G20 discusses digital-tech role in tackling COVID-19

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman urged G20 leaders on Thursday to take firm measures and “effective and coordinated” action to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (G20 Saudi Arabia)

RIYADH (Rahnuma): The G20 ministers responsible for the digital economy held a virtual meeting on Thursday to discuss the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministers vowed to work together to deliver on the commitment to leverage digital technologies made at the extraordinary virtual summit on G20 leaders on March 26, held under Saudi Arabia’s presidency.

“We emphasize the promising role of digital technologies and relevant digital policies to strengthen and accelerate our collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to enhance our ability to prevent and mitigate future crises,” the ministers said in a final communiqué following their meeting on Thursday.

“We will work together on an urgent basis with the private sector and business entities, in particular with telecommunications and Internet service providers, and civil society, to maximize inclusive, secure, and affordable connectivity, especially in underserved areas and for vulnerable people.

“We underscore the importance of keeping telecommunication networks and digital infrastructure, in particular in health provider and research environments, robust, secure, accessible, and resilient,” the communiqué continued.

Acknowledging the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the power of data and artificial intelligence to accelerate pattern recognition and enable evidence-based policy-making, the ministers said in their joint statement: “We encourage collaboration to collect, pool, process, and share reliable and accurate non-personal information that can contribute to the monitoring, understanding, and prevention of the further spread of COVID-19 as well as other infectious diseases.”

Given the urgency of slowing the spread of COVID-19, the ministers vowed: “We will endeavor to work collaboratively to leverage digital technologies and solutions to enable individuals and firms to continue to participate in the economy.”

The communiqué concluded: “We support the evidence-based, trustworthy, and human-centric deployment of digital technologies and solutions and any resulting policies, in a manner that respects individuals’ privacy, security, and human rights.”

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