ilo-wcms_770155
ILO
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Post-COVID digital economy must include persons with disabilities

Changes brought about by the expanding digital economy could help persons with disabilities gain more equal access to the world of work, or they could create greater barriers. A new ILO report proposes actions to ensure that the post-COVID world of work is disability-inclusive.

 

Advances in the digital economy, significantly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, are creating unprecedented opportunities to build a more inclusive world of work for the more than 1 billion people with disabilities globally, a new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) says.

However, digital barriers also threaten to aggravate existing inequalities and exclusion, unless they are countered with effective and targeted initiatives, as highlighted by the study.

The report, An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities , was prepared by the ILO Global Business and Disability Network  (GBDN) and the Spanish disability NGO Fundación ONCE. It looks at the effects of the digital revolution on the creation of new jobs, changes to existing roles and work models, as well as online recruitment processes. It also highlights key areas for action by different groups of stakeholders, including the digital industry, academia, governments, workers and employers, and people with disabilities themselves.

The report highlights three main levers for creating a more inclusive digital labour market for persons with disabilities: ensuring accessibility, fostering digital skills and promoting digital employment.

The increase in digital work creates acute problems for those without the necessary skills or equipment, the study says, pointing out that, due to persistent exclusion, people with disabilities generally have lower levels of education and training than their peers without disabilities.

Hence, reskilling and upskilling will be key to building an inclusive future of work, alongside initiatives to foster digital employment and support collaboration between relevant stakeholders. Assistive technologies (AT) could also open up new occupations and opportunities. However, the report warns that a lack of accessible AT could create new barriers because without it many essential digital tools will not be usable by people with disabilities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends already present in the world of work, including the expansion of the digital economy,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Equality department. “We must ensure that we direct this trend so that it supports an inclusive future of work in which the talents and skills of persons with disabilities can contribute to the success of workplaces and societies worldwide.”

“In order to leave no one behind, the technological revolution which we are living, and which has been accelerated by the pandemic, needs to ensure an inclusive design for people with disabilities, so prevent it being a barrier for them,” emphasized Fernando Riaño, Director of Institutional Relations and Social Responsibility in the ONCE Social Group, of which Fundación ONCE is a part.

The report was published at the Zero Project conference, the largest annual disability-specific meeting, which this year was held virtually on 10 February, with the theme “Employment and ICT”. Its aim is to increase awareness of the way an increasingly digital world of work is affecting those with disabilities and identify how the future of work can be shaped to be more inclusive. It was developed within the framework of Disability Hub Europe, a project led by Fundación ONCE and co-funded by the European Social Fund.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Previously posted at :

Related News

UNCTAD

The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged the world into the worst recession since World War II. In 2020, the global economy shrank by 4.3% – over two and half times more than during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

Lockdowns and other preventive measures that governments have put in place to curb the spread of the virus have disrupted economic activity in ways for which societies were largely unprepared.

As social distancing and restrictions on movement became the new normal, businesses and consumers increasingly “went digital”, providing and purchasing more goods and services online.

Soon-to-be released findings from a study conducted by UNCTAD and eTrade for all partners shows the strong uptake in e-commerce wasn’t a rich world phenomenon. In fact, consumers in emerging economies have made the greatest shift to online shopping.

Latin America’s online marketplace Mercado Libre, for example, sold twice as many articles per day in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the same period the previous year. And African e-commerce platform Jumia reported a 50% jump in transactions during the first six months of 2020.

Not everyone can ‘go digital’

Businesses and consumers that were able to “go digital” have helped mitigate the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. But they have also sped up a digital transition that will have lasting impacts on our societies and daily lives – for which not everyone is prepared.

The pandemic has benefited the world’s leading digital platforms more than others. Most solutions being used for e-commerce, teleworking and cloud computing are provided by a relatively small number of large companies, based mainly in China and the United States.

Meanwhile, in many of the world’s poorest economies, consumers and businesses aren’t able to capitalize on the new e-commerce opportunties due to persistent bottlenecks and barriers, such as costly broadband services, overreliance on cash, a lack of digital skills among the population and government inattention.

The risk is that the huge digital divides that already existed between and within countries will only worsen in the wake of the pandemic. The result will be even deeper inequalities that would threaten to derail progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Building an enabling e-commerce ecosystem

To prevent this from happening, UNCTAD has identified three critical areas where greater efforts are needed.

First, governments need to prioritize national digital readiness so that more local businesses can become producers in the digital economy, not just consumers.

Building an enabling e-commerce ecosystem requires changes in public policy and business practices to improve the digital and trading infrastructure, facilitate digital payments and establish appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks for online transactions and security. So the approach must be holistic. Policies should not be made in silos.

