ISSN 2330-717X

From Vaccine Delivery To Remote Working, Experts Predict Internet-Enabled Devices To Shape Global COVID-19 Recovery

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As the world awaits a COVID-19 vaccine, attention is focused on how to track and safely deliver these temperature-sensitive vaccines to billions of people. Sensors and internet-enabled devices are expected to play a central role in this process, much as they have throughout the pandemic.

COVID-19 has accelerated global trends towards remote working, telehealth, distance learning and automation, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Global Internet of Things (IoT) Council and PwC. The pandemic is also boasting adoption of wearable technologies like fitness trackers and smart-home devices. As the dependency on connected technologies increases, so do the associated risks and the need for good governance.

“The maturity of governance continues to lag behind the pace of technological change,” said Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies of South Africa and Co-Chair of the Global IoT Council. “We must come together and act now to ensure these technologies become a force for shared societal benefit, as opposed to exacerbating existing inequalities.”

According to the State of the Connected World report, strengthening security and privacy is not the only priority to realize the potential of our 22 billion internet connected devices. As IoT continues to expand and provide new benefits to individuals, businesses and communities, the ability of these connected devices and systems to fairly benefit and protect society was highlighted as the largest governance gap, based on surveys and interviews with more than 400 subject matter experts worldwide.

Report findings highlight the need to mobilize in five critical areas:

  • building transparency and trust into the heart of IoT technologies
  • ensuring public privacy and security is protected
  • providing equal access for all
  • incentivizing the use of IoT to help solve humankind’s biggest challenges
  • bringing people together to create a global consensus on these critical issues

To advance these five actions and shape the future development of the IoT, the World Economic Forum has brought together 37 world-leading initiatives in six continents as part of a multi-year, global action plan. These new initiatives include:

  • Consumers International, Carnegie Mellon University, Zigbee Alliance, UL, Arçelik A.Ş. and Libelium are launching a global coalition to improve the trustworthiness of consumer IoT devices and help consumers better understand the benefits and risks associated with these products. Action will focus on building consensus on device safeguards and standards throughout the ecosystem of internet-enabled consumer electronic devices, such as voice assistants, security cameras and wearable technologies.
  • This work will be complemented by an emerging public-private partnership includingHelpful Places, Digital Public Square and the City of Boston, which are working to increase transparency and signage for the use of digital technologies in public spaces.
  • Brazil, Colombia, Kazahkstan, South Africa and Turkey are working together to help build the technological capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises. The partnership aims to reach more than 5,000 companies within the next three years with new training and support services.
  • 36 cities around the world including Buenos Aires, Istanbul, London, Medellín and Mexico City, will pioneer a global policy road map for the responsible and ethical use of connected technologies as part of the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance. This includes the launch of new policies related to privacy, security and digital infrastructure.

The World Economic Forum aims to develop this work through a year-long series of activities, which formally begin on 10 December 2020. An initial report to document progress on the global action plan will be shared as part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Technology Governance Summit on 6-7 April 2020.

“With the emergence of 5G and IoT, we are on the cusp of unleashing the power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and enabling the digital transformation of industries around the world,” said Cristiano Amon, President of Qualcomm Incorporated and Co-Chair of the Global IoT Council. “The combination of these essential technologies has the potential to shape the future of the internet, connecting everything to the cloud. Through the Council’s close collaboration with ecosystem partners, governments and policy-makers, we strive to ensure privacy, security and equity in the design and deployment of IoT systems.”

“As the internet of things becomes a part of our daily lives, it is essential that we build upon the last three decades of learning from the World Wide Web, ensuring that these technologies create a digital future that is safe and empowering for everyone. Governments, companies and citizens need to work together in innovative public-private partnerships to create this digital future” said Adrian Lovett, President and Chief Executive Officer of the World Wide Web Foundation and Co-Chair of the Global IoT Council.

“This report highlights the enormous potential for IoT to accelerate sustainable and equitable growth, especially as it relates to equipping the next generation with critical skills to take advantage of these emerging technologies,” said Mohamed Kande, Vice-Chair, Global Advisory Leader, PwC. “These insights couldn’t be more timely as IoT has been used to reduce business interruptions and improve workforce safety during the COVID-19 pandemic with contact tracing and other preventative applications. It will also have a critical role to play in solving the global challenge to manufacture and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.”

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