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Digital realm key to inclusive global development

By Fajar B. Hirawan | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-12-29 09:10
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A visitor experiences a 5G remote controlled cockpit model that can control unmanned trucks at the 1st Global Digital Trade Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on Dec 12. [Photo/IC]

The world has experienced a number of megatrends in the past decade, notably including the rise of technology. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular has forced all stakeholders to innovate and be creative. In this situation, every country has had to adapt to and accelerate the digital transformation as part of efforts to respond to the pandemic and promote economic recovery.

The high level of innovation and acceleration of the digital transformation is the backbone of the growth of the current digital global ecosystem. Digitalization leads countries to accelerate the development of economic sectors, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

Technological progress brings further opportunities to advance these enterprises through digitalization, in which online trade can expand their market access.

As the most robust sector of current economic development, the digital economy is an essential source of growth and job creation. However, there are at least two main challenges the world should deal with in its effort to develop digital connectivity: infrastructure and literacy.

Digitalization's potential has encouraged creativity and innovation. However, the digitalization process needs to be supported by adequate digital infrastructure. Digital infrastructure is critical as the foundation for the digital economy, which also needs to be supported with sufficient digital literacy to ensure that knowledge and skills transfer can be realized. Hence, digital infrastructure that is cheaper and easier to access and strong digital literacy will accelerate the progress of global digitalization.

In May 2017, during the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, President Xi Jinping highlighted the need for cooperation in innovation-driven areas, including the digital economy and artificial intelligence. These activities are parts of what he called a Digital Silk Road for the 21st century. Therefore, digital connectivity is often used to describe how China, through digital technology, can positively promote global inclusive development, especially in partner countries under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. In addition, the G20 Indonesian presidency in 2022 highlighted the importance of digital transformation in realizing more innovative, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Promoting multilateral cooperation is crucial to overcoming difficulties and achieving development of the digital sector. As a major country with global influence, China plays an essential role in promoting and realizing inclusive global development. From that perspective, it is necessary for China and its strategic economic partners to further strengthen coordination to better synergize their development strategies.

To promote shared prosperity, the voices of developing countries should be listened to and inclusive development should always be a priority for cooperation. Efforts should be stepped up to realize the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Global Development Initiative proposed by China is aligned with the purpose and direction of the SDGs in promoting global development. Highlighting the importance of international economic partnerships is particularly relevant at a time when populism and narrow-minded nationalism are leading to inward-looking mindsets that harm the essence of multilateral cooperation.

In the context of global governance, it is undeniable that China is actively promoting reform of the global governance system so that it is more inclusive and better able to address global development challenges — particularly with regard to the needs of developing countries in relation to the digital divide, food insecurity and other strategic development issues. In the context of governance, two elements should be focused on — transparency and trust — to ensure that the system runs effectively and efficiently.

To further promote the development of the Digital Silk Road, especially in relation to its goal of fostering more inclusive global development, it is necessary to strengthen cooperation in several aspects. China's high-tech enterprises can actively use their technology and capital advantages to participate in the joint construction of digital facilities projects, especially in developing countries. China can also share its experience of digitalization with relevant countries and help these countries formulate proper regulations and policies based on their own conditions.

As the digital transformation deepens, the demand for digital talent is growing worldwide. Talent issues have become an essential factor limiting development in the current digital era. Thus, the establishment of joint research and development centers and the targeted training of digital talent, complemented by intergovernmental cooperation projects, are necessary for China and its economic partners to increase digital talent capacity to achieve global inclusive development.

The author is head of the department of economics at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Indonesia, and a lecturer at Indonesian International Islamic University.

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