Concordia Summit Spotlights Vaccines, Digital Access, and Climate Solutions

As the 2021 Concordia Annual Summit kicked off on September 20 in New York, the impact of COVID-19 as an accelerator of poverty and the need to rapidly move to clean energy took center stage. Concordia brings the public, private, and social sectors together. Their summit proved to be a key moment to announce new partnerships and programs.

The day began with an announcement of the Future Readiness Index, a tool commissioned by Google and produced by Portulans Institute. The index is designed to support a global digital transformation that can help developing nations generate jobs, which they need more urgently as the pandemic continues.

In another session, Dr. Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, talked about his foundation’s work to address this accelerating inequality by supporting the expansion of vaccinations and the development of microgrids. However, the problem will require more than Rockefeller Foundation can provide.

“We want people to see the world is basically at war with a pathogen,” Shah said. He compared the investment needed to create global immunity (around $50 billion) to the post- World War II U.S. Marshall Plan.

“Many people found online tools to be a lifeline during the lockdown,” said Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs at Google. “In some parts of the world, one in three businesses told us that without digital tools, they would have closed.”

Yet more of the world still needs access. “57% of the global population is still unable to access the internet,” Walker said. “In Africa, only 18% of households have access to broadband. We’re going to be working hand in hand with government and with industry to make sure we recover from the pandemic.”

Increasing digital access provides other opportunities. It allows community voices to be heard by more people. Jobs will also result from improving people’s digital skills internationally, said Bruno Lanvin, cofounder and director of Portulans Institute.

In some ways, according to Walker, emerging markets have advantages because they can leapfrog past outdated technologies and start fresh with the latest tools.

Katherine Friedrich

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