The UK and South Africa jointly announced on Tuesday that they had agreed to co-lead the Commonwealth Digital Connectivity Agenda. This is aimed at supporting inclusive growth and sustainable development in Commonwealth countries by promoting the exchange of best practices, experiences and views between the international body’s member States.
The Digital Connectivity Agenda is one of five initiatives being pursued under the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda on Trade and Investment, which was agreed at the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London last year. The first meeting of the Digital Connectivity Agenda will take place in South Africa on March 19 and March 20. The participants will be leading policy officials from all parts of the Commonwealth, who will consider the effects of digital transformation and digital connectivity improvement opportunities.
Areas of cooperation will include information and communications technology (ICT) capability, digital infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, women’s participation in the digital economy, and the disruption caused by digital trade. There will be a focus on helping the least developed and developing countries to meet the challenges of digitisation and benefit from digital trade and associated investment.
“We embrace the undeniable benefits and new opportunities brought by the advances in ICTs, especially in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But we also take note of the significant potential for disruptive effects of the digital revolution, in particular to least developed countries,” affirmed South African Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies. “Effective policies are required to bridge the digital divides, including through supporting people to learn and by adopting new technologies and ensuring effective mechanisms for transfer of relevant technologies. We look forward to using this platform to cooperate with fellow Commonwealth members in exchanging experiences and best practices in order to ensure that the digital economy supports inclusive growth.”
“As Chair-in-Office, the UK is committed to working closely with South Africa and other Commonwealth partners to enable all member States to harness digital trade as a means of driving inclusive economic growth and delivering a more prosperous future for our citizens,” highlighted UK International Trade Secretary (Minister) Dr Liam Fox. “The Commonwealth offers vast potential for trade and investment opportunities, with intra-Commonwealth trade consistently growing faster than the global average. This agenda provides a unique platform for Commonwealth countries to respond to global economic challenges and unlock these opportunities for the benefit of all members.”
“Economies are going through a period of profound change. Digitisation is rapidly shifting the business and policy environment for trade and investment,” pointed out Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness (Patricia) Scotland. “The Commonwealth Digital Connectivity Agenda is a splendid example of how, by working together, our 53 member countries are able to take practical action towards overcoming impediments to inclusive trade and sustainable prosperity in which all can share. It carries forward in fresh ways our fine Commonwealth record of cooperation to promote development by sharing knowledge and creating employment.”