The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has accelerated existing trends, including the spread of technology in everyday life, according to Jihad Azour, Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Azour’s remarks came during an IMF virtual panel discussion entitled “Improving Governance and Fighting Corruption for Inclusive Growth in the Middle East and North Africa”.
He added that he sees three pluses and one minus as a result of the pandemic, which has caused significant financial and economic upheaval worldwide.
Of these, Azour said that the first plus is related to financial transactions, noting that digitalisation is showing that the world can accelerate and improve the quality of such transactions.
He added that it is now more possible to provide service to people in their home, which was an issue people faced in terms of dealing with the state, as well as one of the sources of corruption.
“Second is the way we use information, as we now have a multiplicity of sources of information we can use, and we can improve our analysis, but also improve our capacity to analyse and audit,” Azour said.
He mentioned that the third plus is what the world has in terms of technology currently available. There have also been a certain number of accelerations like mobile money, mobile education, and mobile healthcare services. He noted that those are three important service level dimensions for citizens everywhere.
On the other hand, Azour said that the minus refers to inequality in access to technology, which is where risks lie.
He noted that this inequality can be seen in those who have access to technology and those who do not, which is particularly salient in low-income countries.
Inequality in access to technology can also be seen within the same society, with Azour highlighting that this could become one of the main injustices in the future.
He mentioned that one of the priorities going forward is how to make sure that this new accelerated wave of technology and technological improvement is something that will benefit all. It will also affect the ability to use means to transact financially, but also as a way to participate in technology.
The importance of this technological participation has already been proven, as it is a way for people to participate in the wider society.