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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

More Show less

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal