asia project is a joint initiative of the European Union and the International Trade Centre. It aims to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations.

ITC assists artisans in Central Asia in cross-border e-commerce by boosting their existing online shops.

Today, market demand for handcrafted products, especially home accessories and decor, is increasing as consumers in markets such as Europe, Japan and the United States are interested in unique and sustainable fashion and home design. Therefore, having an online store on international marketplaces is becoming vital for small businesses to reach international consumers.

As part of the EU-funded Ready4Trade Central Asia project, the International Trade Centre (ITC) launched in 2021 its e-commerce enterprise capacity building in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to support 200 small businesses from the handicraft, textile and agribusiness sectors to sell through new online channels.

In addition to trainings and one-on-one coaching on various online channels, businesses receive targeted support on how to work with specific marketplaces. The ITC ecomconnect/Ready4Trade initiative provided capacity building to 10 artisans producing clothing, accessories, home accessories and décor from Uzbekistan to conduct cross-border e-commerce by boosting their online stores on Etsy.

As part of Etsy’s eLab, ITC’s ecomConnect team provided workshops on optimizing visual branding, customer experience, advertising, and analytics for Etsy. After each workshop, individual coaching improved the artisans’ skills. Editorial and visual guidelines help boost their visibility and offer better customer service.

Through the eLab, the artisans created or updated their listings and developed their store policies, including the Privacy Policy, Delivery, Payment options, Returns and exchanges policies. Each shop was audited and optimized. As a result, the conversion rate increased by 42% in January, compared to September 2021 when the eLab started.

Success stories

For instance, in February 2022, BahmalUz store earned their first Star Seller Badge since they opened the shop in June 2020, while the number of visitors at Farrukh Hand Craft store increased by over 110% after the training.

Co-owner Farrukh Ergashev says: “The Etsy eLab helped us a lot in reaching new customers and improving sales. Initially, our store did not have high visibility among international clients. Now we improved it significantly by creating new e-commerce content with keywords. We worked together with ITC on the SEO optimization and Etsy algorithms. Before this eLab, we had only two sales on Etsy, but after our optimization we registered 14 new sales, which is a great result for the type of products we manufacture – unique handmade silk-embroidered home décor”.

To date, participants of eLab made over 300 Etsy sales to international customers worth more than $40,000, taking ownership of managing their Etsy shop.

About the project

Uzbekistan is one of the five beneficiary countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project, funded by the European Union with €15 million, and implemented by ITC. The e-commerce trainings were also launched in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and include up to 200 participating small businesses.

The Ready4Trade Central Asia project is a joint initiative of the European Union and the International Trade Centre. It aims to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations.

To improve access to high-speed internet and support a strong digital economy in Armenia, IFC will provide a $20 million loan to Telecom Armenia, one of the country’s largest mobile and fixed broadband operators. This will be IFC’s first investment in the telecommunications sector both in Armenia and in the wider South Caucasus region.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the emergence of reliable mobile and fixed broadband connectivity as an essential service, providing users with access to information, health care, education, and public services. Additionally, high-speed broadband infrastructure, as an enabler of the digital economy, is a key driver of economic growth and innovation, opening up opportunities for digital financial services and e-commerce.

IFC’s loan to Telecom Armenia aims to help the country seize new opportunities through better broadband access, including in rural areas. Additional financing will be provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Ameriabank, amounting to a total financing package of $45 million.

The financing package will help the company refinance existing debt and fund a capital investment plan that will improve both the coverage and service quality of its telecom networks, including expansion of the 4G mobile network and rollout of a fiber access network across the country. In a country with a population of around 2.9 million people, the project is expected to provide around 1.1 million mobile subscribers with faster and higher-quality internet connections while also offering more than 450,000 households access to faster fiber access technology.

Aleksandr Yesayan, Team Telecom Armenia’s Chairman and co-founder said: “We welcome our long-term partnership with IFC, especially given the reduced investor appetite amid global developments. IFC’s support will enable us to accelerate our capital investment program while expanding and upgrading both our fixed and mobile networks. This will help us offer improved services to both individual subscribers and business clients, spurring competitiveness, innovation, and economic growth in Armenia.”

IFC’s funding will also help the company strengthen its position in the wholesale segment where it provides data transit services to local and regional telecom operators across Armenia, leading to a more resilient and faster internet infrastructure. The network upgrade is further expected to reduce energy consumption by allowing subscribers in the country to access high-speed internet through a more energy efficient telecom infrastructure.

Cheryl Edleson Hanway, IFC’s Regional Senior Manager for Infrastructure and Natural Resources, said: “IFC’s investment will support upgraded mobile phone services and faster internet access in Armenia, spurring the country’s digital economy, trade, and entrepreneurship, and accelerating its post-COVID recovery. By supporting Armenia’s digital infrastructure, IFC will also help create an enabling environment for additional investments and job creation opportunities in the country.”

IFC is a leader in the Telecoms, Media, and Technology sector in emerging markets. Learn more here.

The EQUALS Global Partnership is now seeking nominations for the 2022 EQUALS in Tech Awards. We want to hear about initiatives, projects, movements, organizations and institutions around the world working to bridge the gender digital divide.

EQUALS is seeking nominations for initiatives both large and small, from around the world, in the following award categories:

  • Access: Initiatives related to improving women and girl’s digital technology access, connectivity and security
  • Skills: Initiatives that support the development of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills of women and girls
  • Leadership in Tech: Initiatives focused on promoting women in decision-making roles within the ICT field
  • Leadership in SME: Initiatives promoted by tech sector companies to bridge the digital gender divide
  • Research: Initiatives prioritizing research on gender digital divides and producing reliable evidence to tackle diversity issues within STEM and computing fields

*** DEADLINE EXTENDED ***
Nominations will remain open until 1 June 2022

The EQUALS in Tech Award ceremony, where we will recognise the winning initiatives, will be held later in the year, at a venue to be announced.

The call for nominations is open to all individuals and organizations, regardless of their languages and nationalities, who wish to submit projects aimed at advancing gender equality using ICTs. The nomination form is available in six languages:

Have questions? Check our Frequently Asked Questions, or email us at EQUALS@itu.int.

 

Deadline for Submission: 15 June 2022

Digitalization of trade procedures, especially through the application of emerging technologies, could contribute to trade cost reduction and efficient and inclusive trade-related processes. Despite the significant benefits it could bring,[1] paperless trade systems and applications face challenges, including interoperability and data security. Due to its transparent, decentralized and immutable nature, the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) including blockchain, has the potential to address some of these challenges.

