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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What We're Watching: Ethiopia's opposition crackdown, Cuba's food crisis, US beefs up presence in Syria
September 21, 2020
Ethiopian PM cracks down on opposition: Ethiopia's most prominent opposition leader, Jawar Mohammed, was one of 24 political opponents charged with a series of crimes in Ethiopia in recent days, including terrorism-related offenses. The charges relate to civil unrest that erupted this past summer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, as well as the Oromia region that left at least 160 people dead. While ethnic tensions have intensified in the country in recent years, violence surged in late June after the killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular singer and activist whose songs called for the liberation and empowerment of the Oromo, the country's largest ethnic group. Jawar Mohammed, a former ally of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, is a hero to many disaffected Oromo, and his jailing since July has raised concerns about an intensifying crackdown by the government. Critics say that while Abiy, who won a Nobel peace prize for making peace with neighboring Eritrea, has spearheaded ambitious political and economic reforms since coming to power in 2018, he has not done enough to alleviate ethnic violence and tensions in the fractious country.
<p><strong>Cuba faces food crisis: </strong>The island nation of Cuba fared well in the early months of the pandemic. A strong public health system and draconian quarantine measures — a police state helps with that — squelched the disease even as much richer nations struggled to contain its spread. Havana even <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/hard-numbers-cuban-doctors-abroad-vaccine-promise-chinas-pressure-on-the-eu-high-times-in-california" target="_self">sent its own doctors abroad</a> to help more than a dozen other countries battle the virus. But the economic impact on the island since then has been <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/world/americas/cuba-economy.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">devastating</a>. Even before the pandemic, the country's badly mismanaged, state-dominated economy was suffering as the Trump administration tightened long-standing sanctions. Turmoil in Venezuela, meanwhile, led to a <a href="https://www.rt.com/business/499667-venezuela-oil-exports-rise/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">decrease in the shipments of cheap oil</a> that the Maduro regime in Caracas sends its ideological pals in Havana. Now, a pandemic-driven collapse in tourism —the island's main source of hard currency — has left the government scrambling to amass enough dollars to purchase the food imports that meet two-thirds of the country's food needs. Cuba is facing its most acute economic crisis since the so-called "special period" of the 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba's main patron, plunged the island into a harrowing decade of poverty.</p><p><span></span></p><p><strong>US military beefs up Syria presence to counter... Russia? </strong>The Pentagon has <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54215915" target="_blank">announced</a> that it will deploy about 100 additional US troops in Syria in order to "ensure the safety" of US-led forces there. The move comes just a few weeks after seven American soldiers were <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/26/world/middleeast/pentagon-russia-syria.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">injured</a> when their convoy was hit by a Russian vehicle (in an open field) in northeastern Syria. Although run-ins between troops from the two countries are not uncommon amid the chaos of the decade-long Syrian civil war, and the Pentagon did not cite Russia as the reason to boost the US military contingent in the country, a senior US official <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/military/pentagon-sending-troops-syria-after-clashes-between-u-s-russian-n1240319" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">called out</a> recent Russian misbehavior, saying it "got us into a dangerous situation" on the ground. President Trump — who controversially decided to <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/who-wins-and-loses-from-trumps-new-syria-policy" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_self">withdraw</a> US forces from northern Syria a year ago — has pledged to bring home US troops from "endless wars," but he <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/18/politics/us-armored-vehicles-syria/index.html%5C" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">also</a> is fond of keeping US troops in Syria to protect oil fields, he says. The Pentagon, meanwhile, is still keen to assist Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State. All this comes as the White House has yet to respond to the allegations of <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/president-trump-is-in-a-nother-russia-bind" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_self">Russian bounties</a> to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan. If the new deployment is indeed meant to send a signal to the Kremlin, we're watching to see what the response is.</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.