July 20, 2023
Vice President, U.S.-Africa Business Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director, U.S.-South Africa Business Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director, Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The Rule of Law Coalition works to promote stability, transparency, and equitable, ethical growth in the global economy. Digital transformation plays a large role in the sharing and spreading of information across all industries, as was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a discussion panel titled “Digital Transformation in Rule of Law,” leaders shared key issues and opportunities for creating an inclusive global economic recovery plan in the era of digital transformation.
Trust Must Be Established Between People and Leaders
In creating an equitable economy, the panelists agreed it’s imperative to first establish trust between the public and private sectors.
“Trust is the most critical digital infrastructure,” said J. Welby Leaman, Senior Director for Global Public Policy at Walmart. “And that trust means, in that context, getting transparency into our digital transformation inclusion, so that people can trust that we are engaging with them from a substantive perspective, their needs, their values, their desires.”
Once trust is established between the people and the elected officials who serve them, learning how to effectively use the digital tools at hand becomes the next step in creating a more equitable future.
“We have been stressing to mayors and other city and state officials that digital engagement can be a portal to democracy and to the rule of law work that you are all doing,” said Thomas Wickham, Senior Vice President of State and Local Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Implementing Simple Digital Systems Establishes Transparency
In addition to establishing trust, the panelists emphasized upholding the rule of law in economics also depends on creating strong relationships with small business owners through digital tools.
“The digital tools for rule of law and an inclusive recovery agenda is an agenda that derives not from some sort of antiseptic institutional interest of Walmart or of the private sector,” said Leaman, “but rather from a grassroots, bottom-up look at where trust needs to be stronger based upon the lived experience of actual customers, actual associates, actual small suppliers and local government partners.”
To implement a system of digital transformation to connect suppliers and customers, Leaman gave electronic invoicing as an example.
“When we do that, it becomes very quickly clear that early prioritization and digitalization of government systems should include things like electronic invoicing,” Leaman continued. “It makes it both easier and more trustworthy through the entire ecosystem to see compliance with tax policy, which is critical for integration of small suppliers in a manner to grow.”
In terms of how city officials can connect digitally with constituents, Wickham cited several easy, low-budget ways to increase connectedness and “bolster democracy and the rule of law.”
“Mayors are very influential figures in the community,” Wickham said. “They all give State of the City addresses. They're frequently on local television. They all have YouTube channels, and if they can stress increased digital engagement in those messaging platforms, I think that's something that's achievable by all of them.”
An Inclusive Global Economy Begins With People
In the future, both Wickham and Leaman agreed the key to a digitally connected future and upholding the rule of law is to focus on people. Leaman leaned on the idea of a people-powered policy-making idea.
“With digital [tools]…we can scale membership capitalism, essentially where the people [who make up] customers, associates, suppliers, [and] local governments, [as] to reflect more effectively than they have [with the] multiplicity of values and priorities and needs,” Leaman said. “[With this], we are able to help rebuild trust in society through these digitally enabled tools, better reflecting people's ideas into the public policy sphere.”
Wickham cited the pandemic as an example of how we can all come together to achieve a more digitally-oriented society.
“The pandemic was this increase in connectedness that came as a result of the situation we were all operating under in terms of barriers,” he said. “We saw a tremendous amount of energy from those mayors, from those thought leaders, on increased connectedness… But what I think we want to do is to expand that push and encourage these achievements beyond City Hall to those very influential city council members who are often out in the community.”