In this context, the ESCAP Secretariat invites interested researchers and practitioners to make proposals to carry out studies on the implementation of cross-border electronic exchange of trade-related data via DLT, including blockchain. The studies will also be used for developing a template for feasibility studies to identify feasible trade data and data exchange mechanisms for initiating the cross-border electronic exchange of data with major trading partners.[2]

Research Duration

1 July – 30 September 2022 (The draft paper should be ready by 15 August)

Research Output

A research paper on the topic with the focus on:

  • Feasibility of DLT/blockchain (rather than technologies themselves, but on its practical application)
  • Application of DLT/blockchain for digitalization of trade procedures (not in track-and-trace for trade)
  • Business to government (B2G) or government to government transactions (G2G) (not business to business (B2B))
  • If possible, cases and applications for least developed countries (LDCs)

The research paper would be in the form of either:

  1. Case studies or use cases of  implementation of cross-border electronic exchange of trade-related data via DLT, including blockchain from developing countries in Asia and the Pacific (LDCs are desirable):
    1. Description of implementation of technologies and procedures
    2. Critical barriers to implementation
    3. Comparison between traditional technologies versus DLT/blockchain (while defining critical areas for the comparison)
  1. Overview of DLT/blockchain application, especially in LDCs – based on literature review
    1. Summary of DLT/blockchain application for digitalization of trade procedures
    2. Key barriers for application (especially those unique and common for LDCs)
    3. Comparison between traditional technologies versus DLT (while defining critical areas for the comparison)

The paper would be 8,000-12,000 words, excluding tables, figures, references and appendices. Format and style for the research paper will be provided for the selected proposals. It should be free of grammatical and stylistic errors. Based on previous experience, it is expected the report will undergo several rounds of reviews, and the consultant should be ready to address feedback in a timely manner.

Benefits

Consultancy fees of up to 10,000 USD will be issued to carry out the research and deliver the paper – depending on the proposed scope, methodology, and researcher’s experience.

Other benefits for selected proposals:

  • Presentation of research findings in ESCAP events on trade facilitation and cross-border paperless trade, where relevant, with one potential event being the Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum 2022 in Singapore (29-30 August 2022)
  • Publication of the research paper in UN publications or through ESCAP regional networks, including ARTNeT and UNNExT, where relevant and suitable

Submission

Please apply as soon as possible or no later than 15 June 2022.

Individual(s) with relevant expertise are invited to submit research proposals to Mr. Yann Duval, Chief of Trade Policy and Facilitation, ESCAP [duvaly@un.org] with a copy to Ms. Soo Hyun Kim [kim51@un.org].

The submission should include:

  1. An email expressing interest
  2. In 500 words or less, a research proposal, including 1) a summary of the research, including scope, methodology, and detailed tentative outline of the paper, 2) research schedule/timeline, and 3) main expected outcome/finding/recommendation, and;
  3. Curriculum Vitae (CV) and any other evidence of relevant work.

Selection criteria

The criteria used to evaluate the proposals will be based on the feasibility of the proposed research plan (75%), with heavy bearing on expected outcome/findings: and previous work experience of the applicant(s) in the areas related to the research topic (25%).

Notes:

  1. Only selected candidate(s) would be contacted.
  2. Considering the specialized nature of topics, successful proposals are expected to come from researchers who already have work/research experience.
  3. Candidates are encouraged to make a proposal jointly with other researchers and practitioners to maximize synergy and complementarity of expertise.

For further information:

Please email Ms. Soo Hyun Kim at kim51@un.org should you have any questions.

[1] Among numerous studies on impact of cross-border paperless trade on trade cost, see recent example:  https://www.unescap.org/kp/2021/APTF

[2] The initial target countries for the feasibility study are: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Timor-Leste

In developing economies like Uganda, mobile phone uptake is undoubtedly on the rise. With this rise in mobile telephony usage, so did the growth in associated technologies and innovations, with organizations such as Safeboda, which is pioneering use of digital technology in both transport and delivery services.

Safeboda is a combination of the two words: “safe” and “boda.” The former refers to the reliability and trustworthiness of the service, while the latter is the shortened version of “boda boda,” – an East African word for a bicycle or motorcycle used as a taxi for carrying passengers or goods.

Safeboda works in such a way to bridge the gap for a need that is evident in the market. This need became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown as more and more people wanted to receive groceries without social interaction. With movement by car restricted to only essential services and boda bodas allowed to operate only for delivery services, Safeboda grew by leaps and bounds, benefiting the vendor, employee (driver) and customer in numerous ways. Now several months beyond the COVID-19 lockdowns, Safeboda’s upsurge shows no sign of relenting.

Vendors are able to sell their merchandise to more than just the people who frequent their shops or kiosks. They also need not to worry about delivery should they want to reach a customer. All orders are available at their fingertips, and a simple uploading of a picture can show all the customers in their vicinity what they have to offer.

Credit: Nasser AlQatami / UNCDF.

Gilbert Nkurunziza, 19, is one of the many vendors in Naalya Market, located in the outskirts of Kampala, along one of the main roads that branch out of the bustling city. He is one of the few vendors signed onto Safeboda in the market. He says he has experienced a hike in sales since being on the app.

Gilbert said: “My sister suggested Safeboda 2 years ago and it has been great for my work, especially during the times when people were quarantining. I reach more people as half of my orders now are from Safeboda. This market also has limited parking space and therefore the motorbike delivery makes it more accessible to many.”

As he arranges Stall #6, Gilbert says that he is constantly sold out of passion fruit and sometimes buys from nearby shops to satisfy the demand. This, in turn, has helped other vendors in the market who might not be as tech-savvy to sell their products through him instead of letting them spoil or expire. He said that he always supports other vendors in the same market, particularly the elderly who might not have access to smartphones.

As for Safeboda’s drivers, most of them seem to have found the right fit for work in this city. As Kampala is notorious for its traffic, motorcycles are a much easier and faster way of getting by. The company now employs more than 500 motorcycle drivers, termed as delivery champions, who are trained in road safety, first aid, bike maintenance and customer care. Moreover, they are equipped with hairnets and a spare helmet for the passenger.

The deliveries are identifiable and trackable through the system, which notifies both the vendor and customer of the location throughout the duration of the delivery. According to Safeboda’s website: “When drivers join the SafeBoda community, they see a significant increase in their business providing impact to themselves, their family and the wider community.”

Dathive Mukeshimana, 31, is one of the two women Safeboda drivers in the company. Dathive explained: “I have been with Safeboda for 4 years. I approximately have 12 deliveries a day, mostly to stay-at-home moms and the elderly. The work is flexible, that’s why I like it.”

“We have 500 dedicated riders who are termed as ‘delivery champions’, but we also have many more riders across Kampala that offer the delivery service,” said Nantale Elizabeth Mugume, Senior Associate for Safeboda – Vendor Management.

In 2020, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and SafeBoda, with support from SIDA, launched the e-commerce platform for home delivery that helped over 520 market vendors and SafeBoda riders sustain their livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic. 520 vendors (MSMEs) were onboarded to digital sales channel via the easy-to-use SafeBoda mobile application. This enabled 57,285 active customers order food stuff and household essentials remotely and have them delivered. The project enabled Dathive and other over 26,000 riders to gain income through deliveries of household orders made on the platform.

Mugume continued: “UNCDF supported 25 markets with vendors who deal with Safeboda. It also subsidized the transport and funded free deliveries in 2020 to 2021. Waiving delivery costs helped many people during the pandemic, particularly students, women working at home and the elderly. We are hoping for more collaborations in the future with UNCDF.”

By working with organisations such as Safeboda, UNCDF aims to sustainably change the way the economy works, to offer more opportunities to underserved communities, and ensure inclusive growth of the digital economy.

Correos Market was launched in 2019 as part of Correos’ commitment to tackle the Spanish demographic challenge in rural areas – a key aspect of the company’s corporate social responsibility policy.

The project, which provides vendors and sellers with a digital marketing space and a complete logistics and fulfillment solution, leverages the role of the Post in digitalizing Spanish businesses, helping them to reach all parts of Spain and Portugal.

The idea behind the project was to enable consumers to find and buy handmade and local products as a way of embracing our culture and traditions. Products can be purchased from any of our post offices, giving local producers, manufacturers and businesses access to more than 2,300 points of sale.

