ITU Ministerial Roundtables: "Covid-19 pandemic triggers a turning point for the digital era"
The Covid-19 pandemic is the great challenge of the century, but a great challenge comes with great opportunities.
The aftermath of the pandemic will trigger a turning point for the digital age. That is the viewpoint of many ICT ministers from member countries of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
On the evening of October 23, the third session of the ITU Ministerial Roundtables took place online, chaired by Mr. Mario Maniewicz, Director of the ITU’s Radio-communication Bureau.
This is one of the important events of the ITU Virtual Digital World 2020, jointly organized by the Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications and ITU on the "Make in Vietnam" platform at https://digitalworld2020.vn.
With a new name and held online for the first time, ITU Digital World 2020 took place from October 20 to 23, with the theme “Building the digital world together”. The virtual event attracted the participation of over 50 member countries of ITU.
Great challenges come with great opportunities
Opening the session on the evening of October 23, Vietnamese Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung expressed his desire to hear the opinions of ministers and other speakers on the importance of ICT during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung emphasized that Vietnam is committed to supporting and accompanying ITU and member countries in building the digital world. (Photo: Trong Dat)
“The Covid-19 pandemic represents the great challenge of the century and governments are working to find solutions. Many people have died, economies are stagnant. But every challenge comes with opportunities. Great challenges comes with great opportunities. To cope with the pandemic, we need global efforts. ICT has played an important role in helping countries cope with the epidemic by activating distance work and distance learning and has an essential role in helping restore socio-economic activities in a new normal state," Minister Nguyen Manh Hung said.
Emphasizing that ICT has become economic infrastructure, not just telecommunications infrastructure, Mr. Hung said: “In June 2020, the Vietnamese Prime Minister approved the National Digital Transformation program to build a digital, more innovative, better adaptable, more resilient and more sustainable Vietnam. Institutional reform, information security and digital platforms are important factors driving Vietnam's national digital transformation. Vietnam commits to support and accompany ITU and member countries to build the digital world. We are going together because we want to go far."
Minister Hung also said that ITU Telecom World has become ITU Digital World after 50 years of history. A new name comes with new missions. Telecommunications, IT and digital technology need to become an industry instead of the three industries today to drive digital transformation.
“The digital world is more about institutional reform rather than technology. We encourage people to experiment more. Sandbox is a good method. Moving from the real world to the virtual world is one of humanity's greatest challenges. We have a long way to go. And the ITU must lead this journey,” said Minister Hung.
Mr. Zhao Houlin, IT Secretary General, expressed his belief that what is learned from the 3-day conference will help ITU member countries build a better future. (Photo: Trong Dat)
Appreciating the information provided by the Vietnamese Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. Zhao Houlin, ITU Secretary General said: “During the first two days, the Ministers sent a strong message on cooperation and innovation. This is the final day of discussion but it is the start for an important collaboration. After the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe that what we learn from the 3-day conference will help us build a better future, where the public and private sectors join hands and cooperate with the international community to promoting ICT development, so that everyone benefits from ICT and no one is left behind."
A turning point for the digital era
Sharing experiences from Mauritius, Mr. Deepak Balgobin, Minister of Information Technology, Communications and Information Creation, said: “In Mauritius, the number of jobless people is not large because many large organizations applied IT and kept operating based on IT solutions. The Government of Mauritius is right in recognizing that digitalization of society as a whole is an important factor to provide efficient and optimal services for the people. Obviously, digital transformation along with sustainable development and environmental protection is one of the most optimal ways to move forward. Covid-19 has made businesses that still operate in a traditional way to "open their eyes". Not only large enterprises but small and medium ones, even every citizen, must reconsider technology application activities."
Regarding the situation in Bangladesh, Mr. Mustafa Jabbar, Minister of Post, Telecommunication and IT, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic forced us to face an unprecedented situation, and it would be impossible to imagine what bad would happen if we did not digitize every aspect of our lives. All activities of the government and citizens have been digitized, from finance to health, education, business ... Covid-19 helps us identify challenges, one of which may be digital disparities. In fact, villages are not as digitized as cities and people do not own the same digital devices. We must have a future direction for digitization."
