Commonwealth digital connectivity initiative to be led by SA and the UK

15th March 2019 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The UK and South Africa have 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. The first meeting of the Digital Connectivity Agenda will take place in South Africa on March 19 and 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 communication 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 least-developed and developing countries to meet the challenges of digitalisation 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 on least-developed countries,” affirmed South African Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies. “Appropriate policies and measures need to be taken to ensure that developing countries benefit from the advantages of technological progress and do not suffer from lack of its early adoption. 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 the transfer of relevant technologies. “We look forward to using this platform to cooperate with fellow Commonwealth members by 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. Digitalisation is rapidly shifting the business and policy environment for trade and investment,” pointed out Commonwealth secretary-general Baroness (Patricia) Scotland. “As Commonwealth countries prepare to embrace the opportunities this offers, and to ensure that the smaller and more vulnerable are not left behind, collaboration and innovation are of supreme importance. 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.