The success of the project led to increased demand from vendors, with a high number of national companies expressing an interest in joining the Marketplace. So, as of this year, our marketing strategy covers not only local producers and artisans, but also Spanish businesses on the national scale.

The project also helps create a fairer digital ecosystem through a new terms-of-sale component, included in the corporate strategy for the first time this year, which abolishes sales commission for vendors. So while other marketplaces charge stifling commission rates of up to 20 per cent, Correos Market bases its business model on zero-commission sales.

Sustainability lies at the core of this repositioning – both commercially, since the sale proceeds go to companies listed in Spain; and environmentally, since local product deliveries have a smaller carbon footprint, due to the proximity between seller and customer.

To complement its web strategy, Correos Market has launched an app for mobile phone users, as one in three of which look at their handsets more than 100 times a day. This enables our customers to use 24/7 our platform, as well as to be able to contact us via a communication channel. We are at the touch of a button!

Our aim is to provide more value for our customers – value that they won’t find anywhere else. This is the key to our success: a fairer Marketplace for Spanish businesses, under fair conditions, with a focus on sustainability through a simple and intuitive platform.

Correos keeps working to continue evolving and adapting to our users, managing and exceeding their expectations, in addition to supporting Spanish businesses and offering them everything we have at our disposal to increase their online sales: a web platform, an app, the Correos Group’s logistics, storage and handling services, and returns management.

The African Development Bank hosted a panel of experts drawn from industry, government and the investment community to lay out key actions for Africa to deliver a transformational digital future for its people.

A side event to the Bank’s  Annual Meetings in Accra, Ghana, the session featured a discussion on building resilient digital economies in Africa. It addressed the need for resilient broadband networks as well as innovation and entrepreneurship to develop a thriving digital eco-system.

Ralph Mupita, Group CEO of MTN, Africa’s largest telecommunications operator, outlined the rapid advances in connectivity in Africa: almost half the population has their own sim card and more than 20% has access to the internet.  Yet “attaining broadband for all of Africa by 2030 will cost at least $100 billion,” he cautioned, and said for mobile technology to be affordable for all, Africa needs a $20 smartphone.

The transformational impact of digital platforms could revolutionise entire sectors of the economy, particularly when applied to existing value chains, predicted Tidjane Dème, a partner at venture capital firm Partech. Investment in digital technology in Africa grew from $360 million in 2016 to $5.2 billion in 2020, he said.

The experts recognised interdependencies within the digital sector. For example, building digital infrastructure requires digital skills and entrepreneurship. To drive maximum value from the sector, governments and the private sector have to consider the eco-system as a whole, they said.

In Cabo Verde,  a €31 million investment from the African Development Bank is enabling the government to build a world-class technology park, giving digital entrepreneurs a place to innovate and learn, supported by superior connectivity. “Our vision is to position Cabo Verde as the leading digital hub and gateway to West Africa,” said Cabo Verde’s Minister of Finance, Olavo Correia. 

Omobola Johnson, Senior Partner at venture capital firm TLcom, and former Chair of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, underscored Africa’s youthful population and demographic advantage. She said if skills are taught and quality connectivity, at least at 4G level, is widely accessible, a talent pool of the continent’s youth could drive Africa’s digital economy and attract investment.

One example of a digital innovator is Monique Ntumngia, the founder of Green Girls. Using artificial intelligence to foster the deployment of renewable energy devices, her aim is to ensure women and rural communities are not left behind. “We must go beyond just offering digital services to these demographics; we have a responsibility of empowering women and our rural communities with basic skills to interact with the digital world,” Ntumngia told the session.

Wael Elkabbany, Managing Director of the Microsoft Africa Transformation Office, recognised that more still needs to be done. Africa requires 700 new data centres to meet its growing data demand. Governments and regional economic communities could provide opportunities for large-scale investment, through the adoption of harmonised policies supporting the free movement of data.

For his part, Alain Ebobissé, CEO of the infrastructure investment fund Africa50, noted the untapped potential of asset recycling — whereby governments could release capital for future infrastructure investment by bringing in the private sector as partners in the management and ownership of existing assets. “The time to invest is now. We must invest faster and at scale,” he commented.

A theme of the African Development Bank’s Annual Meetings is building climate resilience and Juha Savolainen of Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted the circular economy, where digital platforms have been fundamental to the development of value chains that reuse components, creating resource efficiency and reducing carbon footprints.

Bringing the discussion to a close, Solomon Quaynor, Vice President, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialisation at the African Development Bank Group, cited a recent $170 million investment project in Nigeria’s digital and creative industries. The project aims to create up to 850,000 direct and indirect jobs, part of Nigeria’s efforts to create more sustainable jobs for the booming youth population.


The officials on stage during the Annual Meetings: Knowledge Event 1

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View all episodes on our Tell Me How: The Infrastructure Podcast Series homepage

In the first part of our final episode, the host Roumeen Islam, revisits some of our guests’ key insights. We focus on digital technologies and markets, addressing the digital divide and building effective cybersecurity as well as the energy transition, specifically financing the transition, drivers of the renewables market, and managing economic and social impacts.

Listen to this episode on your favorite platforms: Amazon MusicApple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsPodbean, and Spotify

Transcript:

Roumeen Islam: This is the World Bank’s Infrastructure podcast, and I’m the host Roumeen Islam. Today you will hear the first part of our concluding episode for the Tell Me How series. In this series, we covered important topics in a number of areas. For example, we talked about digital technologies and markets, the energy transition, climate and crises, transport and development, public-private partnerships in infrastructure. And running through all these topics was a very important underlying theme, innovation for economic progress. I wanted to revisit some key insights from our guests.

Let’s start by taking digital technology. Three important areas we dealt with are: digital divide, cybersecurity and competition policy. One of the items we discussed inequality in digital access and usage continues to be a concern in all economies, but particularly in poorer ones. The good news is that there are continuous innovations that lower prices for users. And there’s also a lot that policy can do to increase access and usage. Key elements being a supportive regulatory framework for private investors, promoting competition in the telecommunications sector and in related markets and making sure that there is a mechanism for funding, the poorest users. Let’s hear our expert, Tim Kelly on this topic.

Tim Kelly: Now you need both physical investments in new productive network infrastructure, but you also need regulatory changes. And one tends to follow the other and our experiences are that regulatory constraints may be preventing the expansion of the network and access to the existing networks. And in some countries, in some cases, companies are making large profits on services that rely on high-speed networks, but not necessarily reinvesting those profits in new telecom infrastructure.

Roumeen Islam: We also discussed the state of cybersecurity, which depends on market dynamics as well as on public policy. Regulatory frameworks and national guidelines that support transparency, standards for information disclosure and sharing, and those that assign responsibility, allocate losses in case of attacks or breaches in security are very important in determining how much cybersecurity there is in markets, Professor Tyler Moore explains.

Tyler Moore: The good news is that we’ve identified some market failure. Information asymmetries and externalities, and this motivates the need for a policy intervention to try to correct for them and there are a few standard approaches you might try, and many of them can be put into two buckets.

You have ex-ante safety regulation and ex-post liability. So ex-ante safety regulation is used whenever the harm is potentially so great that you want to prevent it from happening in the first place. You don’t want your electrical grid to be taken down by an attacker. So, you can impose some rules that would mandate some level of security investment to fix a problem.