Second, businesses in developing countries need to become better prepared to participate in the digital economy. This requires faster digitalization for smaller businesses, more attention to digital entrepreneurship (including reskilling), better capabilities to capture and harness data, and stronger regulatory frameworks for creating and capturing value in the digital economy.

Third, the international community – including development partners, United Nations agencies and commissions, regional economic communities, and organizations concerned with digital development – need to strengthen their collaboration with governments and the private sector to leverage the opportunities and minimize the risks of countries falling by the wayside.

Only through active collaboration can we ensure e-commerce plays a powerful and positive role in national and international efforts to “build back better”.

Need for dialogue and collaboration

Better dialogue and collaboration are needed to identify new pathways for the digital economy that take into account and leverage varying kinds of experience and expertise and avoid duplication.

One example of such a platform is the eTrade for all initiative, currently funded by the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia.Over the past four years the initiative has acted as a global helpdesk for developing countries to bridge the knowledge gap on e-commerce information and resources.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, more than 30 eTrade for all partners have worked together to raise awareness on the e-commerce opportunities and risks emerging during the crisis and identify ways businesses in developing and least developed countries could overcome the challenges.

The initiative’s work focuses on seven policy areas identified as critical to e-commerce’s development:

  • E-commerce strategy
  • ICT infrastructure
  • Payment solutions
  • Trade logistics and facilitation
  • Legal frameworks
  • Skills development
  • Financing SMEs

Countries should redouble their efforts in these areas to turn the digital opportunities brought by the pandemic into development gains.

The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged the world into the worst recession since World War II. In 2020, the global economy shrank by 4.3% – over two and half times more than during the 2008-2009 global...

UNCDF

The European Commission, together with the Organization of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), has signed a new initiative of €14.5 million with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to unlock the potential of digital finance to benefit more than 600,000 women, youth and entrepreneurs across African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Today more than ever, digital technologies have a central role to increase access and usage of affordable financial products and services that meet people and business needs -as well as accelerate economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. This is why, as reflected in our EU Strategy with Africa, we want to join forces with Africa to foster a digital transformation that also helps us close the digital gender divide,” said Jutta UrpilainenCommissioner for International Partnerships. “If we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, digital solutions are key to create more jobs and improve basic services such as health and education.

Our work responding to COVID-19 in 2020 showed that access to digital finance and infrastructure was a major determinant of how resilient societies and businesses were in the face of the shocks caused by the pandemic”, said Henri Dommel, UNCDF Director of Financial Inclusion. “This partnership with the EU will boost the response to the pandemic and economic recovery of ACP countries using digital finance as a tool to reach the last mile.”

Mobile money is the provision of financial services through mobile technologies. It allows for the paying of bills and receiving money by the use of mobile apps. Mobile money also creates new opportunities for businesses and individuals as it grows in all regions of the world, both in urban and rural communities. Nevertheless, there is a long way to go as 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked, especially women and youth. This represents 46% of adults in the developing countries.

Thanks to this EU funded initiative, UNCDF will support key policy reforms for digital transformation as well as create inclusive financial services tailored to the needs of women and youth, including innovative savings products and credit.

The joint action will be implemented in different countries in Africa (Gabon, Niger, Malawi and Ethiopia) as well as in the Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago and Eastern Caribbean States) and in the Pacific region (Vanuatu, Samoa, Timor Leste, Tonga and Fiji).

This initiative is fully in line with the recent launch of the new Digital 4 Development Hub, aimed at building strong ties across the globe to make the digital revolution an opportunity for everyone.

Contacts:

European Commission
Ana PISONERO HERNANDEZ (+32 2 295 43 20)
Gesine KNOLLE (+32 2 295 43 23)
For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail

United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)
Karima WARDAK
Karima.Wardak@uncdf.org

*************

Background

The coronavirus global health crisis is severely harming livelihoods and sending hundreds of millions into poverty. Although economic recovery appears far off, the crisis has also encouraged incentives for economic transformation, demonstrating the immediate benefits of financial inclusion. In spite of the progress made in the past ten years, supporting digital finance remains critical for governments and individuals to create a conducive ecosystem for economic recovery and to provide a tangible response to coronavirus.

Although much is still unknown of the socioeconomic consequences of the coronavirus on women and youth, the disease is especially harmful to those who generally earn less, save less, hold more insecure jobs and, therefore, have less capacity to absorb economic shocks. The situation for women and youth in Least Developed Countries (LDC) is likely to deteriorate faster than in more developed countries.

The European Commission, together with the Organization of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), has signed a new initiative of €14.5 million with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to unlock the potential of...

EIF

Trade isn’t all about tariffs or taxes, as COVID-19 has shown.

