Brazil has made significant progress in improving Internet access, digital security and regulation, yet more needs to be done to reduce the country’s digital divide and embrace digital technologies. As Brazil, like the rest of the world, works to contain the COVID-19 crisis, stepping up the pace of digital transformation could hasten and reinforce a just and resilient recovery, according to the OECD.
“Digital technologies are the backbone of today’s economies, and digital tools and connectivity are essential in helping businesses and people to weather the COVID-19 crisis,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, launching twin Reviews of Brazil’s digital transformation and its telecommunication and broadcasting sectors. “As Brazil and the world work to tackle this devastating crisis, Brazil should do everything to seize the opportunities offered by digitalisation to strengthen the recovery and build a resilient, inclusive future economy.”
The Review of the country’s digital transformation, Going Digital in Brazil, finds that despite recent progress, Brazil lags in investment in digital innovation and in the level of digital skills in the workforce. The Review recommends ways to increase digital uptake among people and firms, strengthen digital security and privacy, and spur innovation. It calls for better co-ordination of digital transformation policies among ministries and government agencies and for greater resources for implementing Brazil’s Digital Transformation Strategy (E-Digital).
A parallel report, the OECD Telecommunication and Broadcasting Review of Brazil 2020, shows where there is room for Brazil to catch up with advanced economies in ensuring access to high-quality communication services that are fundamental for a successful and inclusive digital transformation. It suggests actions to improve market conditions, competition and the policy and regulatory framework in communication and broadcasting. It also recommends an overhaul of taxes, fees and tariffs that limit operators’ scope for investment and innovation.
Creating a single independent regulator to oversee communication and broadcasting services, as some other countries have done, would help to lower prices and improve quality as services in the two sectors increasingly overlap, the Review says. Similarly, introducing a single-class licensing regime for the two sectors would lower legal costs and administrative burdens for operators. Meanwhile, an upcoming auction of 5G spectrum should be carefully designed to ensure optimal network coverage and competition conditions.
Getting digital policy right is vital in all countries to ensure that the benefits of the digital transformation – such as boosting productivity and improving well-being – are shared fairly across economies and societies. Digital tools can also help to efficiently target social spending. On the other hand, getting digital policy wrong risks worsening existing inequalities between high and low-skilled individuals, large and small firms, and urban and rural regions.
Among the progress made in Brazil in recent years, subscriptions to communications services have steadily increased, thanks to a more than tripling in mobile subscriptions from 2012 to 2019, and relatively affordable mobile voice and data plans. The share of households with Internet access rose to 67% in 2018 from 40% in 2013, and the share of adults using the Internet to 72% from 50%. New laws have strengthened digital security, and consumer and personal data protection. Brazil has created an exemplary institutional structure for Internet governance – the Internet Steering Committee – and has taken steps to strengthen the independence of the communication regulator and to promote competition in mobile markets.
Despite this progress, challenges remain. As of 2018, nearly a quarter of Brazilian adults had never used the Internet, with data showing that Internet use is closely linked to levels of education, income and age. There is also a persistent urban-rural digital divide, with 75% of the adult population in urban areas using the Internet against only 49% in rural areas.
Fixed broadband is less affordable in Brazil than mobile, and while Brazil had 90 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants as of June 2019, not far behind the OECD average of 113, fixed-line broadband penetration of 16% was only half the OECD average of 31%. Only 54% of firms with 10 or more employees had a website in 2019, compared with an OECD average of 78%, and while e-commerce is growing steadily, only 21% of companies conducted sales online in 2019.
A summary of key recommendations from the two Reviews:
Continue to improve digital skills, particularly among micro enterprises and people with low levels of education. Offer firms tax incentives for investing in digital technology upgrades and training. Do more to support research and development in ICT services and innovative start-ups. Increase funding for students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. Remove regulatory barriers to the development of e-commerce.
Improve access to reliable, affordable and high-quality Internet by deploying fibre optic infrastructure to rural and remote areas and by encouraging competition in communication services. In broadcasting, where concentration is higher, reduce barriers to entry and remove de facto legal restrictions on the vertical integration of the pay TV value chain. Design the upcoming auction for 5G spectrum in a way that ensures a competitive market, particularly in light of new legislation enabling the successive renewal of spectrum licences.
Create a converged and independent regulator to oversee both communication and broadcasting, and replace the current dual licensing system with a single-class licensing regime for communication and broadcasting services. Harmonise tax rates in the communications sector across states and reduce them where possible. Aim to overhaul the indirect tax system in the long term to reduce distortions.
Global leaders to shape the Davos Agenda ahead of ‘crucial year to rebuild trust’
The Davos Agenda is a pioneering mobilization of global leaders to rebuild trust to shape the principles, policies and partnerships needed in 2021. The virtual meeting will build momentum ahead of the Special Annual Meeting in the spring. The Davos Agenda will feature a full week of global programming on 25-29 January 2021 with the active participation of heads of state, CEOs, civil society leaders, global media and youth leaders from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America and Latin America.
“2021 is a crucial year to rebuild trust,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. “The world is at a crossroads. The pandemic has reversed important gains in the global fight against unemployment, climate change and poverty. Leaders must come together for decisive and inclusive action.
Building a better future for work, accelerating stakeholder capitalism, and harnessing the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be important topics on the Davos Agenda.
The five programme themes are:
– Designing cohesive, sustainable, resilient economic systems (25 January)
– Driving responsible industry transformation and growth (26 January)
– Enhancing stewardship of our global commons (27 January)
– Harnessing the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (28 January)
– Advancing global and regional cooperation (29 January)
Heads of state and of government and international organizations will give special addresses on the state of the world, as well as engaging in dialogue with business leaders. Industry leaders and public figures will discuss how to advance and accelerate public-private collaboration on critical issues such as COVID-19 vaccination, job creation and climate change, among others. The Forum’s core communities, including its International Business Council, will share their insight and recommendations from global, regional and industry initiatives in impact sessions.
