Arkady Dvorkovich, the chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation, took part as one of four keynote debaters at the AIM Digital 2020 Conference in the UAE on October 20, 2020. The online debate was titled, “Reimagining Economies: The Move Towards a Digital, Sustainable & Resilient Future."

Chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkady Dvorkovich. Screenshot:

The debate focused on what to expect in a post-covid world and how the current crisis has shown the need for sustainable business models and has driven localization and digitization. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) forecast shows that global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows will decrease by up to 40%, falling to 2005 levels. While businesses were already going digital in the pre-Covid-19 era, they began fast-tracking digitization with the advent of the pandemic, and governments have actively encouraged the move to digitized economies.

In his opening remarks, Arkady Dvorkovic stated that the digital agenda is crucial to shaping the economic agenda in a post-Covid-19 world.

“This isn’t just about the things we see now, such as remote work, remote education, and telemedicine; it’s another way of thinking about the world. Prior to this, people viewed digital technologies as complimentary,” said Mr. Dvorkovich.

Digitization has become the core of how society functions and is driving new business models that will be in mainstream use in the future. It's about finding ways to deliver goods and services to households.

“Industry is very responsive and there are many businesses in the digital area, and I think it’s time for governments to adjust regulations to allow for these trends to flourish,” said Mr. Dvorkovich. “I believe that the pace of digitization is much faster now. Before, it was just one of many trends.”

Indeed, governments have shown readiness to move quickly in allowing digitization to happen without too much administration. "There needs to be a global discussion on what priorities should be co-financed and what to focus on in terms of regulation," said Mr. Dvorkovich. “It’s not just about discussions at forums, which are of course important; it’s about discussions among stakeholders such as businesses, governments, consumers, and professional communities. I think that is what is needed to shape the post-Covid-19 world right now.”

If governments can assess the costs properly, then there are clear advantages to digital solutions in terms of sustainability. “I think that there is currently a lack tools to evaluate realistically the cost benefits of moving to digital solutions. That is another thing that we should develop. In terms of sustainability, we should also consider health and education.”

Mr. Dvorkovich opined that changing the means of diagnostics through the use of big data solutions, including artificial intelligence, could greatly improve primary health. Skolkovo companies have already offered such solutions to the Russian market and are ready to share them with the rest of the world.

“The same applies to education," he said. "The distant learning approach helps improve access to the best available education practices across the world. Infrastructure is of course critical, but if you can find a way to improve it then you can provide much better education to huge societies that are currently without access to remote education.”

Mr. Dvorkovich stated back in May, during the first wave of the pandemic, that we would face the biggest challenge in the middle of autumn; we now find ourselves in the midst of a second wave with burgeoning cases across the world as well as within Russia itself; yet he nonetheless expressed a positive outlook as to the outcome of the current crisis.

“I am always optimistic, and while my belief about what would happen in autumn has now been confirmed by the current reality, I strongly believe that we should be doing much better by next spring. I have a few reasons for this. One is that society is learning quickly how to deal with the situation, and people are becoming more knowledgeable about what is going on in our health systems. Doctors are in a better position to diagnose and treat the disease and more tests are being done; the death rate seems to be going down and hopefully that will be the case in all countries very soon. Also, vaccine development is very important. While I don’t insist that we have the best vaccine, I think the Russian vaccine is good enough and we are looking forward to more vaccines being developed that will enter the market. That will be of great help and I think that by mid-spring we see some improvements.”