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Digitization as a lever for economic growth

 

The Covid-19 is signifying a great fracture in social and economic structures and paradigms. No one was prepared to face this gigantic global health and socio-economic crisis with more than 188 countries affected, more than 8 million people infected and with the prescription of measures of confinement and paralysis of all activities worldwide.

Even the World Bank explains that we are experiencing a drastic contraction of the world economy, which will be reduced by 5.2% this year, thus confirming the worst recession since the Second World War. However, there is one major difference from the post-war social and economic situation of the mid-20th century that can help us achieve a faster and more efficient recovery: digitalization.

 

 

In this regard, Manuel Muñiz (Secretary of State for Global Spain),  Carlos Santiso (Director of Digital Innovation for the State of CAF - Latin American development bank) and Trinidad Jiménez (Director of Global Strategy for Public Affairs, Telefónica) shared their vision of digitalisation as a lever for social and economic growth in the digital environment of Casa de América.

This pandemic is the first global health crisis that we will overcome with the support of technology, and the telecommunications sector is vital in this process. The digital transformation is a factor of resilience and the most obvious example has been the rapid digitalization of our lives. We are seeing that our economies and societies have become more digital in the last three months than in the last five years.

 

"This crisis has accelerated processes of digitalization that were already there, we are going to move to a digital sphere in all areas. The new normality is here to stay", Manuel Muñiz.

 

Undoubtedly, digitalization is one of the strategic axes to help the economic recovery. And this commitment has been Telefónica's winning horse over the last few years, investing in networks and innovative technological solutions. In the words of José María Álvarez-Pallete, Chairman of Telefónica, "we have made telecommunications not part of the problem, but part of the solution. The investment we have made in recent years has worked. We have invested 90 billion in transforming networks, at a time when we did not have this urgency because we did not see it coming".

This is an unprecedented crisis that we all have to solve and overcome. First, we need to be humble to recognize our vulnerabilities and second, we need to be resilient to cope.

 

Trinidad Jiménez, Rosa Jiménez Cano, Manuel Muñiz and Carlos Santiso.

Trinidad Jiménez, Rosa Jiménez Cano, Manuel Muñiz and Carlos Santiso.

 

"If we want to ensure economic recovery and avoid social inequalities, we have to ensure connectivity", Trinidad Jiménez.

 

It has become clear that without digital means and tools, confinement would have been unfeasible. Before the pandemic, it was estimated that only 8% of employees practiced teleworking in Spain and this figure has increased to 61.6% during the period of confinement. The telecommunications networks have robustly supported this remarkable increase in traffic.

Education is another area that is facing great challenges right now. It is fundamental the adaptation of educational centres, the training of teachers because many do not have the appropriate digital skills, and the assurance that the students will be at the centre of learning, interacting directly with digital devices.

 

"Trust in institutions is key so that citizens can respond to the demands and measures being taken to face the crisis", Carlos Santiso.

 

We also need to strengthen cooperation between public and private actors. We must break the paradigms of governance that we currently know and take advantage of the strong social commitment that guides the activity and decisions of companies such as Telefónica. To this end, public-private dialogue is essential, not only in the area of operational reconstruction, but also to encourage the design of a new industrial policy for the digital economy and for the redefinition of a new great Digital Deal that places people at the centre of change.

 

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