The high-level agenda-setting dialogues that characterize the Forum’s January meeting will take place throughout the week and will be live streamed – providing more opportunities for the public to engage. Sessions will take place across Beijing, Geneva, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo time zones to ensure global participation.
Table for 10 Billion? Leaders to Unlock More Sustainable and Equitable Food Future
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated vulnerabilities in food systems – highlighting the insecurity of rural livelihoods, the tragedy of food waste, and stark inequities in access to healthy food. As the global population races to 10 billion, more needs to be done to feed the planet while tackling the environmental impact of agriculture and addressing lack of biodiversity.
To mobilize the coordinated and large-scale action needed to support our future, the World Economic Forum and13 organizations from the public and private sectors have partnered on the Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good event from 23-24 November 2020.
Next week’s meeting brings together a global network of leaders who can drive transformational change in the food industry; identify potential ‘game changer’ initiatives and necessary action plans for a more sustainable food system; and bring onboard different perspectives from all over the world. The virtual event has been independently organised in support of the United Nation’s 2021 Food Systems Summit.
Key sessions will be livestreamed on the Forum’s website. To participate in the meeting, ask questions and share ideas, please register for the Forum’s TopLink platform. Members of the media can request accreditation here.
The event will cover five key themes, aligned with the five Action Tracks of the UN Summit, including:
Key sessions to watch:
- A Vision for Food Systems of the Future: What do we need to know and what can be done to tackle the urgent food crisis from the perspectives of ministers, farmers, young entrepreneurs, influencers and others.
- Building a Stronger Food System: Game-changing initiatives and solutions that could make the food system more sustainable and equitable.
- Innovation Challenges: Wageningen University and One Young World will host sessions featuring new innovations from young students and entrepreneurs.
- Closing Plenary: This session will provide an overview of the priorities and commitments from multiple stakeholders across the two-day event.
This joint-partner organized event is co-led by the World Economic Forum, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Farmers Organization, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Unilever, PepsiCo, Royal DSM, Rabobank, One Young World, Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, Wageningen University & Research, and the Government of The Netherlands.
Industrial policy and the road to recovery
The COVID-19 pandemic is posing enormous challenges to economic development, yet it may also unveil new opportunities to ‘build back better’. Renewed industrial policies can play a significant role in shaping the road to overcome the crisis and set countries back on the path of economic development.
Opening the second episode of the webinar series, “Future of Industrialization in a post-pandemic world”, LI Yong, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) said, “Strengthening the industrial sector is the key to the recovery. To achieve this important goal, industrial policies must be at the centre of governments’ reactions.”
A similar view was shared by Mario Cimoli, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), who emphasized that the post-pandemic recovery must be transformative and countries should place a primary focus not only on economic growth, but also on the direction of growth. “We need growth, but the quality of growth is important. Equality is the pre-condition for industrial policy, growth and development,” said Cimoli.
Drawing on her experience as a policy advisor on innovation-led inclusive and sustainable growth, Mariana Mazzucato, Professor of Economics of Innovation and Public Value at the University College London (UCL) and Founding Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, discussed the role of public-private partnership in providing an effective response to the global challenges accelerated by the pandemic – from decarbonization to the digital divide, to any issue around the health system.
Using examples from developing economies, such as Viet Nam and the Indian state of Kerala, Mazzucato stressed the importance of investing in state capacity for a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery. “With COVID-19, we realized we need state capacity”, she said.
She also remarked on the need to place SDGs at the centre of industrial strategy by transforming them into missions to orientate governments’ actions. “SDGs are complex goals. We need to transform governments’ activities – even everyday ones, such as industrial procurement – to be SDG-focused”, said Mazzucato. Pursuing such outcome-focused industrial strategy requires a renewed collaboration across sectors and stakeholders to redesign policy instruments together. In this regard, Mazzucato highlighted the transformational purpose of attaching goal-focused conditions to recovery packages, and how this can lead to more sustainable solutions and social outcomes.
The crucial role of governments in supporting the recovery was also highlighted by Justin Lin, Professor and Dean of the National School of Development at Peking University. Building on his New Structural Economics approach, Lin discussed how industrial policies are necessary to sustain structural change and build more resilient and competitive economies. “To develop an industrial sector, we need a facilitating State,” he said. “If the government is not playing a facilitation role, a spontaneous structural transformation cannot occur.”
In discussing the main challenges to structural change posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lin emphasized that the pandemic recession will leave developing countries with less resources to allocate to industrial policies for structural change. For a fast, inclusive and sustainable recovery, “we need to aim for a quick-win,” he said. “This implies helping existing firms with trade credit, tax exemption and debt rescheduling to get back to production and to provide jobs, export and revenues.” Then, he concluded “the government can use industrial policy to identify priority industries and facilitate the investments to achieve sustainable industrialization”.
All panellists agreed that industrial policies will have a renewed role in shaping the road towards recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and in ‘building back better.’ Recovery packages should be shaped in a way to accelerate a transformative recovery towards a more inclusive and sustainable industrial development, acceleration that can be supported by the industrial application of advanced digital technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The importance of aligning efforts to achieve a resilient industrial development will be at the core of the next flagship report of UNIDO, the Industrial Development Report 2022, which will focus on the impact that the pandemic on the future of industrialization.
About 500 participants from diverse backgrounds followed the “Industrial policy and the road to recovery” webinar via Zoom and YouTube, and contributed to the discussion with a range of interesting questions.
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