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OECD urges more action on bridging digital divides, boosting skills and enhancing access to data

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The digital transformation is well under way, yet its scope and speed varies greatly across countries, sectors, people and places. Going digital will only fully benefit economies and societies if governments step up efforts to prepare businesses, people and policies for a digital world, the OECD said today.

More people are connected to the Internet than ever before, but gaps persist and new ones may emerge, according to data presented during the OECD’s Going Digital Summit taking place in Paris on 11-12 March. More than four in 10 rural households in OECD countries don’t have access to the fast fixed broadband needed to support the Internet of Things, whereas nearly nine in 10 households in urban areas have fast connections. A striking gap also remains between the way people with low and high levels of education use the Internet: over 40 percentage points’ difference in the case of Internet banking.

A digital divide by gender sees women lagging behind in information and communications technology (ICT) professions, and more than twice as many young men as young women are able to program. In some countries, the gender divide in Internet usage is still too high.

“The digital transformation is affecting every aspect of our lives. It is redefining social and economic interactions; it is raising concerns about jobs, skills, privacy and security. And it is testing our policy frameworks as we try to balance innovations that can greatly improve people’s well-being with many other concerns involving privacy, security, competition or equality, to mention just a few,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “We have a responsibility to get the digital transformation right so it empowers and improves everybody’s lives.”

The digital transformation of economies and societies brings a significant training challenge. Only 31% of adults have sufficient problem-solving skills to succeed in a digital world, and the highly skilled tend to benefit more from digital opportunities. Training must target those most in need, particularly low-skilled workers of whom only 40% receive firm-based training compared to 73% of high-skilled workers.

Data and data flows are an increasingly important source of value creation. Every day, data is produced equivalent to about 1.25 billion DVDs. Creating more value in the digital age requires enhancing access to and sharing of data, promoting interoperable privacy regimes to facilitate cross-border data flows, and opening up government data while taking account of national and private security concerns.

Broader concerns over online privacy and trust must also be addressed, as well as the impact of social networks on people’s mental health and on democracy. Cyberbullying is a growing challenge, with nearly one in ten 15-year-olds saying they are subject to it. The rapid development of Artificial Intelligence is revolutionising production and science and bringing direct benefits to consumers through applications like smart home appliances, improved healthcare and fraud detection but AI is also raising trust, safety and accountability concerns The OECD is seeking to address these by designing a set of guiding principles for AI.

Other key findings and recommendations include:

The Internet of Things is growing so fast that by 2022 three devices will be connected for every person in the world. But network capacity often lags behind. There are only seven fibre subscriptions per 100 people in the OECD area. Promoting competition and removing barriers to investment in infrastructure, especially fibre, can help increase access.

Most people, firms and governments are connected, but few are advanced users. Only 11% of small firms perform big data analysis compared to 33% of large ones. Governments can encourage more-sophisticated use of digital tools by investing in ICTs and skills.

Innovation is increasingly digital and data-driven, but not all countries innovate in the same way. Over 2013-16, about 33% of OECD country patents were in ICT compared to about 60% in China. Governments can boost innovation by promoting entrepreneurship, supporting basic research, and investing in R&D, patents and software.

The digital transformation is changing the world of work. OECD estimates show that automation may affect almost half of all jobs in the future, but four out of ten jobs created in the past decade were in highly digital-intensive sectors. It is vital that governments ensure fair transitions from declining to expanding job areas and strike a balance between flexibility and mobility on one hand and job stability on the other.

Trust fundamentally underpins the digital transformation, but almost a third of Internet users mistrust social and professional networks and 15% of EU citizens do not shop or bank online because of security concerns. Digital security risk management and improving online consumer protection should be strategic priorities.

Digital technologies and data transform how countries compete, trade and invest. For example, firms in the most digital-intensive sectors enjoy a 55% higher mark-up than other firms, and cross-border acquisitions of digital-intensive firms grew 20 percentage points more than those in other sectors over 2007-15. Reducing barriers to trade and investment, and addressing changing dynamics, can foster more market openness.

Two reports and an interactive data tool are being launched at the Going Digital Summit:

Going Digital: Shaping Policies, Improving Lives, which presents a comprehensive strategy for policy making in the digital age.

Measuring the Digital Transformation: A Roadmap for the Future, which proposes nine actions to build the next generation of data and indicators capable of dealing with the challenges of the digital transformation.

The online Going Digital Toolkit shows how countries compare in a raft of different areas from digital access and use to market openness, investment and trust, and featuring policy guidance and analysis to help countries realise the promises of digital transformation. 

The OECD Going Digital Summit culminates Phase I of the OECD Going Digital Project, presenting the main findings and policy messages from the last two years of work by the Organisation in this area. The summit brings together high-level policy makers responsible for policies related to the digital economy and key stakeholders, to exchange views and share practices and experiences around the seven pillars of the OECD’s Going Digital integrated policy framework: enhancing access, increasing effective use, unleashing innovation, ensuring jobs, promoting social prosperity, strengthening trust and fostering market openness. The 2019 Ministerial Council Meeting of the OECD, taking place next 22-23 May and chaired by the Slovak Republic, will precisely focus on “Harnessing the Digital Transition for Sustainable Development: Opportunities and Challenges”.

