The transition to the digital economy must guarantee access to those in the digital divide

Marcia Julio Vilanculos, pictured here in this dated photo with her baby, was one of the participants in a digital literacy training course at the Ideario Innovation Center in Maputo, Mozambique a few years ago. Only 6.8% of all Mozambican women, with or without a cell phone, use the Internet. Questions remain about the possibility of a successful transition to a digital economy in a world where the digital divide is glaring – a divide that has become even more pronounced under the pandemic. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues / IPS
  • by Samira Sadeque (The United Nations)
  • Inter Press Service

Razavi spoke to IPS following an ILO panel on the issue of social protection and the transition to a green and digital economy – a side event of the ongoing 59th UN session of the Social Development Commission (CSocD).

Razavi moderated Wednesday’s panel “Social protection floors for a just transition to the green and digital economy”, which hosted social protection advisers and labor directors from different countries.

An important topic during the panel was how social protection systems could have helped societies better cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Social protection floors can reduce vulnerabilities and protect those affected by a digital and green transformation,” Adrian Hauri, Deputy Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN, said during the opening speech.

Aileen O’Donovan, head of social protection policy at Irish Aid, pointed out that there had been a massive increase in social protection responses under the pandemic. Specifically, 209 countries have implemented or announced 1,596 social protection measures by the end of November 2020.

“It is more than ever essential to invest in social protection systems”, she added.

O’Donovan further underlined the importance of taking into account the most vulnerable communities when discussing social protection systems – especially those affected by climate change.

“Our commitment is really to reach the furthest away and we know that those who are most vulnerable are also vulnerable to the impact of climate change,” she said. “So it’s really essential to ensure that social protections are effectively designed to take into account climate impact mitigation and support adaptations.”

O’Donovan concluded by saying it was important to take advantage of the current momentum.

“The momentum is really behind social protection systems, so it’s really about – how can we go further and maintain that momentum to build much more resilient communities?” she asked.

But questions remain about the possibility of a successful transition to a digital economy in a world where there is a glaring digital divide – a divide that has become uniform. more pronounced under the pandemic.

“Digital gaps are worrying and if social protection transfers rely entirely on digital mechanisms, they are likely to exclude those who do not have adequate access to these technologies,” Razavi told IPS in responding to these concerns. . “It is therefore important that non-digital mechanisms are also available for those who would otherwise face double exclusion (i.e. those who do not have an adequate digital literacy and access to the Internet, mobile phones , etc.). ”

Ambassador Valérie Berset Bircher, member of the Labor Directorate at the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs, told IPS that the pandemic is affecting workers differently, based on the social protection system in place in the respective countries.

“For countries like Switzerland (high income country), which have established a long-standing social protection system, we have been able to extend the system to cover more categories of workers and extend the duration of protection”, she declared. “But of course, in other parts of the world, countries have not been able to invest enough in stimulus packages and therefore have not been able to protect jobs and wages.”

During the roundtable, she stressed the need for a “human-centered approach to the future of the world” – an approach that would prioritize investment in professional skills and social protection, and ensuring that all workers are protected and can benefit from changes in the labor market.

Bircher, who is also the head of the Swiss delegation to the current CSocD session, explained what “the human-centered approach” means.

“It means investing in labor market institutions and adopting policies that foster an enabling environment for sustainable businesses, economic growth and decent work for all,” she said. “Our main objective is to ensure the highest possible participation in the labor market and good quality of employment, including in the digital age.”

She stressed the importance of designing a social safety net that would be accessible to all, and added that flexible labor market regulation, effective social partnership and active labor market policies would be crucial for structural change. .

But some challenges remain.

A big question in the future is to what extent they can effectively transform these temporary measures into appropriate programs anchored in policies and laws and supported by adequate funding ”. Razavi told IPS. “This is a major challenge in the context of major economic disruptions and falling taxes and other government revenues.”

Despite these questions, Razavi says social protection responses are “a beacon of hope” to the crisis.

“If there was a silver lining to the crisis, it was the way it mobilized governments to put in place social protection responses, sometimes from scratch without existing systems or programs,” a- she declared.

© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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