G-20 meeting: Digital tech key in Covid-19 response, says Iswaran

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran at the Extraordinary G-20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting yesterday. PHOTO: MCI
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran at the Extraordinary G-20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting yesterday. PHOTO: MCI

Digital technologies and policies are playing a key role in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, ministers from the Group of 20 (G-20) member states and guest countries stressed during a video conference yesterday.

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, who represented Singapore at the Extraordinary G-20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting, said the Covid-19 pandemic has severely disrupted economies, global trade and international supply chains.

"Against this backdrop, digital technologies take on added salience as critical enablers of our pandemic response and post-pandemic recovery," he said.

He highlighted three areas where digital technologies can yield near-and long-term benefits: enhancing public health, building an informed citizenry and strengthening economic resilience.

He also said the Covid-19 situation has brought up the need for digital health solutions, such as telemedicine, and targeted interventions like automated temperature screening and contact tracing.

Secondly, technology has enabled governments to engage with their people to build public trust and social cohesion to enable a strong response to the pandemic.

Thirdly, he said, technology is essential for enterprises to go digital to strengthen business resilience.

Mr Iswaran added that the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of investing in digital connectivity infrastructure and cyber security. "In that regard, 5G is the backbone of the digital economy," he said.

He was speaking at the invitation of Saudi Arabia, which holds the G-20 presidency this year, the day after Singapore awarded its nationwide 5G licences.

 
 
 

The ministers who attended the meeting agreed to focus on six areas of work, said Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information.

These include ensuring access to inclusive, secure and affordable communication infrastructure and network connectivity, ensuring a safe and secure exchange of data, and encouraging research and deployment of digital health technologies.

They also agreed to leverage digital technologies and solutions to support and implement policies and initiatives to combat Covid-19, and ensure a secure and trusted online environment for information-sharing to tackle malicious cyber activities and misinformation.

The ministers also agreed to strengthen business resilience by supporting digitalisation efforts.

The video conference was chaired by Saudi Arabia's Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Amer Al-Swaha.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2020, with the headline 'G-20 meeting: Digital tech key in Covid-19 response, says Iswaran'. Subscribe