Roumeen Islam: But a world where innovative digital technologies are everywhere needs a new kind of well-informed management that customizes cybersecurity measures to their firm’s particular needs, where leaders understand the potential holes in their systems and the consequences of inaction, and they take action to support innovative cybersecurity measures. Expert Neil Daswani explains why this is important.

Neil Daswani: I think we live in a world today where a lot of organizations primarily work to comply with a whole bunch of these security compliance standards. But the problem is that the overwhelming majority of organizations that have been breached were compliant. The compliance involves checking hundreds of checkboxes, satisfying minimal criteria for all of them, and has not necessarily helped in preventing all of these breaches.

Roumeen Islam: Market actors, such as cyber insurance firms can help promote tighter cybersecurity. Especially through innovative business models that help manage risk, especially for smaller uncorrelated attacks, not systematically important ones. Let’s hear expert Daniel Woods:

Daniel Woods: One aspect of that I believe should be celebrated and that is how cyber insurance has created these incident response teams who are engaged by a hotline that’s manned 24 7. And in particular, we should see this as insurance setting up, essentially this fire brigade of cybersecurity, but still there’s a lot of work to be done.

Roumeen Islam: Still on digital technologies, we considered whether big tech was so big that it was stifling competition and innovation. Where the merger and acquisition policy could be designed to better protect newcomers and the welfare of consumers and society. We learned how difficult it is to make relevant determinations, such as the size of the relevant market, the potential innovation lost, the distribution of profits and how important it is to have regulatory cooperation across borders by learning from others’ experiences. For example, with respect to app purchases, taxes and revenues on ads, third party restrictions and the use of platforms and data usage among others. In this regard, Professor Michael Katz says the.

Michael Katz: How strongly do the merging firms compete with one another? What does the evidence say? What does the evidence tell us about whether there are other firms that they would continue to compete with, after the merger? So get less hung up on how do we put things in this market definition box of inner out. You know, when you do merger analysis, it’s largely a predictive exercise. You’re asking yourself if the firms are allowed to merge, what will happen and how does that compare with what would happen if they’re not allowed to merge.

Roumeen Islam: In episodes covering the energy transition. We had some rather exciting sessions dealing with renewable energy technology policies and financing to support their adoption. And on the other side, managing the transition, we even had a session about valuing renewable energy assets in national wealth. We first handled innovation in battery technology. Battery storage capacity is critical to advance the use of renewable energy whose production is variable, battery store energy, essentially electricity. And we use it everywhere in machines and cars and homes. Costs have been falling, technology has been improving but much more progress is needed on both fronts. We also discussed how policy and regulatory frameworks need to be put in place to legally enable their use to integrate and maximize battery use in our electricity systems today, let’s hear from our expert, Chandra Govindarajalu on this:

Chandra Govindarajalu: That’s because wind and solar power output is variable and uncertain, as one can imagine. For example, I’ll put up solar PV changes in seconds when a cloud passes by. Wind also changes its power and direction. So, that’s the issue. And for example, if no regulations explicitly state that battery storage can provide good services, utilities may be unwilling to procure services from a battery storage provider or a system.

Roumeen Islam: Secondary, there are a number of metals and minerals such as lithium cobalt, or nickel that are needed for batteries, but which are mined only in a handful of countries. The markets for these precious elements are being affected not only by rising demand for green energy but also they’re boosted by policy and changing consumer preferences. And also by volatility in fossil fuel markets. And while revenues from mining could be used to support livelihoods in poor countries, improper practices can worsen environmental and social problems or intensify the search for substitutes. Policies to manage these are needed If countries wish to maximize revenue potential. Interestingly rising insecurity in fossil fuel markets is highlighting potential risks in critical mineral sectors too let’s hear expert Chris Sheldon on this topic.

Chris Sheldon: And one thing is very important, as the demand for the minerals really takes off and the countries, they really need to manage their revenues. They’re exchanging essentially an asset in the ground and natural asset for cash for a financial asset, but eventually, those resources are going to run out. Now the first step in managing an asset is of course knowing how much you have.

Roumeen Islam: And now let’s hear our expert Daniele La Porta.

Daniele La Porta: Even if we scale up recycling rates for minerals like copper and aluminum, by a hundred percent recycling and reuse would still not be enough to meet the demand for renewable energy.

Roumeen Islam: Renewable energy technologies offer the potential of cheap energy in the future. After all sunshine is free. So, on a recurring basis, over the longer term, you can imagine that this is cheaper than paying for oil and gas or coal. Yet, like the case with commercialization of most human technologies upfront investments have to be made to allow their use to change systems as needed. Think of charging stations, think of building solar plants and wind turbines. All this requires finance. The timing of costs and benefits is a hurdle to the transfer of technology. Another hurdle is that there’s always a certain amount of risk related to investments and technology in new areas or in new countries. Policy and reforms can help manage both risks and raise incentives for investment in technology. For poorer countries, external support will facilitate the transition. Let’s hear expert Demetrios Papathanasiou on this.

Demetrios Papathanasiou: It’s a huge challenge, but there is also still a huge economic opportunity. You do have people that even today are willing to pay quite a bit for basic electricity services and for rather small quantities of electricity services. Now, the question is, can this be delivered otherwise? And the answer is yes. Today you can easily install a small grid with solar panels, battery bank, and this can serve a whole village.

Roumeen Islam: And renewable energy resources can add to a country’s wealth too. Let’s hear from expert Grzegorz Peszko.

Grzegorz Peszko: So by the same token, the renewable energy can be treated as economic asset, Only when they are generating the flow of economic rent under current markets and physical conditions. So, for instance, a remote river with no hydro-power generation facilities on it is not an asset. It’s not a renewable energy asset. The two key findings were that, first of all, The value of the asset is major, is large. So, what we found out is that in the last few years, in these 15 countries, the value of hydro-power wealth range between $1 and $4 trillion on an annual basis. And a second, what we found out by the size of this range that these values have been quite volatile.

Roumeen Islam: So, what about managing the transition. For example, moving away from coal and fossil fuels. Well, this means restructuring entire segments of economies with social and political repercussions. It means ending subsidies for fossil fuels, adhering to the notion of a just transition that explicitly takes social impact into account, are key to moving ahead.

Should governments invest in the future or help disengage from the past. Both it turns out so innovative ways of restructuring and repurposing assets, bringing in new investors, and retraining and supporting labor are key elements of this transition. Listen to expert Chris Sheldon on this.

Chris Sheldon: Yeah, that’s really the most central question. And there’s more than one set of people affected. Obviously, there are the workers who’re directly impacted by closure, but there are also other community members in the region that get affected. The workers typically receive early retirement If they’re close to retirement or packages to support them for retraining or developing new skills for new jobs some even starting new business ventures.

Roumeen Islam: And still on this topic a tax on fossil fuels or a carbon tax is an important policy measure to support the energy transition. The carbon tax is used to shift economic activities towards lower energy intensity or clean energy use. This restructuring has differing distributional impacts across countries and between rich and poor people within countries, the latter of whom may lack access to energy or operate in informal markets. To support an equitable transition each country will need policies tailored to their particular circumstances. Listen to professor Jan Steckel, as he explains this.

Jan Steckel: I think for designing a successful reform, it’s important to go beyond the standard economist toolbox. So, we often prefer to make a lump and transfer the same amount to everybody. However, categories might have institutional difficulties to set this up, how to transfer the money, and how to reach the people in need. Therefore, we increasingly also think of using the existing targeting mechanism.

