The Increasing Importance Of The Digital Economy In The G20
During India's G20 Presidency, the first Digital Economy Working Group (DEWG) meeting was held in Lucknow last week, where important topics related to the use of digital technologies contributed to the global economy were discussed.
The Increasing Importance Of The Digital Economy In The G20
Despite the move to digital, the concept of the ‘digital economy’ still needs to be explored. In 2022, the Indonesian Presidency will lead a working group (upgraded from the previous task force) to oversee the digital economy, a central agenda item for the G20.
The first meeting was held in 2017 under the German Presidency, following the Chinese Presidency’s establishment of a Digital Task Force in 2016.
The group has made measuring the digital economy and what it represents a key initiative theme. With the Covid-19 pandemic, the G20 has recognized the importance of the digital economy.
The G20 does have a digital economy working group, however. As a group, how have the G20’s priorities changed in the last few years, underlining the importance of the group?
Bridging The Digital Divide
Digital interaction remains another characteristic of the digital economy. To grow the digital economy, barriers to access to basic digital products and services must be removed to facilitate internet connectivity.
Since 2016, the G20 has raised this as an important issue, especially in the DEWG. Digital can be viewed from many angles. In one sense, it highlights the digital divide between the developing and developed worlds.
In addition, it highlights how individuals from different socioeconomic strata can leverage the digital economy. Additionally, it focuses on the gender gap and the gap between vulnerable groups and others.
Thus, bridging the digital divide will address multiple issues and ensure equitable digital growth. The G20 has shown its intent to solve the challenges imposed by the digital divide in the last five years by taking various initiatives.
A focus of the G20 is also on empowering individuals in employment and helping small and medium-sized businesses (in particular MSMEs) take advantage of technology’s benefits.
To improve female participation in the labour force, the German Presidency launched the #eSkillsforgirls initiative in 2017.
According to the then-task force under the Argentine Presidency in 2018, bridging the digital divide is essential for improving employment opportunities and remaining competitive in the ‘Future of Work’ era, in which automation and technology will play a significant role.
Protecting Businesses And Consumers
The digital economy is increasing the number of stakeholders involved in securing this realm. There is a shift in business (big and small) toward digital operations. Several actors can access and use digital spaces to acquire products and services.
Thanks to e-commerce, cab services through apps, grocery shopping and movie ticket booking, a growing number of consumers have gotten involved in the digital economy.
Digital content is also popular with children and seniors. Securing the digital economy is crucial to its smooth operation. Security has been a priority for G20 members before and after the pandemic.
A G20 meeting under the Italian Presidency in 2021 discussed using blockchain technologies to ensure safety, transparency, and accountability for consumers and businesses.
MSMEs and other small businesses are encouraged to ensure security in the digital economy as a risk management strategy during the Saudi Arabian Presidency.
As part of its initiatives to empower and protect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers, the G20 launched its ‘Toolkit for Protecting Digital Consumers’ in 2018.
A high increase in online shopping during the pandemic led to a focus on consumer awareness and empowerment by the G20 in 2021.
DEWG, under the G20, has been working extensively to highlight the need to protect small business owners, big firms, and consumers involved in the digital economy.
How Will India’s Agenda Shape Up?
The first DEWG meeting of the year was completed in the third week of February. Press Information Bureau reports the discussion focused on three main areas: digital public infrastructure (DPI), cyber security, and digital skills.
An important aspect of the Indian economy is its digital economy. Indian data show that the digital economy grew 2.4 times faster than the overall economy over all sectors, according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Around 62.4 million workers (11.6 per cent of the workforce) rely on digital technologies, according to the report. ‘Digital India’, launched in 2015, assists in a fast-growing digital economy.
The working group has taken a quasi-ambitious approach given its priorities this year. During the G20 meeting, a new working group introduces the DPI.
Aadhaar and UPI are examples of DPI’s contributions to the digital economy. The G20 can use such ecosystems to advance their digital economies.
Several G20 members do not utilize DPI at the national level, so DEWG needs to delve into what constitutes these ecosystems. Cyber-threat mitigation has been a priority for the G20 leaders, not securing the digital economy.
Defining a shared vision for the DEWG and India’s Presidency aligns with what has been discussed in previous meetings. Digital Skilling has, however, been a consistent theme for the group.
As part of the Indonesian Presidency’s 2022 program, it also released a toolkit delineating how digital skills and literacy are measured to understand a society’s digital literacy level better.
As per the Indian Presidency’s initiative, the country can focus on digitally skilling its population to improve job outcomes. In the G20, the DEWG remains one of the core working groups where India can make a real difference.
India’s achievements in DPI, its commitment to securing the digital economy and its vision to carry forward previous G20 initiatives on digital skilling will help the DEWG achieve concrete outcomes that will set a precedent for future G20 presidency terms.
edited and proofread by nikita sharma