Dig­i­tal econ­omy can fos­ter growth and bridge di­vide

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD INTERNET CONFERENCE - By MA SI, ZHOU LANXU and LIU YUKUN in Wuzhen, Zhe­jiang Con­tact the writ­ers at masi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Al­though sub­stan­tial progress has been made in in­ter­net ex­pan­sion, more ef­forts are needed to bridge the dig­i­tal di­vide among coun­tries and re­gions, given that nearly half of the global pop­u­la­tion still does not have ac­cess to the in­ter­net, of­fi­cials and ex­perts said at the Fifth World In­ter­net Con­fer­ence on Thurs­day.

Vi­viane Red­ing, for­mer vice-pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, said dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies are be­com­ing an in­te­gral part of ev­ery­day life for many peo­ple.

Over the past decade, Eu­rope has sub­stan­tially re­duced the dig­i­tal di­vide, but the gap re­mains far from be­ing closed, said Red­ing, who is now a mem­ber of Lux­em­bourg’s par­lia­ment.

The re­marks, made at the Min­is­te­rial Fo­rum: Bridg­ing the Dig­i­tal Di­vide, a sub-fo­rum of the WIC, came af­ter a re­port from the United Na­tions showed that about nearly half of peo­ple on the planet still do not have in­ter­net ac­cess.

Also, mas­sive dis­par­i­ties in con­nec­tion speeds ex­ist in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, with a gulf be­tween the fastest and slow­est. Such a gap pre­vents peo­ple from less-de­vel­oped coun­tries and re­gions from en­joy­ing the ben­e­fits of dig­i­tal ad­vance­ment, the UN re­port added.

In the face of such chal­lenges, of­fi­cials and ex­perts at the fo­rum called for more ef­forts to build net­work in­fra­struc­ture as well as an in­ten­si­fied cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional push to boost dig­i­tal lit­er­acy.

Zhou Shuchun, pub­lisher and ed­i­tor-in-chief of China Daily, con­tended that the dig­i­tal econ­omy has be­come an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant driver for global growth and its fast pace of de­vel­op­ment in dif­fer­ent coun­tries and grow­ing in­te­gra­tion with other sec­tors are of­fer­ing strong sup­port to bridge the global dig­i­tal gap.

“We sup­port the idea of a glob­al­ized dig­i­tal mar­ket, which is ex­pected to fur­ther pro­pel the re­cov­ery and pros­per­ity of the global econ­omy, ” Zhou said.

The global dig­i­tal econ­omy is ex­pected to hit $23 tril­lion in 2025, al­most dou­bling the scale in 2017, ac­cord­ing to the Global Con­nec­tion In­dex re­port re­leased by Chi­nese tech com­pany Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co Ltd.

Joseph Wak­aba Mucheru, cab­i­net sec­re­tary of Kenya’s Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Tech­nol­ogy, said rais­ing aware­ness of the dig­i­tal di­vide is one of the keys to solv­ing this prob­lem.

Now Kenya has mo­bile pen-

at the Min­is­te­rial Fo­rum on “Bridg­ing the Dig­i­tal Di­vide”, a sub-fo­rum of the Fifth World In­ter­net Con­fer­ence, de­liv­ers a speech.

a mem­ber of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Liaon­ing Pro­vin­cial Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China

A guest etra­tion of 90.4 per­cent and dig­i­tal broad­cast­ing sig­nal cov­er­age of 83.6 per­cent, but chal­lenges re­main, in­clud­ing last mile broad­band con­nec­tiv­ity, tech­nol­ogy de­pen­dence, and the frag­mented African mar­ket, Mucheru added.

At the fo­rum, Chi­nese of­fi­cials also shared their ex­pe­ri­ences in ex­pand­ing in­ter­net cov­er­age, in the hope of help­ing ru­ral res­i­dents en­joy a wide range of dig­i­tal ser­vices such as shop­ping on­line.

Zhang Fuhai, a mem­ber of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Liaon­ing Pro­vin­cial Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China and the prov­ince’s top pub­lic­ity of­fi­cial, said as a ma­jor in­dus­trial base in China, Liaon­ing prov­ince used to see slack de­vel­op­ment of its dig­i­tal econ­omy.

“But in re­cent years, we have striven to bridge the dig­i­tal di­vide within the prov­ince and seize the op­por­tu­nity of dig­i­tal­iza­tion to boost the lo­cal econ­omy. Specif­i­cally, we have ac­tively de­vel­oped in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies to up­date our in­dus­trial en­ter­prises and fos­ter new growth mo­men­tum such as soft­ware de­vel­op­ment,” Zhang said.