Roumeen Islam: So, let me end here for the first part of our final episode, and don’t forget to tune in next week for the second part. Thank you and bye for now.

If you have made any major purchases in the last two years, it’s likely that you have personally felt the impact of the global supply chain crisis. Pandemic-induced spikes in consumer sales and labor shortages triggered artery-clogging nightmares for some of the world’s busiest ports. At the most serious end of the spectrum, this has contributed to food shortages. But maritime backlogs can delay the delivery of everything ranging from clothes to couches to cars.

More than four-fifths of global merchandise trade (by volume) is carried by sea, and container trade has been growing at a faster rate than global GDP itself. How the maritime sector performs, as we have seen over the course of the past two years, is vital for international trade.  Whenever there is friction in the maritime sector, it translates very quickly to shortages on shelves.

Maritime ports are a key element in the cost of international trade for any country. Unfortunately, in many of the client countries of the World Bank, the “port” does not facilitate trade as much as impede it. The newest Container Port Performance Index, produced by the World Bank and S&P Global Market Intelligence, helps understand which ports are performing well and which ones could benefit from improvements. The index measures 370 ports around the globe based on the time vessels needed to spend in port to complete workloads and ranks them to determine which of the world’s ports are the most efficient.

In 2021, Ports in the Middle East took four of the top five spots, responding very well to the heavy volume growth and service volatility caused by impacts of the global pandemic . In particular, King Abdullah Port in Saudi Arabia topped the rankings after increasing its container volume by 31% in 2021. Its rapid growth and its consistent efficiency provides some interesting cues for other countries looking to improve how well their ports perform.

King Abdullah Port is the region’s first port to be owned, developed, and operated by the private sector. Partnerships with well-known companies such as Maersk and others have enabled investments in the port’s infrastructure and technology. Recent upgrades such as the creation of an e-portal for entry permits24-hour X-ray inspection capabilitiespetrochemical warehousing, efficient links to land transportation and the world’s deepest berths for giant container ships.

While this success is not easily replicable, it is important for more ports to harness the power of digital technology. Doing so would boost the performance of the maritime sector and help address many of the critical challenges it is currently facing.

The creation of an efficient digital ecosystem would go a long way in streamlining operations and facilitating the exchange of data between shipping lines, port services, cargo handling operations, clearance agencies, and with other transport networks.

Many developing countries can start climbing the ladder of digital transformation by standardizing documentation through a Maritime Single Window. Next, introducing a Port Community System and Port Management System, which help optimize, manage and automate logistics such as vessel traffic, cargo, inspections, permits and even waste.

Looking at the 2021 CPPI Rankings, we see several upper- and lower-middle income countries’ ports listed near the top of the rankings. Several of these have recognized the importance of digital modernization and invested in these improvements. For example, Morocco’s Tangier-Mediterranean Port, for instance, ranked 6th. Since established in 2007, Tangier-Mediterranean has become the largest port in the Mediterranean by adhering to international standards and working to improve efficiency in port and vessel operations, traffic management, port cyber security and IT data exchange and information.

Following a modernization plan of several hundred million dollars, Cartagena Port in Colombia ranked 12th in the CPPI, making for another notable story. The port offers digitized, real-time information through a virtual tool as well as an electronic data interchange, automated authorizations and smart container delivery.

The World Bank works with our client countries to improve their trade environments, and port performance is a key part of this.  With the CPPI, we aim to inform national governments, port authorities and operators, supra-national organizations, and other public and private stakeholders engaged in trade, logistics and supply chain services about what it takes to become a top-performing port. Based on this information, we can advise our client countries how they can modernize their ports, such as through efforts to digitize processes.

The efficiency gains achieved by using digital technology are evident through the CPPI. But what the index doesn’t show is that better-coordinated use of digital technology would also result in safer and more resilient supply chains, and lower emissions. All these factors are important for our client countries, and we hope that the information conveyed through the CPPI results will encourage progress toward digital transitions at ports.

  • Digital twins are virtual models of real-world objects – and a stepping stone to the metaverse.
  • They are being used to experiment with objects or environments to see how they might function better, with the improvements then being applied in the real world.
  • The market for digital twins is forecast to increase tenfold in key industries this decade, led by manufacturing, automotive and aviation.
  • Digital twins are also making an impact in city planning, helping the world’s megacities work towards sustainable, low-carbon living.

In 1949, the one-time crocodile hunter and economist Bill Phillips built a machine that simulated the dynamics of the British economy. His two-metre tall contraption used pipes, valves, tanks, pumps and water to model a range of economic variables. By opening and closing valves, the flow of the water would change to show, for example, how interest rate rises might affect savings and investments. Philips’ machine was quickly adopted not only at universities, but also by large companies across the globe.

You could say that the ‘‘Moniac” was the analogue forerunner of modern digital twin technology.

What is a digital twin?

Digital twins are mathematical models that recreate a physical object or system. This could be a factory, a power plant or even a ski resort, to name just a few possibilities.

A variety of sensors installed on and around the real-world object record data about different aspects of its performance. This could include things such as energy output, temperature, weather conditions – any information that is relevant and recordable.

With the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the digital twin can analyze performance issues or run virtual “what if” simulations – similar to Phillips’ Moniac. The data and discoveries can subsequently be applied to the real-world object.

The big difference from traditional simulations is that digital twins use real-time data for their modelling. This enables experimentation with large objects or projects that don’t typically lend themselves to real-life experimentation due to their size – think buildings, jet engines or manufacturing sites.

By the mid-2020s, the global market for digital twins in the manufacturing industry alone is expected to reach more than $6 billion. That’s more than a tenfold increase from 2020, according to data from Statista.

A chart showing global digital twin market size in the year 2020 and 2025, by industry
The market for digital twins is growing rapidly in a range of sectors.
Image: Statista

The automotive and aviation sectors are not far behind with their take-up of these virtual replicas. The energy, healthcare, logistics and retail industries are also expected to expand their use of digital twins on a similar scale.

Technology for good

Digital twin technology is already helping to boost efficiency and productivity in factories, as well as at wind turbines and with other power generation equipment. Vehicle manufacturers are drawing on the technology to improve vehicle design and streamline how their plants operate.

Digital modelling also accelerated the design and construction of vaccine plants in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic. The technology was used to capture and analyze the layout of existing plants, and the insights helped improve the design and workflows of the new facilities.

In agriculture, AI is increasingly being used to boost crop yields, particularly for staples such as corn, soy and wheat. Using digital twin technology, farm-management company CropX has now taken this one step further.

Its system uses sensors to monitor soil and crop conditions, as well as the weather. This data feeds into digital analysis and planning tools for growers, enabling them to make more informed decisions to maximize yields.

With the UN warning that food crops are increasingly threatened by droughts and other natural events, such solutions could become important to ensuring food security for the growing world population.

A chart showing severe and moderate food insecurity across the world
Food insecurity is on the rise around the world, but digital technologies could help to boost crop yields.
Image: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Smart cities

Digital twins can even be scaled up to encompass an entire city.

Orlando in the US state of Florida has been digitally replicated in 3D, Bloomberg reports. This virtual model will be used to simulate how different urban planning projects will impact the environment and residents. Other US cities already use the technology for traffic management and to drive down emissions.

