GZERO Media logo

Panel: Why access to broadband & digital skills is critical

On October 7th, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — presented a live panel discussion, "Digital Inclusion: Connectivity and Skills for the Next Billion Jobs," about the acceleration of digitalization, the changing workforce, and the need for digital access for all.

The conversation was moderated by Sherrell Dorsey, founder and CEO of The Plug, and our panel included:

  • Kate Behncken, Vice President, Microsoft Philanthropies
  • Lisa Lewin, CEO of General Assembly
  • Parag Mehta, Executive Director and Sr Vice President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth
  • Dominique Hyde, Director External Relations, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director, Energy, Climate & Resources, Eurasia Group

Also featured: special appearances by Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Chile, and Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the International Telecommunications Union.


A key theme that emerged during discussion was whether internet connectivity should be a human right. For Dhawan, digital inclusion is critical to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as we have seen during the pandemic how connectivity plays out in real life for all of us. It's also affecting anxiety about long-term student outcomes, said Behncken, who underscored the importance of giving schools proper IT infrastructure so they can train teachers, too.

As for how COVID-19 will affect job skilling, Hyde mentioned how refugees will likely suffer the most because they have the least access to tech. To fix that, Behncken proposed investing in quality education so migrants can become self-sufficient through nurturing their own talent.

Governments have a role to play in all of this. During the Great Depression in the US, Mehta pointed out, the government stepped up to provide jobs. Now, he said, there's an enormous opportunity to accomplish the same goal but indirectly — by empowering small businesses to become job creators through digitalization.

For Lewin, successful reskilling begins with a mindset that recognizes the critical importance of workers and why they are central to the long-term success, competitiveness, and talent value of any organization, public or private.

At this critical moment for connectivity, Bogdan-Martin proposed that the public and private sectors work together to craft a common policy for new digital jobs. But what does that look like? For Dhawan, it's time to invest in public-private connectivity infrastructure investments that will help create far more jobs than spending on roads or bridges.

Finally, however good a policy may be, it won't work until we remove barriers to access on learning and skilling. Lewin said that since no one school or university can do it alone, governments and private firms need to join the challenge so this crisis doesn't have an even more disproportionate impact of the crisis on marginalized communities worldwide.

Watch the other discussions in our four-part livestream panel series about key issues facing the 75th United General Assembly.

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.

Back in 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump presented his vision for an "America First" foreign policy, which symbolized a radical departure from the US' longtime approach to international politics and diplomacy.

In electing Donald Trump, a political outsider, to the top job, American voters essentially gave him a mandate to follow through on these promises. So, has he?

Trade

"A continuing rape of our country."

On the 2016 campaign trail, candidate Trump said that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a 12 country trade deal pushed by the Obama administration — would "rape" America's economy by imperiling the manufacturing sector, closing factories, and taking more jobs overseas.

More Show less

In an op-ed titled "Iran Arms Embargo Reckoning," the Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that ending the UN arms embargo on Iran was a major flaw of the 2015 nuclear deal and questions whether Biden could do anything to contain Iran at this point. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Henry Rome take out the Red Pen to explain why this discussion misrepresents the importance of the embargo and the consequences for its expiration.

So, the US presidential election is now just days away, and today's selection is focusing on a specific aspect of foreign policy that will certainly change depending on who wins in the presidential contest—namely America's approach to Iran.

You've heard me talk before about the many similarities between Trump and Biden on some international policies, like on China or on Afghanistan. But Iran is definitely not one of those. Trump hated the JCPOA, the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, put together under the Obama administration, and he walked away from it unilaterally. Joe Biden, if he were to become president, would try to bring it back.

More Show less

It almost didn't happen — but here we are again. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden face off tonight in the final presidential debate of the 2020 US election campaign.

More Show less

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, US President George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban government surrender Osama bin Laden and end support for al-Qaeda. The Taliban refused.

On October 7, US bombs began falling on Taliban forces. NATO allies quickly pledged support for the US, and US boots hit the ground in Afghanistan two weeks later.

Thus began a war, now the longest in US history, that has killed more than 3,500 coalition soldiers and 110,000 Afghans. It has cost the American taxpayer nearly $3 trillion. US allies have also made human and material sacrifices.

More Show less
UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal

Episode 6: Big cities after COVID: boom or bust?

Living Beyond Borders Podcasts