“We re­al­ize in­for­ma­tion ex­change and the ap­pli­ca­tion of new tech­nolo­gies are two keys to ex­pand­ing in­ter­net cov­er­age. Also, a sound net­work in­fra­struc­ture and probusi­ness en­vi­ron­ment are also needed to un­der­pin the process,” he added.

Such an in­ten­si­fied push to over­come the dig­i­tal di­vide also comes as tech­nolo­gies are play­ing a strate­gic role in buoy­ing growth and in­no­va­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, a 10 per­cent in­crease in broad­band pen­e­tra­tion in­creases GDP by 1 to 1.5 per­cent.

Also, boost­ing dig­i­tal in­clu­sion can also in­crease the qual­ity of life of in­di­vid­u­als by fa­cil­i­tat­ing ac­cess to ser­vices and the eco­nomic pos­si­bil­i­ties for lo­cal busi­nesses, ul­ti­mately im­prov­ing co­he­sion, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

Garba Shehu, se­nior spe­cial as­sis­tant to the Pres­i­dent of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria on Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity, said the coun­try is mak­ing ac­cel­er­ated ef­forts to re­duce the dig­i­tal di­vide, a push as­sisted by Chi­nese com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co Ltd.

The Nige­rian gov­ern­ment is aim­ing to pro­vide fiber con­nec­tiv­ity to all 774 lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas of Nige­ria within four years, and is work­ing to bring down gov­ern­ment taxes and levies as­so­ci­ated with rolling out broad­band in­fra­struc­ture.

“Chi­nese com­pa­nies like Huawei have played an im­por­tant role in help­ing our dig­i­tal push,” he added. Huawei has spon­sored Nige­rian stu­dents’ in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy train­ing in China and it has also opened a tech­nol­ogy hub in the coun­try.

Gabriel Lim, per­ma­nent sec­re­tary of the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion of the Repub­lic of Sin­ga­pore, said: “The more we use dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, the more we should make sure that ev­ery ci­ti­zen has the knowl­edge and skills to seize the op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided by the tech­nolo­gies.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, Sin­ga­pore is step­ping up its push to trans­form it­self into a “Smart Na­tion”, a na­tion where peo­ple live mean­ing­ful and ful­filled lives, en­abled by tech­nol­ogy.

“We must turn a dig­i­tal di­vide into a dig­i­tal mul­ti­plier,” Lin said, adding that Sin­ga­pore is try­ing to pro­vide uni­ver­sal dig­i­tal ac­cess for each ci­ti­zen, en­sure life­long dig­i­tal lit­er­acy through in­ter­gen­er­a­tional teach­ing, and en­cour­age cit­i­zens’ ac­tive dig­i­tal par­tic­i­pa­tion in con­tribut­ing ideas that could make lives bet­ter.

Also, the dig­i­tal gap is not just about net­work in­fra­struc­ture, and ed­u­ca­tion is of im­por­tance to solve this prob­lem. Wu Zhao­hui, pres­i­dent of Zhe­jiang Univer­sity, an aca­demi­cian of the Chi­nese Acad­emy of Sciences, said lev­er­ag­ing dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies to make ed­u­ca­tion more ac­ces­si­ble is one of the keys to clos­ing the gap.

Dif­fer­ent from phys­i­cal class­rooms, dig­i­tal or on­line ed­u­ca­tion of­fers a way to boost teach­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Ed­u­ca­tion re­sources can flow across borders, and dif­fer­ent lev­els of ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions can also co­op­er­ate with each other more deeply. Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances will give birth to a new hu­man-ma­chine col­lab­o­ra­tion sys­tem in ed­u­ca­tion, which will in­volve per­son­al­ized learn­ing and in­tel­li­gent in­ter­ac­tive teach­ing meth­ods.

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Joseph Wak­aba Mucheru, cab­i­net sec­re­tary of Kenya’s Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Tech­nol­ogy, ad­dresses the Min­is­te­rial Fo­rum on “Bridg­ing the Dig­i­tal Di­vide”, a sub-fo­rum of the Fifth World In­ter­net Con­fer­ence. Zhang Fuhai,

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

A par­tic­i­pant of the Min­is­te­rial Fo­rum on “Bridg­ing the Dig­i­tal Di­vide” takes a pho­to­graph with his iPad.

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