Among the most advanced users of digital twins is Singapore. Its 3D virtual model is made up of millions of images taken at street level and from the air. Along with corresponding data points, there are more than 100 terabytes of data covering anything from the tree cover and the city’s infrastructure to individual buildings – down to their roofs, facades and windows. This means new developments or plans can be modelled with great precision.

Digital twin technology is expected to play a key part in Singapore’s battle for sustainability and against rising temperatures, according to Bloomberg.

In the US state of Colorado, the fire service is working with 3D digital twins from graphics company Nvidia to visualize and study the spread of forest fires in order to improve prevention and help contain fires more effectively.

Human digital twins

With 3D models proliferating, digital twin technology is progressing rapidly towards the metaverse, which promises to create a virtual world where people can work, socialize and shop.

Any digital world will need digital people, and just as a factory or power plant can have a virtual twin, so too can humans – and we’re talking much more than just an avatar.

A digital twin of a healthcare patient could help that person to track a variety of healthcare indicators. Digital human twins could also help simulate the impact of new strategies in urban transportation or social services, to determine the most effective approaches.

However, a big question mark hanging over the evolution from digital twins to the metaverse is the associated environmental impact. This is because high-end data storage and processing is an energy-hungry process. The rise in energy demand thanks to the growth of the Bitcoin market is an example of this. What chunk of power the metaverse will require – and how this will affect the environment – will only become clear as it evolves.

A chart showing the historical Bitcoin network power demand
Bitcoin production and use requires a huge amount of power.
Image: University of Cambridge

The World Economic Forum will discuss digital twins and the metaverse as part of the Tech and Innovation theme at the Annual Meeting in Davos 2022.

 

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • A growing number of countries want to participate in carbon markets to meet climate change goals.
  • Jordan has become the first developing country to build end-to-end digital infrastructure to track and transact reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The next two global climate change meetings will take place in the Middle East and North Africa: COP27 in Egypt in 2022; and COP28 in United Arab Emirates in 2023.

For decades, carbon markets have been seen as part of the solution to climate change. They have mostly been dominated by the private sector, but this will soon change. More than two thirds of countries are planning to use carbon markets to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCS) to the Paris Agreement. Countries such as Chile, Ghana, Jordan, Singapore and Vanuatu are already building end-to-end, state-of-the-art digital infrastructure to support their participation in international carbon markets.

These innovative digital solutions are fast evolving as a new international carbon market nears reality. Delegates at the 2021 global climate change meeting, COP26 in Glasgow, approved Article 6 – the Paris Agreement’s rulebook governing global carbon markets. The approval gave the green light to a market where countries can trade carbon credits generated by the reduction or removal of greenhouse (GHG) emissions from the atmosphere — such as by switching from fossil fuel to renewable energy or by increasing or conserving carbon stocks in ecosystems such as a forest.

Reducing GHG emissions is becoming urgent as countries around the world experience the intensifying impacts of climate change“The pace of decarbonization and adaptation needs to be accelerated and carbon markets provide an option to offset the costs of moving away from fossil fuels and towards a green economic transition,” said World Bank Senior Energy Specialist Monali Ranade.

Carbon markets help mobilize resources and reduce costs to give countries and companies the space to smooth the low-carbon transition. It is estimated that trading in carbon credits could reduce the cost of implementing NDCs by more than half – by as much as $250 billion by 2030. Over time, carbon markets are expected to become redundant as every country gets to net zero emissions and the need to trade emissions diminishes.

Under Article 6, countries will be able to cooperate in different ways to achieve their climate goals. The key to successfully reducing global GHG emissions through carbon markets could be digital infrastructure that keeps verified data secure and ensures that reductions are accurately accounted and tracked.

The key to successfully reducing global GHG emissions through carbon markets could be digital infrastructure that keeps verified data secure and ensures that reductions are accurately accounted and tracked.

This digital infrastructure comprises Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) systems with GHG emissions and emission reductions data linked to national or international Registries. New and fast evolving technologies– such as blockchain technology – can further help ensure transparency and that carbon credits can only be claimed by one country: either the country that avoided or removed the GHG emissions, or the country that bought it in the form of a carbon credit for different uses.

Jordan’s Pioneering Path to Addressing the Climate Crisis:

The country is facing significant climate challenges: temperature increases, precipitation decreases, increased incidents of drought and water lost to evaporation. At the same time, it remains heavily dependent on fossil-fuel imports, with limited natural resources and extremely scarce water supply for a population of 10.3 million that includes more than a million refugees. Extreme heat and water scarcity are driving up energy demand, creating fiscal burden and affecting economic competitiveness.

It was the first developing country to build MRV and GHG Registry systems to international standards that are the key building blocks for future emissions trading working with the World Bank’s Climate Warehouse program and Partnership for Market Implementation (PMI) to develop and test this digital infrastructure.

To prepare for its MRV system, Jordan enacted a climate change bylaw in 2019 setting the institutional and regulatory framework on climate change across the government. With the help of PMR, the precursor to PMI, Jordan set up its MRV system to track emissions in sectors such as energy, transport, and agriculture, calculate emissions and emission reductions, and tag the results to its NDC. Its registry system was set up to support the transaction process of eligible projects in the international carbon markets. Amid this process, it was decided to make the software open source and offered it to any interested country.

The work is also continuing in Jordan. The country is formulating a long-term, low-emission strategy to achieve sustainable, long-term, low-carbon economic growth. In 2020, Jordan launched a 10-year National Energy Sector Strategy to improve its energy mix and reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 2030, reducing its reliance on imports. Under a new project, the Jordan Inclusive, Transparent and Climate Responsive Investments Program For Results, the MRV system is expanded to 22 agencies and ministries. The project will help integrate climate change into decision-making and enable the country’s MRV system to calculate emission reductions for climate-responsive projects to see if they are eligible for the carbon market.


MULTIMEDIA

Jordan's MRV system explainer video
VIDEO MAY 24, 2022

Jordan: A Pioneer in Tackling Global Climate Change


From Jordan to the MNA region and beyond:

“Jordan is a pioneer in the climate space,” said World Bank Senior Climate Change Specialist Harikumar Gadde“Jordan is the first developing country in the world to have this kind of comprehensive system. Its MRV system is of such high quality that we are standardizing it to enable its implementation in other countries under our new initiative, the Partnership for Market Implementation.”

The system is already being replicated for West Bank and Gaza and Sri Lanka with the PMR’s help. Many other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, Africa, Latin America and Asia have expressed interest in the open source MRV and registry systems.

More is also happening in MENA region – host of the next two global climate change meetings: COP27 this November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and COP28 in the United Arab Emirates in 2023. Countries including Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have announced net zero targets. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the Saudi Tadawul Group, which owns the Saudi Exchange, have launched the Riyadh Voluntary Exchange Platform for the trade of verified, approved, and high-quality carbon credits and credits produced in the region.

This story focuses on themes of Innovate4Climate, the World Bank Group’s preeminent global event on climate finance, climate investment and climate markets.

While digital technologies have offered “boundless opportunities” for sustainable development, education and inclusion, the UN political chief warned on Monday that there is also a clear downside.

“We have a critical opportunity to build consensus on how digital technologies can be used for the good of people and the planet, while addressing their risks,” Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, told the Security Council.

“But collective action by Member States remains essential towards this goal”.

Digital technologies for good

She noted that social media has transformed human rights and humanitarian advocacy, “making it possible to mobilize people around the world quickly and efficiently around issues requiring urgent action”.

