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‘Collaborative, human approach’ key to digital transformation: Saudi DCO’s Deemah AlYahya

DAVOS: Fostering collaboration and a human-centric approach in the digital economy is key to the sector’s future transformation, Deemah AlYahya, Saudi Arabia’s Digital Cooperation Organization secretary-general, has told a Davos panel.

With so much of the global population still lacking internet access, AlYahya told the World Economic Forum panel on Tuesday that the world cannot afford to have a “digital divide between nations” and inequality between haves and have-nots.

“Looking at the speed of the digital transformation and the rapid increase of the digital economy, which is expected to be 70 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, if we don’t work together and cooperate now, we will miss out on a great opportunity,” she said.

AlYahya warned that too often, even in places where connectivity is available, issues of affordability prevent people from becoming involved in the digital economy — an issue which she said cannot be solved by one nation, one government or the private sector alone.

“We have to create the right methods of cooperation within the digital ecosystem to create a global inclusive digital economy, and the DCO is creating that space,” she said.

“Why should we believe we can prosper without a digital economy? It is a necessity — it is increasing the quality of life of humans, improving the way we do business and helping us become more efficient.

“We should focus on how to utilize technology better to create more jobs and to increase GDP, rather than imagining a life without (a digital economy),” she added.

Putting the humanity of development at the forefront of new technologies and the investment that funds them is also vital, AlYahya said, adding: “It is so important to put the human in the center of everything we’re doing. It’s not about using technology for the sake of technology.”

Through visits to DCO member countries, AlYahya has learned the priorities of each individual state. She said that one member state only had 20 percent of its population connected to an acceptable Internet standard, but was in the process of creating a cryptocurrency policy.

This, she warned, is the wrong approach.

“Where should we be putting our bets? The more we look at these technologies and follow hype, we’re missing out on actual infrastructure that will enable the youth in these countries to create innovations that will serve their countries.”

AlYahya added that the DCO and other organizations are helping to make sure government regulation on new technologies within the digital economy is encouraging, rather than stifling, innovation.

“The narrative and the mindset should change,” she said. “The more technologies are created, and because governments don’t understand them, the more they are regulated in a way that doesn’t help them to thrive, so we strive to make sure the private sector is involved in the co-creation and design of policy, and regulations,” she said.

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