May 18, 2021
His Excellency Tarek El Molla
Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Arab Republic of Egypt
The coronavirus pandemic was a catalyst for the digital economy. Because of stay-at-home orders and public health and safety measures, businesses and consumers were forced to adapt to the digital landscape and discover how to operate online. However, the events of this past year have only scratched the surface of the potential of the global digital economy.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Forum on Economic Recovery, business and technology journalist Shibani Joshi discussed the global digital economy with Ambassador Michael Froman, vice chairman and president of strategic growth at Mastercard and Kent Walker, senior vice president for global affairs for Google. Below are three takeaways from their conversation about what the future of the global digital economy will look like and the issues that will need to be addressed.
The Global Digital Divide Must Be Addressed
While richer countries like the United States have been able to more easily adapt to a digital economy, that’s not the case in other parts of the world.
“We've got to be doubly focused on ensuring that we're not seeing a new digital divide emerge,” said Froman. “Whether that's a literal broadband divide, that there's still parts of this country and certainly vast parts of the world that have no access to broadband internet but also how data science itself is used.”
Walker explained that Google is doing its part to prevent this divide by participating in global initiatives such as the distribution of smartphones to poorer countries.
“There's the old line that ‘the future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet,’” said Walker. “We want to make sure we distribute as widely as possible. And digital tools actually turned out to be a remarkably powerful way of doing that.”
The United States Needs to Work with the Rest of the World to Regulate the Digital Economy
World governments have been slow to recognize that technology needs regulation. Because there are no boundaries on the digital landscape, the United States needs to be a leader in calling for transatlantic dialogue on trade and technology.
“When you look around the world, there's so much that is yet to be done to ensure that everybody participates in the digital economy,” said Froman. “You still have over a billion people who have no formal identity, and making sure that as they're brought into the digital economy that we're not putting their data at risk — is not some big honeypot of information — that can be hacked, but that we're creating a framework and an architecture that allows it to be private by design and still allows them to participate in the benefits of the digital economy.”
As We Move Our Lives Online, the Need for Cybersecurity Is Greater Than Ever
With so much communication and important business operations moving online, there need to be stronger cybersecurity measures in place.
“Last year, the safety of those [cybersecurity] digital tools became even more crucial,” said Walker. “In the U.S. the recentexecutive order from the White House is a good start. It raises the bar for security practices and plays out eight different areas where we can modernize and strengthen U.S. government networks. But both government systems and the private sector have a long way to go here. We need modern zero-trust architectures that don't take anything for granted.”