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The $1 Trillion Question: How Can Efforts to Digitally Transform Businesses Succeed?

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While enormous resources are being spent on digital transformation programmes by the private sector, the results are underwhelming. Today, the World Economic Forum launched a report to help senior executives avoid common patterns of failure and ask the right questions. The Digital Enterprise: Moving from experimentation to transformation is a practical guide to envisioning, structuring and sequencing successful digital transformation efforts.

According to estimates, this year over $1.2 trillion will be spent by companies worldwide on their digital transformation efforts and yet analysis suggests that only 1% of these efforts will achieve or exceed their expectations.

Last year, the World Economic Forum launched the Digital Enterprise project in collaboration with Bain & Company to help companies understand how they can design and execute successful digital transformation programmes. The project was led by a working group of senior executives from 40 companies, including representatives from Walmart, eBay, JD.com and HPE. The report launched today is a synthesis of their discussions and learning over the course of the year.

“Executives are often so involved in their own industries and the operational details of what they do that they don’t realize that the most formidable ideas and challenges to their business model might come from outside their own industry. We help executives take a step back, broaden their peripheral vision and enter into conversations with leaders from other industries about their perspectives and experiences,” said Mehran Gul, Project Lead for Digital Enterprise at the World Economic Forum.

The working group found that, while people are all too familiar with once-revered brands that failed to stay ahead of the curve – BlackBerry, Kodak, Blockbuster – there are also examples of successful reinvention that prove that digital transformation, while hard, is not impossible. Netflix went through successive waves of evolution over two decades, transforming from a traditional DVD-by-mail service into the largest online video-streaming service in the US. The number of Netflix subscribers in the US now surpasses all cable subscribers combined, reaching 73% of all households. Dominos, founded in 1960, started making foundational investments in technology upgrades in 2001 and is now the fifth-largest e-commerce company in the United States. Since 2000, it has been the best performing stock in the S&P 500, outperforming Amazon and Google. Dominos has gone from being a pizza company to being a tech company that happens to make pizza.

“Our understanding of digital transformation and what enables it has evolved on both a personal and a company level through this work. While much of the technology is readily available, the real challenge lies in the ability to change business models and the way we work to take out the potential offered. And that makes digital success dependent on leadership, culture and capabilities,” said Åshild Hanne Larsen, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice-President of Corporate IT at Equinor, Norway, and a member of the project’s executive working group.

According to the report, successful transformation programmes suggest that, while there is enormous diversity in individual experiences, some common themes clearly emerge. Successful companies embrace digital strategies that can thrive in uncertainty and succeed through a “test and learn” mindset. Instead of focusing on what they are selling, they focus on the needs of the customer they serve and constantly iterate their product or service to better address that need. They invest in developing systems, technology and talent that can help them achieve their digital objectives. Finally, they focus on implementation to ensure that successful experiments can reach scale.

“Things are changing so fast. It’s not just what the technology can do but how people react to the technology. It’s not just robots. It’s people willing to spend the night on a total stranger’s couch. That’s what’s changed today versus 20 years ago. It’s more than just data, technology and computing power. It’s the way people are responding to it, changing their behaviour so fast and so radically,” said Ouriel Lancry, Partner, Bain & Company.

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Vietnam needs to embrace “Doi Moi 4.0” to sustain high quality growth

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Vietnam should make a strategic shift towards a more productivity and innovation-based economy while making the most of the ongoing demographic dividend to sustain high quality growth over the next decade.

This is among the main recommendations from the joint report between the World Bank and the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences on the new economic model to help Vietnam achieve high-quality growth for the 2021-30 period.

The report, which is being prepared with support from the Australian Government, proposes the Vietnam’s new economic model in 2021-2030 to center around three breakthroughs: innovation and entrepreneurship, human capital, and modern institutions.

This report will help begin an exciting new chapter in Vietnam’s economic growth story,” said His Excellency Craig Chittick, Australian Ambassador to Vietnam. “A chapter that embraces innovation, promotes bold reform, and helps Vietnam achieve its ambitious development goals.”

To avoid the middle-income traps, experts contend that Vietnam will have to maintain a growth rate in the range of 7 to 7.5% for the 2021-30 period, higher than the average rate of 6.3% of the last ten years.

 “We are living in the era of disruptive technologies that presents both challenges as well as opportunities – I would like to call it ‘Doi Moi 4.0’,” said Ousmane Dione, Country Director for The World Bank in Vietnam. “To mitigate these risks and seize the opportunities Vietnam needs to accelerate reforms that boost productivity and innovation as key drivers of growth in the coming decade including steps to remove bottlenecks for private sector investment, enhance public sector institutions and invest in 21st century skills of the workforce.”

The report finds that the labor-intensive, export-led growth model Vietnam pursued during 2011 – 2020 has increasingly become obsolete against the context of Industrial Revolution 4.0, maturing global value chains, premature deindustrialization, and rising role of services.

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Human Rights

Gender equality, justice in law and practice: Essential for sustainable development

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Young girls in Gumam primary school, Kassala state, Sudan. Photo: UNICEF/Sari Omer

Fundamentally linked to human development, gender justice requires ending inequality and redressing existing disparities between women and men, according to a high-level United Nations forum on the situation in Arab States.

Laws that promote gender equality “will help the Arab region move forward on the issue of justice and equality for women”, Jordan Ambassador to the UN Sima Bahous, told UN News after chairing the forum centered around the study with the same name: Gender and Law Justice, Evaluation of Laws Affecting Gender Equality in the Arab States.

Gender equality is achieved when both sexes enjoy the same rights and opportunities across society, including access to justice and to economic and social gains. The study stressed that sustainable development goals cannot be achieved without ensuring gender equality in law and practice.

