G7 Digital Ministers Meeting, 29 April 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 29 April 2021


Let me thank the UK for the invitation today and for the continued engagement between the OECD and the G7 Digital track through these extraordinary times.

The COVID-19 crisis marks a turning point in several respects.

  • It is accelerating the digital transformation, from e-commerce, to tele-health and tele-work. In the UK, half of the workers were able to work from home during the first lockdown. An unprecedented expansion, which we have seen replicated across the G7.
  • This acceleration is itself a source of resilience going forward. The COVID-19 crisis is placing digital technologies at the centre of building a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future. However, as reflected in the OECD’s report and recommendations to the G7 Panel on Economic Resilience, we have to address digital and emerging technologies as both a tool for resilience-building in terms of shock prevention, absorption and recovery and growth capabilities, as well as a source of possible vulnerability and risk, including for security and privacy.
  • Finally, the crisis is highlighting even more that values matter– but market forces alone cannot deliver the ethical and governance frameworks to shape human-centered technologies. From the security of communications networks to the safety of children online, to achieve the potential of digital technologies, we need an approach that is human-centric and builds trust, respecting the rule of law, human rights, democratic values and diversity.

How can the G7 and its partners lead by example? Let me highlight three priorities :

First, we must make the Internet a safer place for all. In 2019, you asked us to help implement the Christchurch Call and address terrorist and violent extremist content online by first establishing an evidence base. Together with online platforms and other online content-sharing services we have made progress developing a reporting framework on this harmful content. But as we mark the second anniversary of the Call, we need your support to maintain the momentum, ensure this initiative is deployed, and deepen reporting for bigger platforms.

We also need to work on the protection of vulnerable groups. Technological change – in particular, the plethora of connected devices – has raised new risks for children online. The OECD’s forthcoming Recommendation on Children in the Digital Environment sets out principles for a safe and beneficial digital environment for children. I urge you to champion these principles, here and through the G20. We must also protect people and our democratic systems by addressing misinformation online.

Second, as our economies go digital, data and data flows have grown in importance, including across borders. Values matter here too. Fully capitalising on the potential of data while ensuring trust, requires that we continue to work together to share experiences and policy practices. While there are differences in approaches across the G7, there is also much that brings countries together. Progress on this topic is essential and the G7 can play a critical role in leading global efforts. The OECD stands ready to help implement the roadmap that you have set out, including through our work on Government Access to personal data held by the private sector.

Third, values matter as we address the opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies. We must act upstream to shape a human-centred trajectory. The OECD’s 2019 principles on Trustworthy AI and our contribution to establish through the G7, the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) for which we host the Secretariat, shows what can be achieved if we work together at an earlier stage to maximise the potential benefits of new technologies. But this should be deepened and replicated in other areas where similar progress is needed, including on new norms, standards and agile regulation, working in close cooperation with stakeholders. The G7’s planned Future Tech Forum is therefore timely and important and we look forward to supporting its work.

Ministers, count on the OECD to support you in leveraging the potential of the digital economy to recover from the crisis, harnessing the shared sense of purpose and values that unite the G7 and the OECD.

Thank you.


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