Owing to the pandemic, many things – people-to-people communication, business between companies, international trade – have changed dramatically. One obvious change is the fast expansion and development of services based on the Internet, like online shopping, online education, telemedicine, and online games.
In the field of digital economy, China has signed cooperation agreements with 16 countries. It has also built the Silk Road E-commerce Platform with 22 countries. To assist other BRI countries in fighting the pandemic, Chinese medical specialists have been providing online consultations on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease.
The digital economy contributed nearly 70 percent of China’s GDP in 2020. This fact could act as an inspirational and achievable benchmark for BRI countries.
One of the major inspirations is that if a developing country can seize the opportunity of promoting digitalization in the new era of the fourth industrial revolution, there would be tremendous development progress. The time frame for modernization would be shortened. Thus, it would better fulfil the requirement of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
To seize the opportunities brought by this digital transformation and fully exploit the BRI cooperation platform, we advocate four vital tasks:
First, improve the effectiveness of the fight against the epidemic using advanced digital technologies. For instance, the health code scanning process widely used in China has been effective in identifying the infection route of the epidemic. Video-conferencing to share the experiences of the fight against the virus, and telemedicine will also help.
Second, emphasize the importance of “new infrastructure.” By building 5G signal stations and many other such advanced infrastructure facilities, keep promoting the digital transition and popularize the technology of smart agriculture, smart manufacturing, smart cities, and an information-driven society.
Third, ensure data safety and security in line with the principles of fairness and multilateralism.
China has proposed the “Global Data Security Initiative” in 2020, which states that all countries should protect the openness, safety, and stability of the global supply chain; the use of information technology should not be abused to damage and steal infrastructure data from others; personal data should not be leaked; mass surveillance over other countries should be banned; and companies should not be forced to reveal their data storage and other sensitive confidential information essential for business secrecy.
Finally, in this fast-developing digitalized time, we should make big efforts to introduce digitalization globally, to ensure some countries and some people do not slip back into poverty due to digital inequality, thereby negating poverty alleviation achieved by other economic policy measures.
SOURCE: China Today (Hu Biliang is executive dean and professor at Belt and Road School, Beijing Normal University.)