Remarks by Angel Gurría
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - 22 July, 2020
The OECD’s latest Economic Outlook projects a drop in global GDP growth of 6 percent in 2020, which could rise to 7.6 percent in case of a second wave of broad-based confinement measures. The impact on unemployment has exploded throughout the world.
It is important to note that without digital technologies and related work practices, this might have been worse - our economies might have come to a complete standstill. Because of digital tools, 34 percent of employees in the US switched to telework in April 2020. We in the OECD want to 100% telework in 2 weeks. And in Canada, 30% of business owners with online operations increased their sales in April, despite the COVID-19 crisis. It was the same throughout the OECD and the world.
Your rapid policy responses have helped business and workers make the needed digital shift and strengthened business resilience, by actions on connectivity, telework, e-learning, e-commerce, digital security and many more.
The COVID-19 crisis will mark a turning point for, and an acceleration of the digital transformation. We need to make the most of this momentum and use digital technologies to build our economies back in a better way: more resilient, inclusive and sustainable. This means putting the right policies in place.
Let me highlight five elements:
First, we need to bridge the digital divides in our societies that have been so sharply exposed by the crisis. Not every individual or business is equipped with the skills or the means to use digital tools: so as we go digital, so does our duty to leave no one behind. This will include connectivity for all – in particular in rural areas and for the most disadvantaged households. It will also require much greater diffusion of digital tools across all businesses, notably SMEs; improved security and trust; investment in innovation, and the highest priority of all: skills, skills, skills! This will also help narrow the widening productivity gap between firms.
Second, we need to make better use of Artificial Intelligence to improve our citizens’ lives. AI has played a key role in every aspect of the crisis response, from detecting and diagnosing the virus, to supporting the search for a vaccine, to improving early warning tools.
But as this year’s G20 AI Dialogue showed, AI’s full potential is still to come. To achieve this potential we must advance a human-centred and trustworthy AI, that respects the rule of law, human rights, democratic values and diversity, and that includes appropriate safeguards to ensure a fair and just society. This AI is consistent with the G20 AI Principles you designed and endorsed last year, drawing from the OECD’s AI Principles. Count on our support, through our AI Policy Observatory, our work on diffusion, measurement and economic impacts, for the tough task of putting the AI Principles into practice.
Third, as our economies go digital, data and data flows have grown in importance, including across borders, changing how businesses operate in the global economy. Fully capitalising on the potential of data flows while ensuring trust, requires that we continue to work together to share experiences and good policy practices, in support of suitable transfer mechanisms and greater interoperability.
We know this is not easy but we believe it is necessary, and the G20 can play a critical role in making progress. We look forward to supporting you in future discussions on this topic.
Fourth, we need to enable the shift to smart mobility services. But it requires adapted policy and regulatory frameworks.
The G20 Smart Mobility Practices, developed with the support of the International Transport Forum and the OECD, enable human-centric innovation that can enhance efficiency, equity, safety and sustainability in delivering one of humanity’s oldest needs: mobility.
Last, but not least, we need to keep working on measurement of the digital economy. Statistics are not high on the agenda of policy makers, but are essential. As Mr. Chair mentioned, policymakers can only manage what they measure. Important progress has been made this year, with a policy definition of the digital economy, indicators to measure it, and a G20 roadmap, developed with the help of OECD and other international organisations. But much remains to be done, for instance to develop statistics in new areas, such as AI or data or to increase the comparability of indicators.
Ministers, we look forward to helping you leverage the full potential of the digital economy as we recover from the crisis – for economies and societies that are not only more digital, but also more resilient, more inclusive and more sustainable. Count on the OECD! Thank you.