In maintaining peace and security, technical developments have improved the ability to detect crises, better pre-position humanitarian aid, and create data-driven peacebuilding tools, she said.

And in conflict prevention, new digital tools have strengthened peace-making and peacebuilding, providing better information and early warning data, Ms. DiCarlo added.

She pointed to the UN Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) in Yemen, which uses mapping and satellite technology to enhance ceasefire monitoring and increases the UN’s ability to “understand, analyze and respond to crises that may have a digital dimension, and…address digital risks”.

Political assistance

Furthermore, new technology can support political processes, particularly in promoting inclusion.

In various peace negotiations, we have used artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted digital dialogues to reach out to thousands of interlocutors, to hear their views and priorities,” she said.

“This has been a particularly useful way to reach traditionally excluded groups, including women”.

Safety and security

They can also improve the safety and security of peacekeepers and civilian staff on the ground.

“The launch of the Strategy for the Digital Transformation of Peacekeeping represents an essential step towards this goal, and towards more effective mandate implementation – increasing early warning capacities,” said the political chief.

These tools also help visualize information and convey data-rich analysis to inform Security Council decisions – as illustrated by a recent virtual reality presentation on Colombia, highlighting the UN’s work on the ground for ambassadors.

Worrying trends

However, there are areas of concern, Ms. DiCarlo continued, citing estimates that the number of national and non-State-sponsored incidents of technology being used maliciously, has nearly quadrupled since 2015.

“Of specific concern is activity targeting infrastructure that provides essential public services, such as health and humanitarian agencies,” she said.

At the same time, lethal autonomous weapons raise questions regarding human accountability when force is used.

Echoing the Secretary-General, she called machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement, “politically unacceptable, morally repugnant, and should be prohibited by international law”.

Non-State actors are becoming increasingly adept at using low-cost and widely available digital technologies to pursue their agendas,” warned the UN official, highlighting that terrorist groups such Al-Qaida are actively using social media platforms to recruit, plan and fundraise.

Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefs the Security Council meeting on technology and security under maintenance of international peace and security. UN Photo/Manuel Elías | Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefs the Security Council meeting on technology and security under maintenance of international peace and security.

Mounting challenges

From surveillance technologies that can target communities or individuals, to potentially discriminatory AI, she drew attention to the human rights implications of new tech.

“We are also concerned about the increasing use of internet shutdowns, including in situations of active conflict, which deprive communities of their means of communication, work, and political participation,” said Ms. DiCarlo, recalling Myanmar, in which these incidents have grown in number and duration since the military coup last year.

Moreover, she continued, social media can fuel polarization and violence by spreading disinformation, radicalization, racism, and misogyny – heightening tensions and exacerbating conflict.

“In Ethiopia, as the fighting escalated, there was an alarming rise in social media posts spreading inflammatory rhetoric, with some going as far as inciting ethnic violence,” the senior UN official reminded the Council. “We also know that disinformation can hinder the ability of our missions to implement their mandates, by exacerbating falsehoods and fuelling polarization”.

Moving forward

While embracing the opportunities that new technology provides to advance peace, the risks must be mitigated and responsible use promoted by all.

Driven by the Plan of Action on Hate Speech and communication initiatives such as Verified, the UN is acting to allay these dangers by avoiding misperceptions and misunderstandings, Ms. DiCarlo told the meeting.

“However, more must be done,” she concluded, spotlighting the Global Digital Compact, which would outline shared principles for an “open, free and secure digital future for all”; the New Agenda for Peace, which takes a holistic view of global security’ and the proposed Code of Conduct for Integrity in Public Information.

Digital rights

Briefing virtually, Nanjala Nyabola, Director of Advox, the Digital Rights Project of the online community, Global Voices, highlighted the need for upholding and enforcing digital rights.

“In the last two decades we have witnessed a dramatic expansion in the use of digital technology,” she said, however, it has “unfortunately not been complimented by a similar investment in protecting ourselves from the harms that the expansion has caused”.

The speed of technological progress has created problems that could have been prevented at an earlier stage, said Ms. Nyabola, calling for a broad moratorium on new surveillance technologies.

She turned the Council’s attention to digital access policies and internet shutdowns, underscoring how they negatively impact cultural and economic minorities and pose obstacles to women’s access.

“Digital rights are human rights,” she said, adding that users must be protected.

A student uses AVR technology at school in Lao Cai province, Viet Nam. © UNICEF/Hoang Le Vu | A student uses AVR technology at school in Lao Cai province, Viet Nam.

Improving peacekeeping

Dirk Druet, Adjunct Professor at McGill University’s Centre for International Peace and Security Studies, highlighted sophisticated monitoring and language-translation technologies that can improve peacekeeping effectiveness and protection.

He urged the UN to take a more deliberate truth-telling role in conflict zones and reminded that peacekeeping operations must forge their own digital technology protocols beyond those of the States they support.

Finally, Mr. Druet maintained that for local constituencies, truth-telling is directly tied to trust-building, advocating for an increased capacity to monitor and engage the “information landscape” in conflict zones.

Central Bank Digital Currencies are becoming more and more interesting for governments as effective ways of managing the digital economy. Most central banks have not begun implementation of the currency as concerns remain.
An important success factor for the future of a CBDC regime is cooperation between the public and private sector.
Participation of the private sector in developing, testing and deploying a CBDC will have several benefits and will become more important as CBDCs could play a huge role in the future of financial systems.

This month the Digital Currency Governance Consortium held an expert roundtable discussion on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) to reflect on the work done so far and to identify areas that require further research. The workshop brought together experts from international organizations, central banks, the private sector, academia, and civil society activists.

While discussing the subject of CBDCs, the experts referred to a number of issues, ranging from the need to define precise objectives for issuing a CBDC, the various trade-offs in designing such a CBDC, and finally, the need for cooperation between public and private sector.

Until now, CBDCs have captured the attention of central banks, so much so that over 90% of countries are researching and exploring the concept. The ramp-up in interest has tripled since 2020, however, this has not translated to an increased rollout of launches. The countries that have fully launched CBDC include the Bahamas, the Eastern Caribbean nations, and Nigeria. However, most countries are at varying levels of progress, having either announced pilots, proof of concepts, or mere interest in researching the need for a CBDC.

Why have countries held off from central bank digital currencies implementation?

There are several areas of further exploration when it comes to CBDCs including privacy, security, interoperability, financial inclusion, technology considerations, and other concerns. Given the number of outstanding areas that require examination, many countries are taking a wait-and-see approach.

Several jurisdictions have voiced a desire to conduct research and experimentation on CBDC, but to withhold full rollout until more of these questions are understood. The implementation of central bank digital currencies has a long-term impact on the economy, so accordingly, it should be created with sufficient resources and time to get it right. In addition, technology choices today will impact the future of the financial system. Thus, whether a distributed ledger technology (DLT) solution should be used needs to be decided and if so, the type of DLT needs to be carefully considered. Overall, the adoption of a CBDC would be foundational and the impacts and unintended consequences should be prudently measured.

What does successful implementation mean?

For an implementation to be successful, it is imperative that a CBDC has a strong value proposition prior to implementation. These questions need to be answered beforehand: Why is a CBDC being released? What are the policy objectives and the trade-offs in achieving the aforesaid policy objectives, subject to local requirements? What design choices will address the aforesaid policy objectives to the greatest extent possible?

