COVID-19

A second wave could lead to a 'public outcry' for digital tracing - government and business leaders on managing the coronavirus crisis

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement before entering the district court room where he is facing a trial for alleged corruption crimes, in Jerusalem May 24 2020.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke during a meeting of the Forum's COVID Action Platform on Wednesday.. Image: REUTERS

Christopher Alessi
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
Greta Keenan
Lead, Strategic Impact and Communications, World Economic Forum Geneva
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"We’ve pulled back on some of the digital tracing because of our concerns with privacy…. But that’s because the disease is receding. My guess is that if the disease continues to go forward, we’ll try as fast as we can to get voluntary compliance with these apps - but if we hit a second wave, my guess is that there will be public outcry calling for the use of broader digital tracing."

Those comments - on tracking and tracing technologies being employed in the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic - came from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a virtual meeting of the Forum's COVID Action Platform on 27 May.

Netanyahu added: "I’ve stringently avoided this tech because I think there is more harm to our civil liberties than benefit. But what do you do if you're going to be faced with a second wave that can claim untold numbers of deaths? My guess is that we’ll have no choice but to find a way to introduce it."

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Launched in March, the Forum's platform aims to convene leaders from governments and the business community for collective action to protect people’s livelihoods, facilitate business continuity and mobilize support for a global response to COVID-19. To date, more than 1,500 people from more than 1,000 businesses and organizations have joined the platform.

To find the latest updates on the Platform, check out our recently-launched highlights blog.

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In addition to Netanyahu, participants on this week's webinar included: Paula Ingabire, Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation of Rwanda; Hugh Evans, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Global Citizen; Jason Kelly, Chief Executive Officer, Ginkgo Bioworks; and Punit Renjen, Global Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte.

Here are some key quotes from the session:

"Technology was the silver lining of this pandemic. For us, digital tech played a critical role in facilitating continuity of our regular lives… but also in sectors like education and trade, where there were largely traditional practices and were largely affected by the pandemic."

Paula Ingabire, Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation of Rwanda

"My view is pretty simple. The economy, particularly in the area of mass entertainment is not going to reopen until we have tests treatments and vaccines available readily. I don’t see a pathway for that to reopen prior to [summer 2021] unless the current investment into treatments rapidly accelerates."

Hugh Evans, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Global Citizen

"This is an opportunity for us to reset ESG accountability. The expectation that we will go back and address climate change has come to the fore and will persist beyond COVID-19."

Punit Renjen, Global Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte

"We need to bring online some new technologies...we’re creating the infrastructure to ensure this won’t happen again."

Jason Kelly, Chief Executive Officer, Ginkgo Bioworks

"The most important thing we can do short of the vaccine is to have instant testing."

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel
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