From fresh produce to toilet paper to bicycles, the pandemic has disrupted the complex supply networks that crisscross the globe. And with that disruption, the virus has revealed the delicacy of many of these links, and how tenuous the world’s worst-off are within these global arrangements.

Garment factories in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Cambodia have all experienced cancellations of orders. In total, U.S. and European fashion companies have refused to pay overseas suppliers over $16 billion in global goods, affecting millions of workers.

For lower-income countries that rely heavily on tourism, a similar story unfolded. Pandemic lockdowns started, cancellations ensued, and the many that work in parks, safaris, and heritage sites — often in more remote areas with few employment prospects — lost jobs and essential income.

Of course, COVID-19 is a disaster of massive proportions, with most if not all people and institutions diminished in one way or another. Should we expect that global value chains, or GVCs, which have driven international trade and spurred economic development in some low-income countries, be more resilient?

1  Overcoming challenges

For the world’s lowest-income nations, becoming a link in a global “chain” of production can help to boost economies. But for businesses in these countries, there are hurdles to overcome from customs and transportation to infrastructure and certification requirements. But, following that, there is promise.

In Germany, voluntary monitoring of supply chain abuses ‘has failed’

The country is under pressure to introduce compulsory regulations.

According to the World Bank’s “World Development Report 2020,” a 1% increase in GVC participation boosts per capita income by over 1%. But, the report notes that GVCs are at a “crossroads,” with growth leveled off since 2008 with GVCs at 52% of trade.

Take Bangladesh, the country doubled its world market share of exports between 1995 and 2012, with much of the growth attributed to its garments industry being integrated into GVCs. Key to the country’s success were government incentives, flexible labor arrangements, and very little taxation. Yet during the pandemic, according to the Center for Global Workers Rights, over 1 million workers have been fired as a result of canceled orders and buyers’ refusal to pay.

Can GVCs be re-centered so the world’s worst-off in countries like Bangladesh aren’t the first to bear the brunt of shocks?

2  Taking the lead

The services sector of GVCs is linked with the highest gross domestic product growth. Job gains in this sector are offsetting losses in manufacturing. Countries have responded, by, for instance working to develop tourism industries or IT sectors. For years, Cabo Verde had been positioning itself as an island idyll, now it is at a crossroads amid the pandemic-induced global travel restrictions. What did the country do? It’s paying idle workers in the tourism sector 70% of their income until the end of this year.

With the exponential development of the global need for now-digital connectivity, there is space for low- and middle-income countries to spearhead new models for themselves, while maintaining efforts that have had success.

In Myanmar, the government swiftly responded to the increased need for digital commerce. In Tanzania, the tourist board and wildlife conservation authorities live-streamed the great wildebeest migration. In Samoa, Women In Business Development used the Maua app, the country’s first e-commerce platform, to create an online market where farmers and small businesses have been selling their products during lockdowns.

3  Recommendations

Setting aside the integral roles of importers, industry, donors, and multilaterals, what can low-income countries do themselves to work toward some control?

1. Understand strengths and weaknesses

Countries need to take advantage of strengths and build resilience against shocks. Ethiopia’s coffee sector is using its close ties with diverse coffee markets in the EU, the U.K., and Saudi Arabia to weather the global coffee crisis. Schemes that guarantee a minimum price for farmers and coffee producers, or salaries for garment workers and tourist guides, are more important now than ever.

2. Improve the business climate

With strong and transparent institutions, countries can better navigate the complex dynamics of GVCs, and hopefully dictate their own terms. Governments could review their foreign direct investment strategies by looking at the exporting sectors that have been attracting investment. Rwanda is now providing a preferential tax rate for investors that undertake to work with a host of different energy sources to position the country’s investments beyond the pandemic.

3. Reduce trade and investment barriers

Complex customs rules, regulations against foreign companies, export restraints — countries can address these so they’re not at a disadvantage from the start. Initiatives such as the Enhanced Integrated Framework at the World Trade Organization have been working with countries to assess the barriers and work to put improvements into action.

4. Build digital capabilities

The internet was already facilitating GVCs, but many countries will still need to overcome their many challenges of infrastructure, of skills, of systems, of policy.

With trade, no country can work in a silo. EIF has been leading a #PowerUpTrade campaign together with the lowest-income countries, highlighting how people who work along value chains are being impacted by COVID-19.

The pandemic is showing us that the poorest countries continue to be the most vulnerable, and while they can do a lot on their own, they also can’t do it alone.

Trade isn’t all about tariffs or taxes, as COVID-19 has shown.

From fresh produce to toilet paper to bicycles, the pandemic has disrupted the complex supply networks that crisscross the globe. And with...

