Remarks by Angel Gurría
3 April 2019 - Bratislava, the Slovak Republic
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Ministers, Russel, Pierre, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be in Bratislava to discuss our upcoming OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM), focussing on “Harnessing the Digital Transition for Sustainable Development”.
The OECD is delighted to have the Slovak Republic chairing this important meeting. I want to thank them for hosting us, and congratulate the leadership of Ambassador Ingrid Brocková in setting up such an ambitious agenda. Let me also welcome the representatives of the MCM Vice-Chairs, Canada and Korea and, of course, BIAC and TUAC.
These consultations are essential to the preparation of the MCM. It remains paramount that business associations and trade unions are on board as we navigate the opportunities and challenges of the digital transition.
This year’s ministerial meeting takes place amid growing concerns that digitalisation and new technologies are creating disruption and imposing a huge transformation in our economies and societies. They are rapidly reshaping the way we work and live. But we also know that this transformation will help bring about massive improvements in well-being if properly managed. That is why the OECD has placed digitalisation at the core of its policy agenda, and as the topic of this year’s MCM.
Digital technologies have incited remarkable progress in virtually every aspect of our societies, from healthcare to education, transport, communication and energy systems, to international trade, innovation and the environment. In fact, the digital sectors in the EU saw the fastest job growth between 2008 and 2017.
Digitalisation has made new, more efficient tools available. Blockchain is becoming a game-changing tool for governments, helping them improve the transparency, accountability and efficiency of public services, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also going mainstream, providing a powerful tool to analyse huge amounts of data to help us make better predictions and decisions.
But the digital wave also brings new challenges, risks and hidden costs.
The digital revolution is changing the nature and structure of organisations and markets; there are rising concerns about jobs and skills, privacy and security; business dynamism has declined in many countries; and our tax systems are being challenged by increasingly global business models.
The new digital era is redefining social and economic interactions, the formation of communities, and even the notions of equity and inclusion. The impact of digital technology is also affecting our families and children. In fact, about 9% of 15 year-olds today say that they have been cyber-bullied.
At the OECD, we are firmly committed to addressing these challenges. Just a few weeks ago, our Going Digital project delivered an integrated policy framework, and set of new measurement tools to make sure that people are empowered and not intimidated by digital technologies. Allow me to highlight a few of our key priorities.
Firstly, we must bridge digital divides and allow people and firms to build on the opportunities of the digital revolution. In particular, we need action to close the gender gap in the access, use, ownership and design of digital technologies to enable women to participate fully in the digital economy.
Secondly, we must deliver what the TUAC statement refers to as a ´human-centric´ transition. This means that we must empower people to succeed in a changing world of work, offering life-long training opportunities and adapting social protection for new forms of work.
Thirdly, in a globalised world, cross-border data flows are enablers of economic and social activity. That’s why we must strengthen, trust and enhance access to data to drive innovation, while addressing legitimate privacy and security concerns and the challenge of ensuring effective competition.
Lastly, it is also crucial that we build the next generation of data and indicators capable of monitoring digital transformation. We must measure impacts on well-being, advances in technologies, and design new approaches to data collection to make sure that no one gets left behind.
In addition, greater international co-operation is critical in harnessing the digital transition. As BIAC rightly points out, the international community must adopt a consistent approach to address the challenges and reap the benefits of the digital transformation. Our ongoing standard-setting review will contribute to this effort.
We are also exploring innovative ways to leverage the power of technologies to transition to a more circular economy, and encouraging dialogue and reflection on policy implications of emerging technologies in the G7 and G20 discussions. Our work to address the tax challenges arising from digitalisation, and our efforts to develop principles to foster trust in and adoption of AI, are just two examples that point to our wider vision.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our world is being rapidly transformed by the digital transition. It is therefore indispensable that we work together to ensure that we can reap the benefits and tackle the challenges of this metamorphosis.
As always, I am positive that the advice and insights of BIAC and TUAC will enrich our discussions, and will challenge us to produce more impactful outcomes at our forthcoming MCM. Together we can achieve an inclusive and sustainable digital transition that leaves no one behind. Thank you.