The World Economic Forum (WEF) focused on its fourth day on exploring the actions and policies that countries need to take to be ready for the new normal imposed by the COVID-19 crisis, including dealing with digital currencies, accelerating digital inclusion and maintaining global cooperation as key drivers for both economic recovery and building these economies better.
On digital inclusion, Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation of Rwanda Paula Ingabire stressed that digital inclusion must be addressed urgently in Africa as well as in many lower-income countries around the world.
She added that governments have a major role to play in delivering connectivity, learning opportunities, and entertainment content to people.
“Building digital citizens must be a priority for governments and other public-sector stakeholders which work to deliver digital infrastructure and other solutions,” said Ingabire.
Meanwhile, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Vista Equity Partners Robert F. Smith said that building broadband infrastructure is critical for the future of global economies, adding that broadband could address education deserts as well as healthcare deserts through telemedicine solutions.
WEF also discussed the role that digital currencies can play in the “new normal” imposed by COVID-19, which has accelerated the long-term shift from cash to digital payments, with an 8 percent increase in non-cash payments in the euro area alone in 2020.
In this regard, Zhu Min, chairman of the National Institute of Financial Research, asserted that the potential for using central bank digital economy is huge and promising, revealing that China is currently developing a central bank digital currency (CBDC).
“Accordingly, China’s effort at present is focused on continuing to do more tests to expand the scope and test the system's efficacy and usability. Security and stability are the most important thing,” said Zhu.
“It's not just China. The majority of central banks are actively exploring the potential of CBDC's,” said Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of the Government of Singapore.
COVID-19 has raised the e-commerce activity and other industries, thus the old system based on cash payments is being disrupted by new players, according to Shanmugaratnam.
“Moving forward, we must establish both domestic interoperability and international operability both for retail payments as well as addressing the whole issue of digital identity,” said Shanmugaratnam.
King of Jordan sees hope
On Thursday, the WEF hosted Jordanian King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, who said that despite the pandemic continuing to engulf the world, with its long-term harsh humanitarian and economic implications, there is a glimmer of hope in the form of vaccines.
“We have a moral duty to treat the vaccine as a global public good and ensure that low-income and poor countries have real access to it,” said King Abdullah.
He added that Jordan hosts the second highest number of refugees per capita globally, and that safeguarding the health and wellbeing of refugees remains a global responsibility.
Al-Hussein called for a re-globalisation that seeks a sustainable, equitable and green recovery, and puts the wellbeing of people and the planet first.
On the economic recovery, he noted that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of growing economies, while financial inclusion and improving access to education are priorities.
He also stressed that returning to business as usual is neither sustainable nor effective.
“We must put equity, inclusivity, and dignity at the heart of our multilateral efforts,” he said.