Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.
The coronavirus pandemic has radically accelerated the adoption of digital technology in the global economy, creating an opportunity for millions of new businesses and jobs. However, it has also left millions jobless and exposed yet another vulnerability: hundreds of millions of people lack access to this technology.
To be sure, this divide was already present before COVID-19 struck. But unequal access to the internet and technology is going to make the multiple impacts of the pandemic much worse for offline and unskilled communities, among others. In fact, there is not a single global digital gap, but rather several ones that the coronavirus will likely exacerbate.
<p><strong>Rich vs poor countries.</strong> Although <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide%5C" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">more than half</a> of the world's population is now online, internet access remains quite low throughout the developing world, where connectivity is largely <a href="https://www.govtech.com/network/The-Digital-Divide-Leaves-Millions-at-a-Disadvantage-During-the-Coronavirus-Pandemic.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">expensive, slow and unreliable</a>. This means a vegetable trader in Nairobi, for example, may use basic mobile phone payments but cannot expect to sell his produce online because most of his buyers are neither online nor aware of e-commerce.</p><p>In developing countries, governments lack the funds and private companies the financial incentive to invest in broadband for all. The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic will further discourage betting big on digital infrastructure plans where they are most needed, so the digitalized world will speed ahead in the fast lane while 3.2 billion unconnected people remain stuck.</p><p><strong>Skilled vs unskilled workers.</strong> For some, COVID-19 has radically transformed the nature of learning and work, as technology now allows both to be done remotely. This may become the norm in certain societies after the public health crisis has passed.</p><p>Microsoft <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-graphic-truth-new-digital-jobs-in-a-post-pandemic-world" target="_self">predicts</a> that a pandemic-fueled quantum leap in global tech adoption will create 149 million new digital jobs by 2025. However, those jobs require tech skills that almost no one who has lost a job due to COVID-19 can acquire fast enough to benefit from the future digital hiring spree.</p><p><strong>Women vs men.</strong> More men than women use the internet in all regions of the world except in the Americas. The <a href="https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-we-cannot-allow-covid-19-to-reinforce-the-digital-gender-divide-97118" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">digital gender gap</a> is actually <em>growing</em> in some parts of the world, and almost nowhere is it more glaring than in <a href="https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/archive/features/internet-the-big-indian-gender-divide-737100#:~:text=The%2042%20per%20cent%20%E2%80%9Cdigital,the%20global%20divide%2C%20it%20said.&text=The%20GSMA%2C%20an%20international%20mobile,card%20as%20compared%20to%20women." rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">India</a>, where conservative attitudes in some parts of the country ban women and girls from using smartphones or social media.</p><p>Unless urgent measures are taken, women will miss out on many of the new job opportunities because they are <a href="https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Emergency-Telecommunications/Pages/Women-ICT-and-Emergency-Telecommunications.aspx" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">less likely than men</a> to own a smartphone or have access to the web. The pandemic will thus exacerbate gender discrimination, a violation of a human right.</p><p><strong>Urban vs rural communities. </strong>Experts believe 5G networks will be a <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonmarkman/2018/03/17/get-ready-5g-is-going-to-change-everything/#2505a1081342" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">game-changer</a> by massively expanding data download and processing speeds for driverless cars, <a href="https://www.zdnet.com/article/how-5g-will-make-smart-cities-a-reality/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">smart cities</a>, and connected factories. That will be the case for cities, where this technology is already available.</p><p>Rural areas, however, will be much slower to adopt 5G — and attract the new jobs this technology will enable — because it is more expensive to install when communities are less dense. Even in the US, the world's largest economy, rural states like <a href="https://www.newamerica.org/oti/reports/cost-connectivity-west-virginia/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">West Virginia</a> already feared they would have to wait years or even decades to get 5G networks <em>before</em> the pandemic. Now, they may be left even further behind.</p><p><strong>Bottom line: </strong>COVID-19 has plunged the world into the worst economic crisis in a century, while also accelerating the digitization of the workplace. People who can already learn or work remotely — and have or can pick up the skills needed to land the new digital jobs — will thrive. Those who don't have laptop jobs or can't land them, and who don't have access to virtual education or work, will have a much harder time.</p>
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September 21, 2020
As the UN turns 75, the organization is revealing the results of a global survey of nearly a million people in 193 nations—what matters most to them, and how do they view the need for global cooperation at this time of unprecedented crisis? Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser Fabrizio Hochschild explains the purpose and findings of the report.
September 21, 2020
The world's largest multilateral organization was born out of the global crisis of World War II. Now, as another crisis rocks the world, the United Nations is facing a challenge of its own—to remain relevant in an increasingly nationalistic geopolitical environment. On the eve of the first virtual UN General Assembly, GZERO World host Ian Bremmer spoke to UN Secretary-General António Guterres about pandemic response, climate action, the US/China schism, and more.
September 21, 2020
John Frank, Vice President of UN Affairs at Microsoft, discusses how to include people around the world in the digital economy,on UNGA In 60 Seconds.
Satya Nadella famously said, "We saw two years of digital transformation in two months" due to the pandemic and the need it created for virtual communication, work, and learning, but still nearly half the world's population lacks connectivity.
First, how can we begin to bridge the digital divide? Then, how can digital skilling lead us into a better global economy?
<p>We need to redouble our efforts to bring broadband around the world. Less developed countries desperately need new technologies that bring broadband connectivity at lower costs, but we also need to focus on underserved populations in our urban centers and rural America. We need to create new mechanisms and new technologies that are going to bring people in, but being connected, it's not enough. We need to have people be able to participate in the new digital economy, and that requires digital skills. And what better way to get them than online. We can find new ways to train people, but there needs to be a commitment to lifelong learning. And of course, there's digital natives, but the whole population can benefit from developing digital skills, and we believe that many people can greatly improve their economic future and economic security through robust training on digital skills.</p>
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