Aug 20, 2020 - 1:45pm

B20 Global Dialogue: Why Digital Transformation is Needed for Economic Resilience Post-COVID-19 and Beyond


CEO, Dur Alkuttab

Managing Director & CEO, Banque Saudi Fransi

Over the last several months, B20 Saudi Arabia’s six taskforces and Women in Business Action Council have been working diligently on their respective policy recommendations to be submitted for the G20’s consideration in their final communiqué this November. Each taskforce has focused on crafting recommendations that will enable resilient, sustainable and inclusive growth in an ever-transforming world. For the Future of Work & Education and Finance & Infrastructure Taskforces, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the urgency of our work to bridge the digital divide and create a workforce and economy fit for the future. 

On August 13, we had the pleasure of participating in a B20 Virtual Global Dialogue event with one of B20 Saudi Arabia’s Network Partners, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on building economic resilience through digital transformation. We discussed the ways in which the global business community drives digitization and growth. We came away from the conversation feeling encouraged by the business community’s optimism for the work already underway and their readiness to adapt to ensure digital transformation is inclusive and just.

Both the Future of Work & Education and Finance & Infrastructure Taskforces have been working on crafting policy recommendations that are as actionable as possible. Our teams’ focus has been not solely on responding to the current crisis represented by COVID-19, but also building confidence, dynamism, and resilience in the economy and the labor market so that businesses and workers can be better prepared to mitigate future crises of this magnitude. 

Indeed, some of these future crises will be heavily intertwined with the digital transformation our society has been undergoing, which has been sped up in the wake of COVID-19, including the onset of automation, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and others. Realizing the benefits of digital technology in the workplace and as part of education and training, organizations are reforming the way we work and learn. While these developments will undoubtedly represent a major challenge for workers in the form of upskilling and closing the digital divide, they will also unlock new opportunities for economic growth on a global scale and in markets that thus far have been stagnant. Looking at the initial impact on jobs is only half the story – the same way the industrial revolution pushed us to rethink our economies and ways of working, the digital revolution will enable us to reimagine connectivity and growth. 

Infrastructure is a major part of this future. When we discuss the importance of infrastructure, we are not just talking about roads and bridges. The infrastructure boom of the 21st century will be digital in nature and allow us to level the playing field globally in novel ways. A great example of this is in the financial sector, where digital banking has provided opportunity and development in places that previously had no access to a physical branch, making our society more mobile and connected than ever. Our skills will shift to adapt in cases like these, from physical customer service-focused, for example, to be more tech savvy.

Furthering such digital infrastructure will also be a game-changer for micro, small and medium-sized businesses, which account for 90% of businesses in the world. These major economic engines for the global economy have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. This impact has been largely due to the lack of integration of digital infrastructure in their workforce and challenges in getting access to capital, both of which are issues our taskforces are working to address. 

While COVID-19 is fast-tracking the digital transformation sooner than originally anticipated, we have the tools and technologies to support widespread and inclusive growth. It is a matter of continuing to develop them and ensuring they are in the hands of people who need them around the world. The learning curve will be steep in some cases. These are challenges we can only address and overcome through inclusive growth and collaborative work – strategic principles driving the B20 Saudi Arabia – so that we can ensure the digital revolution leaves no one behind. We cannot lose sight of these long-term priorities, reflected in our policy recommendations, as we work together to help the world emerge stronger and more prepared from the COVID-19 crisis. 

To learn more about the B20 Virtual Global Dialogue and building global economic resilience through digital transformation, watch the event webcast.  

About the Authors

About the Author

Dr. Ilham Mansour Al-Dakheel
CEO, Dur Alkuttab

Dr. Ilham Mansour Al-Dakheel is Chair of the Future of Work & Education Taskforce at B20 Saudi Arabia and CEO of Dur Alkuttab.

About the Author

Rayan Fayez, Managing Director & CEO of Banque Saudi Fransi
Managing Director & CEO, Banque Saudi Fransi

Rayan Fayez is Chair of the Finance & Infrastructure Taskforce at B20 Saudi Arabia; and Managing Director & CEO of Banque Saudi Fransi.