On 14 March, on the margins of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Women’s Fund (UNIFEM) organized the conference, which discussed discrimination and criminal, personal status and labour laws across 18 Arab countries.  

“Human development means expanding opportunities for women and men to improve their lives and education, and create better opportunities”, Ms. Bahous explained.  

Room in Arab region for women’s equality

Gender justice relies on accountability and equality.  

Salma Al-Nemes, Secretary General of the Jordanian National Committee for Women, spoke about the forum’s importance, saying that it aims to “emphasize that there is still room in the Arab region to achieve women’s equality.”  

She stressed that problems can only be solved if they are recognized, and that countries can benefit “from the experiences of the Arab and Islamic countries that have achieved equality and build on this by adapting it to national reality.”  

Because national and local contexts differ, Ms. Al-Nemes acknowledged that “we must examine how to meet these challenges in an appropriate context so that we can achieve equality not only in legislation, but in practice as well”. 

For her part, Naziha el Obaidi, Minister of Women, Family, Childhood and the Elderly of Tunisia, told UN News about her Government’s decree that “when considering the appointment of a senior official in the country, four biographies of candidates, two for women and one for men, should be submitted.” 

Also in Tunisia, the law of ‘horizontal equinoxes and vertical equinoxes’ states that if an electoral list is headed by a woman, a man must hold the second position, and vice versa. Ms. el Obaidi credited this with women’s participation nearly 48 per cent of municipalities, noting that this law will also be implemented in the legislative elections. 

Honour crimes

Because gender-based violence is a major barrier to gender justice, Gender justice and the law closely examines its various forms, including sexual, physical and psychological and economic violence, assessing laws and policies that affect gender equality and protect against gender-based violence.

For example, the penalties for committing so-called honour crimes – which include murder, wounding and beating – vary, depending on the country.

In Algeria, Bahrain, Morocco, Qatar, Syria and Yemen a sentence can be reduced if a “spouse” is caught in an act of adultery.

Whereas in Djibouti and Sudan there are no specific provisions identified in the Penal Code to reduce penalties for these crimes.

Leniency for perpetrators of honour crimes against women in Saudi Arabia is not codified in the law, so men are sentenced at the court’s discretion.

Meanwhile, the Penal Code in Egypt spells out that if a husband kills his wife committing adultery, he and the man with whom she was with would receive reduced penalty not to exceed three years in prison.

Should “a person” kill a wife, daughter or sister, or her sexual partner, in the sudden heat of rage after finding her in a sexual act in Somalia, the penal code requires a reduced sentence.

If a man kills his wife or one of his female relatives while engaging in the act of adultery in Iraq, he would be incarcerated for no more than three years. In Libya the sentence would not exceed eight years.

At the same time, some countries repealed reduced sentences for honour crimes, such as Lebanon in 2011, Oman in 2001 and Tunisia in 1993.

While the penal code in Jordan was amended in 2017 to prevent reduced penalties for honour crimes, the original mitigated penalties for murdering a spouse caught in the act of adultery has yet to be removed. Similarly, mitigation of penalties for honour crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories were repealed in 2011 in the West Bank and 2018 in Gaza, however, the Government there has not applied the reforms. 

Honour crimes are just one of the topics addressed in the study. Violence manifest itself in many ways, including rape, sexual harassment, child and forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting and other harmful traditional practices – all of which the study covers.  

It is worth mentioning that the UN Commission on the Status of Women is responsible for developing global policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. The annual session, which drew to a close on 22 March, provides an opportunity to review progress and identify difficulties, challenges and policy formulation. 

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Environment

Hands-on e-waste management training

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photo: UNIDO

Over 30 representatives of 13 Latin American countries and international experts have gathered to learn and share experiences on e-waste management, from system design to health impacts.

The second Expert Meeting on the Effective Management and Disposal of E-waste in Latin America under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was convened by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of Costa Rica and with co-financing from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The UNIDO-GEF project assists 13 countries with tackling the e-waste challenges in the region, with annual expert meetings providing an opportunity for the participating countries and institutions to get together and share knowledge and experiences.

Following the project launch in Quito in March 2018, this year’s Expert Meeting kicked off on 18 March with Project Steering and Technical Committees meetings and a series of presentations by local recycling companies and UN partner organizations.

The E-waste Academy for Managers (EWAM) on 19 March saw a series of panel discussions and group sessions on topics ranging from legal aspects of e-waste management to logistical issues such as collection and transport of e-waste. The Academy is the first of four that will be co-ordinated by the United Nations University (UNU).

The EWAM-Managers Edition is a global forum and training event for stakeholders involved in the practical design and implementation of e-waste management solutions, offering a platform to exchange best practices, discuss existing challenges among practitioners and support better-informed decision-making. It is just one of the examples of capacity-building activities that form part of the project alongside awareness-raising, e-waste policy and regulation advice and financial advice, among other activities.

With presentations from renowned international e-waste experts on plastics, financing and more, the Academy also featured a number of practical sessions with participants learning how to dismantle electrical equipment, including a visit to the Global Electric Electronic Processing plant.

“As the issue of e-waste continues to represent a threat to both the global environment and human health, activities like this are essential for harmonizing and strengthening regional cooperation and knowledge exchange,” affirms UNIDO project manager, Alfredo Cueva.

Currently, the world produces approximately 50 million tonnes of e-waste a year – the equivalent of the total weight of all the commercial airliners ever made. This figure is predicted to rise to 120m tonnes by 2050.

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on the project, including national governments other organzsations and local e-waste recyclers, SC and BC regional centres, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as various other partners, such as Dell, RELAC and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).

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