Digital Revolution and Global Development: An ongoing Process

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Over the last decades, the world has been witnessing a real digital revolution. This new reality is reshaping people’s approach to everyday life, professional relations, public institutions functioning, roles within the international arena. Digitalization is also transforming global development strategies and becoming an essential tool for growth: accessing digital technologies and the internet is not only a way to empower the poor and disadvantaged people but also to create jobs, to boost women’s empowerment, to fasten and ease money transfers, and to facilitate people’s access to health and educational facilities.

These developments have been further integrated by new technology inventions as drones, which are progressively contributing to enhance efficiency in the fields of conservation, health, transportation, data collection, and humanitarian work in developing countries, or areas hit by natural disasters. Within this context, analysing the changes driven by this phenomenon is essential to fully exploit the digital revolution’s potential. In particular, a first question would be how to connect the unconnected and tackle the ‘digital divide’ between developed and undeveloped countries.

Secondly, digital technologies should play a significant role in the promotion of development. In this regard, it would be interesting to explore to what extent these technologies are contributing to the creation of digital dividends as inclusiveness and access to information, promoting innovation and boosting efficiency. Moreover, it is crucial to identify the possible measures to ensure that women harness the full potential of the digital revolution, as well as that these new technologies can be used to promote peace, justice and good governance. Such matter should be considered as a priority in all major global policy and development economic debates.

The same subject was discussed during a Policy insight organized in Brussels on the 7th of November by Friends of Europe (FoE), titled ‘Making the digital revolution work better, faster for development‘. The event, part of FoE’s Development Policy Forum (DPF), which brings together a number of crucial development actors, was attended by high end representatives of the EU institutions and the private sector involved in digital technologies and development policies. The discussion saw a panel of three prominent speakers, moderated by Ms. Shada Islam, Director Europe & Geopolitics – FoE. Among the panellists:

  • Jüri Seilenthal, Director-General for Foreign Economic Policy and Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia;
  • G Subramanian, Principal Innovation Evangelist at Tata Consultancy Services;
  • Dana Schurmans, Digital Inclusion Expert at the ACP Young Professionals Network;

The event was an intense and fruitful forum session where many participants from the audience brought up their own field experience and point of view.

In conclusion, the strong connection between the digital revolution and global development requires a constant and ongoing investigation on the single concrete actions that can untap its tremendous potential. Such action cannot disregard an open dialogue among all the main institutional and private stakeholders, engaged both in technological research and in strategical policies. Its results, if properly channelled, applied and shared, will have a direct impact on the reduction of digital divide and on the improvement of life quality, and will positively influence digital dividends on a global level, as well as a social and economic integration of migrants. In this regard, digital revolution in Europe could be further fostered by migrants and diasporas’ communities themselves, which need to enter the fast pace of European labour market.

We will closely follow this debate, in the strong belief that the access to digital technologies and services along with the raise of digital skills is a key tool for local and migrant small and medium businesses. This will allow them to grow faster, enhance their integration and contribution to job creation, access to micro-finance, skills and education.

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