These are just some of the questions that central banks need to consider before embarking on implementing a central bank digital currency. There are several digital currency alternatives as well as advancements in the payments and financial market infrastructure that are available as another possibility to improve efficiencies. As such, the CBDC must have a concrete value and effectiveness beyond the other innovations.

The adoption of a CBDC among jurisdiction members is dependent on the design choices. The level of adoption will demonstrate the success of a CBDC and under subscription of the digital currency will undermine the purpose of adoption. The end-user must be consulted and considered in the design process to ensure suitable usage.

Based on the current state of CBDC adoption, there is continued interest in the exploration, experimentation, and piloting of CBDC solutions. Before countries become comfortable with fully launching a CBDC, the interim period can be used to work on multi-jurisdictional dialogues and cooperation in order to create regional interoperability. Another key step will be to work on a common set of standards for CBDC, which will provide foundational underpinnings.

The case for public-private collaboration

Among the most important success factors that could determine the future central bank digital currencies regime is multi-stakeholder engagement from the public and private sectors. Although central banks and governments have a key role to play for CBDCs, the private sector has several touchpoints that may enhance the CBDC ecosystem.

When analyzing the countries that have launched CBDCs and piloted solutions, several have incorporated the private sector. Central banks and governments can focus on the issuance of the digital currency and cooperate with private firms on the other aspects for which they have strong competencies.

The distribution of central bank digital currency functions between central bank and the private sector.
The distribution of central bank digital currency functions between central bank and the private sector   |  Image: IMF

Currently, central bank digital currencies may be developed solely by the central banks or in close cooperation with the private sector. The latter model may vary in terms of the different roles that the private sector may play in issuing, settling, consumer protection requirements, anti-money laundering compliances and front-end enablement.

What benefits would public-private collaboration bring for the implementation of CBDCs?

Participation of the private sector in developing, testing and deploying a CBDC will have several benefits, some of which were discussed during the CBDC Workshop:

  1. Promote innovation: Public-private partnerships have been used in various sectors to drive innovation and accessibility. While government/regulators/central banks should increase their monitoring and supervision capabilities, the private sector can help speed up the rate of innovation by supporting with compliance, appropriate design choices for various composable elements of central bank digital currencies, and being implementation partners.
  2. Increase interoperability: For a CBDC to maintain the balance between being successfully adopted and to avoid the pitfalls of currency substitution, it is necessary that it should integrate smoothly with existing payment systems. Engaging and leveraging private sector expertise in formulating necessary standards and tech stacks would be crucial in ensuring both domestic and cross-border interoperability of CBDCs.
  3. Incentivise digital and financial literacy: Educating the users of CBDC should be a top priority before implementation. With private sector involvement, it will incentivize the industry players to launch digital and financial literacy campaigns across various demographic groups. Without proper education and awareness, any CBDC implementation will fail to achieve the required objectives and will most likely, create more unintended consequences and risks.

Central bank digital currencies could play a role in the future financial system

The value of public-private cooperation in the context of CBDCs is promising. While collaboration is essential, it can lead to challenges, including but not limited to concerns with respect to data privacy, anti-trust regulation harmonization of cross-border rules and regulations. The discussions are ongoing and there is room for both the public and private sectors to contribute to a successful digital currency regime.

The discussion amongst stakeholders on the topic of CBDC will continue at the Annual Meeting 2022 on May 23 and will be livestreamed to the public. Join us in taking the conversation forward and understanding whether central bank digital currencies could play a role in the future financial system.

Many businesses in Kosovo’s taxpayer registry have missing or invalid address information, and a significant share of individual businesses do not file tax returns in any given year, despite being registered as active enterprises. That level of noncompliance has serious costs for the country. It not only disrupts the government’s ability to plan and produce accurate budget estimates, but also results in less revenue to fund much-needed investments in health, education, social protection, and infrastructure.

But without reliable taxpayer data, the Tax Administration of Kosovo (TAK) cannot verify if these businesses are inactive and neglected to deregister or simply ignore their tax filing obligations. And missing or incorrect addresses or other critical details for follow-up lead to inefficiencies in tax enforcement, audits, and investigations that tie up TAK’s limited resources and staff and increase the administrative burdens on businesses.

Improving the quality of Kosovo’s taxpayer registry is therefore essential to reducing informality and ensuring greater tax compliance. The World Bank is helping TAK in those efforts by providing technical assistance through the ongoing Enhancing the Quality and Scope of Taxpayer Registration (EQSTR) project.

In consultation with TAK and a wide range of government agencies, the EQSTR project has helped identify two major obstacles to improving the quality of TAK’s taxpayer register: (1) limited motivation from businesses to voluntarily and timely update their information and (2) insufficient data sharing arrangements to allow more seamless information flows from other public registry agencies to TAK.

The World Bank, with the support of the Global Tax Program (GTP), is helping Kosovo to address these challenges, recommending and financing technical assistance related to digitalization and data sharing.

Digitalization: A Way Forward on Taxpayer Data

Existing processes to register, deregister, or update information in the business and taxpayer registers have placed a high compliance burden on businesses. Even minor updates of registration data require in-person visits to a Kosovo Business Registration Agency (KBRA) office. And businesses must initiate two separate processes to deregister, one with TAK and another with KBRA. But under current legislation, there are no penalties for failing to deregister or update taxpayer information in a timely fashion, so many businesses just ignore these obligations.

As identified through the EQSTR project, a key reform objective for TAK and KBRA is the creation of a fully digital, one-stop process for businesses registration, information updates, and deregistration. Moreover, the project has recommended a fully paperless certification process and imposing fines for violating requirements to update tax information. To underpin these recommendations, Kosovo has adopted the legal basis for the implementation of e-signature.

But the issue here is not just digitizing TAK’s records. The integrity of data supplied to TAK by partner agencies—initially by KBRA and the State Address Register, but eventually by municipal agencies operating address registers—must also be ensured. The EQSTR project will assess over the coming months KBRA’s requirements and capacity needs to introduce more proactive data management to verify and update business data. Likewise, with support from the World Bank, the State Address Register is establishing critical online links allowing for real-time verification of address information provided by a business.

Data Sharing Forum for Better Inter-Agency Cooperation

Digitalization involves more than just websites and servers. Kosovo’s government agencies need to also develop a culture of openness and partnership to best manage and make use of digitized records. One key lesson from the EQSTR project is that a tax authority needs to cooperate with other government agencies to improve and sustain the quality of the taxpayer register. In June 2020, Kosovo established the Data Sharing Forum, which brings together general directors from TAK and other key public registries, to strengthen data exchange and inter-agency cooperation. The EQSTR project supported the establishment of the Forum by providing advice on governance arrangements and facilitating meetings and workshops.

While government agencies must do a better job communicating with each other, more emphasis and resources must also be placed on ensuring the business community understands and buys in to TAK’s digitalization efforts. “Fostering a common understanding and acceptance of new business processes is important in digitalizing business and taxpayer registration,” says Ilir Murtezaj, General Director of TAK. “An ongoing dialogue with counterparts facilitated through workshops and expert meetings as well as high level stakeholder consultations, is the key to create such understanding.”

TAK will continue to build upon the lessons learned through the EQSTR project and work toward improving its taxpayer register. With continued support from the World Bank’s Global Tax Program, TAK is working to expand the country’s taxpayer net and further enhance its capacity to register informal businesses with non-negligible revenue potential—ensuring Kosovo has the fiscal resources to build a sustainable, inclusive future for its people.