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An App to Ease Safety QR Check-Ins Wins the 2021 APEC App Challenge

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An app that makes it easy for people in the region to do their safety QR code check-ins, developed and designed by a team from Australia, has won the 2021 APEC App Challenge, held on the eve of the 2021 APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting (MRT). The announcement was made by Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Export Growth, who chaired the meeting.

In its fifth year, the APEC App Challenge asked software developers and designers from across the region to build new mobile and web tools that can help the revival of the tourism sector and promote a safe and trustworthy travel environment, especially as the APEC region prepares for a resumption of travel.

The APEC 2021 host economy, New Zealand, has based the competition on a key priority for the forum this year: pursuing innovation and a digitally enabled recovery.

“As member economies work to facilitate the movement of people around the region, it is important to pursue digital tools that support the resumption of travel—when the time is right,” said Minister O’Connor.

“The safe resumption of cross-border travel will be critical to the region’s recovery,” Minister O’Connor said. “Returning to sustainable tourism numbers will support a wide range of businesses, boost employment, and underpin inclusive growth.”

Bryce Cronin and Saira Ambrose, who are from Australia, developed the OneQR Check-In app to help travelers scan and complete their safety check-ins quicker no matter the destination in the region. The winning team will receive a prize of USD 4,000.

“Around the region, people now need to do a safety check-in using a QR code before entering a venue,” said Ambrose. “As we prepare for a safe resumption of travel, QR check-ins will play an even more prominent role.”

The app works by showing travelers what QR check-in app they need to use or install when they travel to a different location. If the local check-in app has been installed on the traveler’s phone, OneQR will redirect travelers to the app. If not, OneQR will direct travelers to the phone’s app store to install the local safety check-in app.

“We believe that the safety check-in process should be quick, easy and simple,” Cronin explained. “Our app aims to assure travelers and hopefully contribute to building back the confidence of the tourism sector both for businesses and travelers.”

Held virtually from 14 May to 5 June, the coding competition, supported by The Asia Foundation and Google, attracted 170 participants from 13 APEC member economies.

Seirios, an app to help travelers rediscover local attractions with a COVID-19 safety rating, by an Australian team won second prize. Wanderer, an app that offers a safer shopping experience, by a Malaysian team won the third prize of the 2021 APEC App Challenge. The developers of Seirios and Wanderer will receive USD 3,000 and USD 2,000, respectively.

“The APEC App Challenge is not only a creative competition for young software developers and designers,” said Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, “it is a critical measure for addressing the current challenges within APEC where we need to bring together various stakeholders in the region, including the youth, to solve the biggest economic and health crisis of our generation, together.”

“This year’s App Challenge has highlighted an issue we’ve all been wondering about: how can we help generate income in communities that are heavily reliant on tourism and have been hit hard by the pandemic?” said John Karr, The Asia Foundation’s Senior Director of Technology Programs. “Participants have developed a range of solutions that highlight the ability of digital tools to help people discover safer and more local recreation opportunities, and—where it’s possible—get people moving again.”

“Tourism is vital to local economies and livelihoods across Asia-Pacific, and the impact of the pandemic has hit regional communities and small business owners especially hard,” said Scott Beaumont, President of Google Asia-Pacific. “There is a long road to recovery, but technology can help the industry rebuild and emerge stronger—and these brilliant developers are showing us the way.”

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Commission proposes a trusted and secure Digital Identity for all Europeans

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The Commission today proposed a framework for a European Digital Identity which will be available to all EU citizens, residents, and businesses in the EU. Citizens will be able to prove their identity and share electronic documents from their European Digital Identity wallets with the click of a button on their phone. They will be able to access online services with their national digital identification, which will be recognised throughout Europe. Very large platforms will be required to accept the use of European Digital Identity wallets upon request of the user, for example to prove their age. Use of the European Digital Identity wallet will always be at the choice of the user.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age said: “The European digital identity will enable us to do in any Member State as we do at home without any extra cost and fewer hurdles. Be that renting a flat or opening a bank account outside of our home country. And do this in a way that is secure and transparent. So that we will decide how much information we wish to share about ourselves, with whom and for what purpose. This is a unique opportunity to take us all further into experiencing what it means to live in Europe, and to be European.”

Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said: “EU citizens not only expect a high level of security but also convenience whether they are dealing with national administrations such as to submit a tax return or to enroll at a European university where they need official identification. The European Digital Identity wallets offer a new possibility for them to store and use data for all sorts of services, from checking in at the airport to renting a car. It is about giving a choice to consumers, a European choice. Our European companies, large and small, will also benefit from this digital identity, they will be able to offer a wide range of new services since the proposal offers a solution for secure and trusted identification services.”