Telling the story of Zimbabwe, Mr. Gift Machangete, Director of Posts and Telecommunications, said:"During the pandemic, Zimbabwe used digital technologies to ensure operations in government, commerce and education. Digital technology has been used to transmit information, serve policy purposes, trace contacts, predict virus spread, pandemic effects, to apply appropriate mitigation measures, while predicting the possibility of similar pandemics.
“The pandemic has created a greater demand for high-speed broadband and the Internet demand for broadband will continue to increase. Zimbabwe is implementing community information centers in remote, rural areas to ensure that everyone can access information about Covid-19 accurately.
Mr. Yoaz Hendel, Israeli Communications Minister, also appreciated the role of technology: “Without modern technology and communication infrastructure, we will not be able to go in the right direction. During the Covid-19 crisis, technology acted as a bridge between people, between cities and countries. The Israeli government is committed to ensuring Internet connectivity for all people.”
As the Communications Minister, Yoaz Hendel is promoting the development of fiber optic cable and 5G network in Israel. “A few days ago, we deployed 3 5G networks and started piloting plans to bring 5G to all areas of social life. Thanks to 5G, we can perform real-time remote services to save lives, car drivers can talk to each other to avoid accidents ... People will be provided with modern solutions while facing crisis."
Analyzing challenges in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms. Lina Rainiene, Deputy Director of Communications of Lithuania, cited remarkable numbers: “As part of Europe, the region is heavily affected by Covid -19, and many activities in Lithuania immediately went online thanks to the high rate of network connection. Daily activities such as meeting friends and family get-together also went online. In just a few days, the demand for the Internet increased sharply, possibly reaching a 70% increase. Data traffic rose by 30%. In addition, the demand for Internet connection has also expanded from the city center to neighboring and rural areas."
Lithuania's major challenge is to ensure a stable connection to the community. This country saw Covid-19 as a test of the mobile network, the resilience of the network. And indeed, telecom network operators have overcome the challenge through efforts to increase network capacity. The ICT community has successfully overcome the crisis and dealt with its challenges.
Director of the Department of Informatics Nguyen Huy Dung said that Covid-19 would trigger a turning point for the digital era. (Photo: Trong Dat)
On behalf of Vietnam, Mr. Nguyen Huy Dung, Director of the Department of Informatics, stated a new point: "Covid-19 will trigger a turning point for the digital era."
Normally, adopting new technology requires changing habits and the way things are done, and this can be slow. According to the 21/90 rule it usually takes 21 days for something new to become a habit and 90 days to turn it into a permanent lifestyle change. But Covid-19 forces most people to change many things within over 21 days, creating new habits for work, study and play. Habits like working and studying at home are accelerating the rollout of new technology.
To turn a big challenge into a great opportunity, the Vietnamese Prime Minister approved the National Digital Transformation Program up to 2025, aiming to build a “digital Vietnam” with three pillars: Digital Government, Digital Economy and Digital Society.
Under this guide, many digital platforms and applications have been launched in response to the pandemic.
Vietnam is one of the pioneering countries to apply Blue Low Energy on mobile devices to track contacts. The open source application Bluezone reached 23 million downloads after a short time, reporting nearly 2,000 close contacts with Covid-19 infected or suspected cases. On the other hand, to bring community life back to the new normal, the Government and businesses have effectively developed remote work platforms, online education, telemedicine, online shopping, virtual events...
“A prosperous, safe and sustainable world is the top goal for everyone. And fair use of digital platforms will help realize that goal," said Mr. Nguyen Huy Dung.
Expecting that the ITU Ministerial Roundtables will lay the foundations for a better, more connected and safer world, ITU Secretary-General Zhao Houlin emphasized that countries must work together to narrow the digital gap.
Many government officials and businesses believe that it is the golden time now for foreign investors to decide to invest or expand their investment in Vietnam, especially in the ICT industry.