OECD Angel Gurria is clear: there is not enough international cooperation between governments to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. To be sure, we did not enter the crisis on a strong multilateral footing. And according to Oxford University Ngaire Woods, nationalist responses and competition have so far prevailed. International organizations have also shown the limits of their power – largely a reflection of that given to them by their member states. Stephen Buranyi, for instance, gives a great historical account of why the WHO can’t handle the pandemic. So it was refreshing to see 200 former presidents, ministers and heads of international organizations come together to ask the G20 to step up its game. Initiated by Gordon Brown with LSE Erik Berglof holding the pen, the letter calls for heightened global cooperation in response to the twin health and economic crisis and a $8 billion package to help prevent the second wave of Covid-19. Let’s see if/how finance ministers respond this week when they regroup at the 2020 World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings.
In “How Chinese Apps handled Covid-19”, Dan Grover gives a good overview of the key role played by Chinese big techs in the crisis response. They provided information through integrated tools, helped triage patients towards fever clinics and coronavirus hospitals, scaled telemedicine services, and developed health QR Codes for reporting and tracing. His blog post was published a few days before Apple and Google announced their partnership to develop a new contact tracing platform. Does this further feed into reversing the tech backlash trend flagged two weeks ago? It’s probably wise to take the long view on this one by, for instance, watching the 3-episode PBS “Networld” of Niall Ferguson [available on youtube if you are not in the US]. Little is new in the documentary but I enjoyed thinking about the parallel between today’s digital networks and ancient analog networks used to foster revolutions, and learning about network theory.
My picture this week is from MIT Tech Review Will Heaven’s “Why the coronavirus lockdown is making the internet stronger than ever”. It shows that, with the lockdown, internet connections moved from city offices to suburban homes, ie from highly powered hubs to scattered locations with low bandwidth and outdated cables. According to Heaven this has accelerated traffic capacity upgrade, infrastructure expansion, and data plan loosening – making the internet stronger for more. This is not how I was thinking about this before reading this article. I was thinking about how the lockdown amplifies digital inequalities between urban and rural, and between rich and poor.
My quote this week is from Brookings Kemal Dervis: “A clear parallel between the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change is becoming apparent. Both feature emergence, path dependence, feedback loops, tipping points, and nonlinearity. Both call for eschewing traditional cost-benefit analysis in favor of drastic mitigation to reduce exposure. And, both highlight the need for much closer, forward-looking international cooperation to manage global threats.”