The European Digital Identity framework           

Under the new Regulation, Member States will offer citizens and businesses digital wallets that will be able to link their national digital identities with proof of other personal attributes (e.g. driving licence, diplomas, bank account). These wallets may be provided by public authorities or by private entities, provided they are recognised by a Member State.

The new European Digital Identity Wallets will enable all Europeans to access services online without having to use private identification methods or unnecessarily sharing personal data. With this solution they will have full control of the data they share.

The European Digital Identity will be:

  • Available to anyone who wants to use it: Any EU citizen, resident, and business in the Union who would like to make use of the European Digital Identity will be able to do so.
  • Widely useable: The European Digital Identity wallets will be useable widely as a way either to identify users or to prove certain personal attributes, for the purpose of access to public and private digital services across the Union.
  • Users in control of their data: The European Digital Identity wallets will enable people to choose which aspects of their identity, data and certificates they share with third parties, and to keep track of such sharing. User control ensures that only information that needs to be shared will be shared.

To make it a reality as soon as possible, the proposal is accompanied by a Recommendation. The Commission invites Member States to establish a common toolbox by September 2022 and to start the necessary preparatory work immediately. This toolbox should include the technical architecture, standards and guidelines for best practices.

Next Steps

In parallel to the legislative process, the Commission will work with Member States and the private sector on technical aspects of the European Digital Identity. Through the Digital Europe Programme, the Commission will support the implementation of the European Digital Identity framework, and many Member States have foreseen projects for the implementation of the e-government solutions, including the European Digital Identity in their national plans under the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Background

The Commission’s 2030 Digital Compass sets out a number of targets and milestones which the European Digital Identity will help achieve. For example, by 2030, all key public services should be available online, all citizens will have access to electronic medical records; and 80% citizens should use an eID solution.

For this initiative, the Commission builds on the existing cross-border legal framework for trusted digital identities, the European electronic identification and trust services initiative (eIDAS Regulation). Adopted in 2014, it provides the basis for cross-border electronic identification, authentication and website certification within the EU. Already about 60% of Europeans can benefit from the current system.

However, there is no requirement for Member States to develop a national digital ID and to make it interoperable with the ones of other Member States, which leads to high discrepancies between countries. The current proposal will address these shortcomings by improving the effectiveness of the framework and extending its benefits to the private sector and to mobile use.

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Carbon neutral nickel and tokens – Russian Norilsk Nickel 2021

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Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel plans to produce the first batch of carbon neutral nickel this year and is expanding its participation in blockchain platforms, company officials said.

Over the past two years, Norilsk Nickel has reduced its carbon footprint by more than 70,000 tonnes and plans to produce the first batch of carbon-neutral nickel in the near future, Interros head Sergey Batekhin told reporters.

Interros, Norilsk Nickel’s largest shareholder.

The “green” status of these products of the company will not be ensured by offsets, but through a certain set of measures that made it possible to offset the carbon footprint of this batch. In early June, the company’s board of directors approved a new environmental strategy aimed at further reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency. At present, Norilsk Nickel is in the lower segment of the global indicators of the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions and is the leader in the use of renewable energy sources: in 2020, the share of electricity obtained from renewable sources amounted to 46% for the group as a whole. According to Batekhin, the carbon neutral metal will be in demand by the world’s most demanding manufacturers such as Tesla, Apple and others, especially in anticipation of the carbon tax that the EU plans to introduce from 2023.

This is also facilitated by additional projects that could be operational by 2025, further reducing the carbon footprint. For example, the transition of a part of mining equipment to NGV fuel.

Norilsk Nickel is preparing to build an LNG plant. The project is expected to be completed within 3-4 years. The commissioning of the plant will be synchronized with the peak of the use of large equipment in mining pits in 2024-25.

Interros also entered the consortium of investors for the Atomyze blockchain platform, Batekhin said.

Atomyze deals with the tokenization of physical assets, that is, the translation of them into digital form. One of the first issuers of Atomyze was Norilsk Nickel, which last year issued tokens for its metals on this platform. Tokens are actively traded on the London and Frankfurt stock exchanges; they are planned to be placed on other world platforms. “Own platforms for tokenization are an element of a full-fledged infrastructure of the digital economy, which is important from the point of view of ensuring digital equality of Russia with the world’s largest economies,” Batekhin said. The Atomyze platform exists in American and Swiss jurisdictions pending permission from the Central Bank of Russia. At the end of May, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs asked the Central Bank to speed up the licensing of tokenization platforms in Russia.

Earlier, Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and nickel, has issued the first tokens involving metal contracts to its major industrial partners Traxys SA and Umicore SA.

Norilsk Nickel was one of the first in the industry and in the world to launch this mechanism.

Atomyze uses Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) to tokenize assets in digital form providing accessibility, reducing costs, and increasing transparency. GPF, the platform’s first client, is issuing tokens covering the whole range of metals produced by Nornickel — via the Atomyze tokenization platform operated by Tokentrust AG.

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