UNCDF

Every year since 2017, the Kampala Innovation Week brings together stakeholders in the startup ecosystem to celebrate, re-focus and energize the innovation efforts in Uganda and across the region.

KIW2020, last year’s edition of the annual KIW, was like no other. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, KIW2020 was organized as a hybrid event that involved in person participation of over 150 attendees with more than 5,000 others joining online from Uganda, Sudan, Kenya and the UAE, among other countries.

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges across many facets of life and business, and particularly disrupted many startups especially in economies like Uganda. Consequently, the KIW2020 edition was aptly themed around recovery and resilience for Startups and SMEs, where innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and development partners from all around the region gathered for discussions amid the ongoing global health crisis.

Discussions were focused on fostering the resilience and recovery of the Ugandan entrepreneur, financing Uganda’s green economy through entrepreneurial solutions, and rethinking the approach to startup financing.

Each day, a major partner event was hosted, with Day 1 dedicated to ITCs pitch competition which reached over 1000 people online. Activities were hosted by the Uganda Green Enterprise Finance Accelerator (UGEFA) on Day 2 around green entrepreneurship in Uganda and the various opportunities for finance. Enabel hosted a boot camp on Day 3 around digital innovation for entrepreneurs in the context of COVID-19.

Some of the speakers included Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, co-founder of Andela, Flutterwave and Future Africa, Norhizam Abdul Kadir, Vice-President of Fintech and Islamic Digital Economy at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, and renowned investor and entrepreneur Tomi Davies, President of the African Business Angel Network.

One notable showcase of this edition was the resilience of the startups that weathered the storm as the world quaked under a global pandemic. Indeed, the ingenious innovations that soared above the pandemic demonstrated the power of startups to swiftly devise solutions for contemporary issues and global challenges.

Below are three main highlights of the discussions at the KIW2020

Entrepreneurs embrace innovation during the pandemic

Julian Omalla had a dream of starting a fresh juice business. With UNCDF support, she started Delight Uganda Limited, a successful fresh juice business that sources its raw materials from farmers in Nwoya district.

When the pandemic hit, Omalla had to lay off her workers and close the business whose main customers were students in boarding schools. She used the lockdown period to re-strategize, reorganize and grow more fruits through the Nwoya Fruit Farmers’ Association that consists of over 5,000 farmers. This is one of the stories of resilience amid a global pandemic that was showcased during KIW2020.

Despite the apparent market uncertainty, many startups, companies and individuals have risen to the occasion, shifting their working models and using innovative digital solutions to meet customers’ needs. A number of startups are providing solutions in financial services, health, education, e-commerce, and entertainment, among other sectors.

Companies like Tubayo Travel and Pro Interns, both of which depended heavily on in person communication and freedom of movement for their business modules, discussed the ways in which COVID-19 forced them to adapt and adopt new ways of working in order to survive.

Here is a recap of the discussion.

Panelists discuss the need for a Startup Act

Startups are universally recognized as a vital engine that powers rapid economic growth. In Uganda, despite the numerous laws and policies that guide companies, panelists at the KIW2020 observed that there is need for a specific Startup Act that not only defines what a startup is but also stipulates specific benefits to startups such as access to tax relief and how the government can support them to access international markets.

“Many businesses are collapsing because of the lack of law protection,” said John Walugembe, CEO at Federation of SMEs. “Startups need to be recognized for their contribution to the economy, not as a favour to them.”

Though the panelists agreed that there is need for more groundwork and research before a Startup Act can be enacted, a clarion call was made for an urgent legal framework within which startups can be engaged. They added that the framework should provide for more lenient requirements for registration, mechanisms for access to finance, and an enabling environment for entry and exit into the sector.

Watch the discussion here.

Digital innovation to improve efficiency in the humanitarian sector

There is no doubt that the pandemic has hit hardest the people who are traditionally marginalized, affecting their ability to access social services like health and education. Consequently, the humanitarian sector needs to embrace digital innovation to build solutions that improve the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable.

The discussion emphasized the concern that digital solutions should make the lives of people supported by humanitarian organizations better, not worse. Governments and regulating authorities play a leading role in accommodating the innovation process and ensuring consumer protection.

“We need to ensure that our solutions do not for instance propagate domestic violence or create more division amongst communities,” observed Jaki Mebur Market Engagement Manager, GSMA.

Keeping in mind the limited access to technology and digital literacy that marginalized communities face, digital innovations should address the needs of the most vulnerable.

Watch the discussion here.

Please visit the Kampala Innovation week Facebook page to watch all the live stream sessions.

Every year since 2017, the Kampala Innovation Week brings together stakeholders in the startup ecosystem to celebrate, re-focus and energize the innovation efforts in Uganda and across the region.

KIW2020, last year’s edition of the annual...