Margaret Keenan is a name that will go down in history. She will be remembered as the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine following its clinical approval. Though restrictions remain in place—and there are still challenges to overcome—we can allow ourselves a feeling of optimism as we look ahead to a world beyond the pandemic.
As businesses and governments look to that future, they must reflect on the impact of 2020 and what we can learn from it. It is against this backdrop that Mastercard, alongside The Fletcher School at Tufts University, released the latest edition of our Digital Intelligence Index, a report that charts the progress economies have made in advancing digitalization, fostering trust, and integrating connectivity into the lives of billions.
The index highlights that economies that invested early in digitalization and worked to foster trust in their digital economies have proven most resilient to the turmoil created by the pandemic—11 in 13 of the most advanced and dynamic digital economies in the world outperformed the average OECD growth rate in Q2 2020 (year on year), during the peak of the first global lockdown1.
During this period, digital technologies held societies and their economies together across the world. Knowledge and information-based parts of the economy helped societies to function effectively despite widespread social distancing measures—facilitating the delivery of groceries and domestic supplies, and enabling contact tracing to identify and isolate those at risk.
In effect, the pandemic has been the purest test imaginable of the internet and the world’s progress towards digitalization2. The facts are clear: As digital innovation spreads, economies have been able to develop faster3, create generational wealth, and become more resilient to economic shocks4,5,6. But what’s next?
Mature digital economies are now entering an “after access” era, in which investments in digital inclusion and trust are greater determinants of digital competitiveness. With nearly two-thirds of the world’s population on the internet today,7 aspects such as the quality of access, facilitating effective use of digital technologies, modern and robust data governance policies, and fostering trust are more important than access and infrastructure alone. Having digital connectivity is one thing, but if people and businesses are unable to use it to their advantage, economies are unlikely to progress fast enough.
With better connectivity, the options for value-added digital services increases exponentially—in payments and elsewhere. Recognizing this, some political institutions are already taking decisive action. A recent example is the European Union’s Shaping Europe’s Digital Future strategy, which pledges to invest in the digital competencies of all Europeans, enable a vibrant community of fast-growing start-ups and empower citizens with better control over their data.
TRUST AT THE HEART OF FUTURE SUCCESS
At the core of this shift is a recognition of the need to build trust in the digital economy. History has shown us that trust is the key factor in any relationship or transaction and economies can only go so far without it. With new forms of e-commerce and mobile payments emerging in all corners of the globe, consumers need to understand and trust that they will work, and that their information will be safe.
At Mastercard, we are passionate about building trust in the digital economy. We’ve maintained trust by ensuring the consumer continues to be at the heart of our work as we build products and services—such as contactless, biometrics, and digital identity—to make their lives more convenient, their interactions more seamless and, at every single stage, more secure.
However, no entity can do this alone. Governments, businesses, technologists, and the third sector must work together to nurture trust in their digital economies and foster responsible use of the latest technologies, focusing on privacy, security, and accountability as key mechanisms to build trust and ensure frictionless experiences.
Progressive public policy to provide broad and affordable access, build trust and spur innovation has been proven to work. Now is the time to drive digital economies forward and look beyond the pandemic to securing a prosperous future for all in the “after access” era.