Nineteen months after the World Health Organization named the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, the situation in many parts of the world is still far too great concerning. As new variants have increased the toll of COVID-19, the pandemic continues to demonstrate that its pervasive effects go well beyond the health aspects of the crisis. The pandemic also has a global “human, economic and social crisis,” contribute to 97 million more People who live in poverty in 2020 and have problems like unemployment, Food insecurity and hunger.
Although this multi-faceted crisis is spreading around the world, its effects are not being felt everywhere and by everyone alike. While all countries have suffered in the fight against the pandemic, developing countries are likely to experience more Long-term effect from the economic downturn. The most vulnerable groups Young people, the elderly, people with disabilities, people living in poverty, and racial and ethnic minorities suffer most.
“The pandemic has painfully exposed this inequality that was hidden just below the surface,” remarked The Hague’s Deputy Mayoress Saskia Bruines recently during one public webinar Hosted by the United Nations Interregional Research Institute on Crime and Justice (UNICRI) on technology and bridging inequality after the pandemic. As countries and cities around the world take the first steps to recover from the pandemic, efforts must be made to prevent this inequality from becoming what is often referred to as the “new normal”.
The double potential of technology in a digitally divided world
Technology is one of the biggest drivers of development in our increasingly digital world economy. Worldwide internet usage is growing every year, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain are also growing exponentially. These are interdependent, interconnected and mutually reinforcing new technologies that benefit from digitization and connectivity multiply their effect. When used correctly and with full respect for human rights, the Internet and new technologies are powerful tools for Improve health, the environment and well-being worldwide. You can create one more inclusive economy and help stop hunger, create better jobs for all, and increase global prosperity. In essence, technologies like this have the potential to “turbocharger“Progress towards the Sustainable development goals – our internationally recognized blueprint for a better and more sustainable future for everyone.
However, not all countries benefit equally from these technologies.
Access to the Internet is unequal around the world. the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reported that 3.7 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – did not use the internet in 2020. Most of the people who went offline were in the least developed countries and were women and girls.
Similar gaps are evident in Frontier technologies. In 2020, less than a third of the world had adopted national AI policies and strategies. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Technology and innovation report 2021 has found that developing countries – particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean – are the least willing to use, adopt and adapt frontier technologies.
As warned by UNCTADWithout proper policy action, the growing global digital divide exacerbated by COVID-19 can cause technological developments to exacerbate disparities instead of helping to bridge the inequality gap. Such contrasts intensify instabilities and tensions and can even do so Threaten peace and security. They should therefore be a concern of every country and the international community as a whole. For a truly universal recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that the benefits of new technologies reach all countries and sectors of our society.
What can governments, the private sector, and the international community do?
We are at a tipping point where digital transformation is accelerating in a complex crisis.
The disruption caused by the pandemic and the resulting surge in innovation are opportunities to build a better future for everyone, this time “doing it right”.
With the right policies, governments, the private sector and the international community have the power and responsibility to create a new era in which no one will be left behind. Technology is the most important thing to achieve this, but how?
Efforts should be made to ensure that technological developments in the reconstruction reach all parts of the world. Countries that have not implemented digital strategies should be encouraged and supported by the international community. All countries should focus on implementing such strategies in a people-centered and empowering way. In doing so, they should be guided by the following goals:
- Improve digital education around the world. The lack of digital skills is one of the biggest obstacles for use the internet and Access to Frontier Technologies. The digital competence is to be expanded across national borders and reach all parts of society. Everyone, including the most disadvantaged, should have access to education on topics such as data law, cybersecurity and cyberbullying prevention. Governments and the international community should invest in digital literacy programs and education to ensure everyone understands technology and does it in a safe, healthy, and empowering way.
- Empowering youth and other vulnerable groups. Empowering vulnerable groups is essential to preventing crime by reducing social exclusion, discrimination, lack of education, unemployment and other factors that increase the risk of individuals becoming criminals or victims. In addition to building digital skills, governments and the international community should improve digital infrastructures and combat disparities that hinder equal access to technologies.
- Use the potential of technology for sustainable development. AI, blockchain and other frontier technologies have tremendous potential to create a more prosperous and sustainable future for all. If used properly, they can contribute to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Policies at local, national and international levels with an emphasis on Maximizing this potential while minimizing the risks of these technologies, including threats to human rights, should spread around the world, including developing countries.
- Emphasize recovery through inclusive technological development. In addition to defining the right policies and strategies, there needs to be sufficient emphasis on helping developing countries harness the potential of new technologies to create a more sustainable future for all as the pandemic rebounds. The international community, governments, technology entrepreneurs and corporations should ensure that technology is accessible and benefits all. Developed countries in particular should support and share their experiences with developing countries after the pandemic in order to stimulate the recovery of the global economy.
- Promote international dialogue and cooperation. Dialogue between the public and private sectors should be streamlined and cooperation between governments, the technology sector, stakeholders, educators and civil society should be encouraged. This is the only way to ensure that global action is taken, which is the key to a global recovery.
By doing Words from the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, “Technology can accelerate the recovery from COVID-19 and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. (…) Now the world leaders have to decide: Will we succumb to chaos, division and inequality? Or will we make up for the mistakes of the past and move forward together for the good of all? “
Mark Minevich is President of Going Global Ventures. He is a global digital cognitive strategist and artificial intelligence and venture capitalist. He is also Chairman of the Board of the Digital Pioneers Network and Chief Digital Strategist at the International Research Center for AI under the auspices of UNESCO. He is a member of the B20 Digital Economy Taskforce in the G20 Presidency, a member of the World Economic Forum Council on AI for Humanity, Senior Fellow of the US Council on Competitiveness, Consultant at the Boston Consulting Group and Digital Fellow at IPsoft / Amelia. Follow him on Twitter @MMinevich.
Irakli Beridze is head of the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for UNICRI of the United Nations. He is working on AI-related governance, security, crime prevention and human rights issues as well as global solutions through the use of AI and related technologies to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He is a member of various International Working groups, including the Global Artificial Intelligence Council of the World Economic Forum. He is an International Gender Champion and was awarded the OPCW’s Nobel Peace Prize in 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Irakli_UN