RIYADH: Though the coronavirus pandemic has forced this year’s G20 summit to take place online, it has not diminished the hard work put into every aspect of its success.
Every G20 engagement group has taken steps to ensure that the show goes on, and the Think 20 (T20) is no exception.
The T20’s Task force 6 held a webinar on Tuesday afternoon covering “Economy, Employment, and Education in the Digital Age” and recommending policies to reform education and provide opportunities for training and entrepreneurship by addressing the digital continuum in the changing labor market.
The proposals highlight such issues as the digital gender gap and initiatives to develop practical and self-sustaining solutions to reduce cyber security risks and enhance data privacy.
Lead co-chair Dr. Heidi Alaskary, a visiting research fellow from the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Special Olympics, opened the webinar by thanking everyone who participated in this year’s T20 despite the unprecedented challenges this year has posed.
“This year has been quite the journey for many of us. All our plans didn’t necessarily come to fruition in the way we expected, but we’ve surpassed what we thought was going to happen in many ways, and we’ve learned a lot,” she said.
More than 60 proposals from 165 researchers from 63 think tanks worldwide were submitted to this year’s T20. Dr. Alaskary said they were all of great merit, but they were ultimately whittled down to 12.
“Our final policy briefs span a number of topics. Everything from cybersecurity to fintech to education to employment to economic impact...the one string that holds this all together is issues around the digital age and technology,” she said.
The webinar included speeches by leading experts in these fields, such as Carlos Ivan Simonsen Leal, president of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, and Gianmario Verona, rector of Bocconi University. Dr. Victor Pineda, task force co-chair, president and founder of the Victor Pineda Foundation and president of World Enabled, also made an appearance via a pre-recorded message.
One of the important topics discussed by the webinar’s panels was the necessity of protecting children from the dangers of the internet, particularly with the majority of schooling taking place online and/or digitally as the pandemic rages on, as pointed out by Dr. Hind Khalifa, a Task force 6 policy brief author.
“The growing number of internet users under the age of 18 is tremendous. One in three internet users are under the age of 18. Children are accessing the internet at increasingly younger ages. In some countries, children under 15 are as likely to use the internet as adults over 25,” she said.
The panels also discussed how the participants were coping with the lockdowns, the reopening policies and quarantine guidelines in their respective cities, as well as with online learning from the perspective of both the teachers and the parents of students.
The webinar also featured the video of an art installation by Riyadh-based Saudi artist Marwa AlMugait. “AlBunt,” a 3D projection mapping depicts an abstracted visual representation of the historic Bab al-Bunt Museum and its strategic geographical location. Projected onto the outer wall of the museum, it is a visual narrative of the century-old story of the time when AlBunt acted as the main port, customs authority and marina of Jeddah.
“It’s a merger between the history of the building, which goes back 140 years, and the use of modern technology. It’s an overlap of artforms with multimedia, as well as an overlap of design with the building which will open up different doors to today’s youth to enter these fields,” said AlMugait.
The webinar ended with a few words from Dr. Fahad M. Alturki, chair of the T20 and vice president and head of research at King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center. Dr. Alturki thanked everyone involved for their contributions to the T20 this year.
“T20 this year is tackling an important issue, and our inspiration is to reduce inequality in the face of the health crisis by maintaining access to education and economic opportunities. We also aim to leverage technology and digitalization for global challenges,” he added.
In lieu of a physical summit, this year’s T20 will conclude with a series of webinars and a virtual conference during the T20 Summit Season. Each task force is holding a webinar to discuss the key themes and recommendations identified over the course of the year, ending with a virtual conference over two days on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2020.
Initiated in 2012, the T20 engagement groups are independent from national governments and comprised of prestigious think tanks and academia from the international community. The T20 does not advocate or campaign around specific ideas, but serves rather to generate policy proposals. Each year, under a new G20 presidency, the T20 creates task forces to structure their proposals around the most critical issues, driving policy innovation.