S'pore attends G-20 meeting stressing importance of digital tech in responding to Covid-19 pandemic

SINGAPORE – Ministers from Group of 20 member and guest countries stressed the important role that digital technologies and policies play in the collective response to the coronavirus pandemic during a video conference on Thursday (April 30).

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran represented Singapore at the Extraordinary G-20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting at the invitation of Saudi Arabia, which holds the G-20 presidency this year.

During the meeting, the ministers agreed to focus on six areas of work, said Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information in a statement.

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.

Mr Iswaran said during the meeting that the Covid-19 pandemic had 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 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.

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

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

Mr Iswaran added that the Covid-19 pandemic had 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.

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

Ministers from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam as well as representatives from global organisations such as the International Telecommunication Union and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development took part in the video-conference.

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