G20 Digital Ministerial - Remarks


Remarks by Mr. Angel Gurria

OECD Secretary-General

G20 Digital Ministerial

7 April 2017, Düsseldorf, Germany

(As prepared for delivery)



Harnessing the potential of the digital economy is critical to breaking the low growth / low-productivity trap in which the Global economy is caught.

Progress has been significant — with 40% of people world-wide now connected to networks, compared to just 4% in 1995. By 2030, 8 billion people and 25 billion active “smart” devices will be interconnected in one huge information network. The implications for policy are considerable.

Yet, only 25% of individuals are using simple office software, such as word processors and spreadsheets, every day at work. And among them, over 40% do not have sufficient ICTs skills to use these tools effectively.

In 2016, under the Chinese Presidency of the G20, and this year under Germany’s chairmanship, the OECD supported the G20 by sharing our whole of government perspective, which underpinned our report to the Presidency on Key Issues for Digital Transformation in the G20.

  • Digitalisation is driving structural change, leading to the demise of sectors, creating new ones and leading to new sources of growth for traditional industries. It offers opportunities to leapfrog, as witnessed by Kenya’s growing FINTECH hub, or in my own country Mexico, where demand for robots grew by 119% in 2015. In developing countries, nearly 70% of the bottom fifth of the population own a mobile phone and more households own a mobile phone than have access to electricity or clean water, reflecting accelerating access to opportunity.

  • Digitalisation is transforming how we work, where we work, and what skills we need. Our skills policies must respond by helping users to benefit from new technologies, not be threatened by them.

  • It is affecting tax policy by bringing new tools to broaden the tax base and to curtail tax evasion, as well as presenting challenges, such as taxing digital businesses, while simultaneously supporting innovations that we all enjoy and profit from. These are key issues which the G20/OECD BEPS project is tackling.

  • Consumers and firms are benefiting, digital trade is opening new markets, notably great opportunities to SMEs in global value chains, and delivering new digitalised goods and services. In 2014, the initial public offering of the Alibaba Group raised USD 25 billion, the largest in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. Indian companies, Snapdeal and Flipcart, are pioneers in innovative platforms, with as much as 70% of their orders made via mobile phones. Digitalisation is also placing a new premium on cross-border data flows. 

Ministers, we commend your G20 Roadmap and your effort to ensure digitalisation benefits all, and highlight four priority areas: measurement, connectivity, consumers and gender.

  1. Digitalisation: if you cannot measure, it, you cannot manage it. Our response to this dynamic, mega-trend must be shaped by facts and evidence-informed policy advice. You cannot afford to be flying in the dark. To this end, we are thrilled to be partnering with the IMF to deliver the G20 Leaders’ request to analyse the impact of digitalisation on measures of GDP, and possible policy implications.

  2. Connectivity will underpin inclusive growth. Some G20 economies have almost ubiquitous Internet access for households, whilst others lag — the range is from 99% down to 20%. We welcome the task, with the World Bank and other international organisations, of analysing policies designed to extend coverage to underserved places or individuals. High-speed Internet access is essential for the social and economic capillarity, as it allows participation of individuals and businesses worldwide.

  3. The consumer dynamics are astonishing. In the last decade, the share of e commerce as a percentage of overall retail has nearly tripled in the United States . But the Internet is also enhancing vulnerability of consumers - and firms - to cybersecurity risks. The OECD first put this issue on the table in 1998, with a Ministers’ Declaration on Consumer Protection for Electronic Commerce, and subsequently developed OECD recommendations on digital security risk management (2015). We will build on this by helping to develop a set of G20 best practices for online consumers, together with UNCTAD and Consumers International.

  4. Finally, equipping more than half of the population - women and girls - with a wide digital skill set is fundamental to women’s empowerment. Our report shows the share of women working in this field typically one-fifth to one third that of men. 

The G20 Roadmap — accompanied by the OECD’s two-year project “Going Digital” — will provide a bridge between Presidencies to advance your agenda. This is too big and too important to tackle in just one year. Together, the G20 and the OECD are set to embrace the Digital era as a long term endeavor, to better understand its promises, respond to its pressure points and design better digital policies for better lives.



See also

OECD and the G20


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