Outcome of the webinar on “Building Digital Resilience for COVID-19 Response and Recovery”

On 14th – 16th April, 2020 an impactful webinar titled “Building Digital Resilience for COVID-19 Response and Recovery [Asia and The Pacific]” was held in collaboration of eWorldwide Group and IEEE Standards Association in organizing, facilitating and creating the 3-days webinar series while UNESCAP offered great support through their extensive outreach to engage vital stakeholders, chairing strategic sessions and providing valuable thought provoking interventions throughout the entire series. Moreover government officials from Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, Pakistan and South Korea, along with panelists from various UN agencies; development banks, academia, civil society organizations and the private sector whose involvement in providing critical knowledge exchange throughout, proved invaluable in the success of the webinar series

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has been causing cascading economic and social stress across the world. The production of goods and services has decreased in some countries, while an increasing number of economies are feared to go into recession, with rising unemployment rates. In addition, the judiciary system is at a stand-still and prison systems are failing. More schools are closed, and hospitals overcrowded with dwindling medical supplies and overstretched healthcare workers. In combating the adverse effects of COVID-19 and enhancing societal and economic resilience, digital technology and connectivity have emerged as an essential tool and alternative to the physical equivalent. While it is being  witnessed that the fundamental shift to digital services and communication, the evidence and examples are emerging that some groups are being left behind, at greater risk without timely medical, social, economic and other support.

In this context, the Institute of Electronical and Electronic Engineers – Standards Association (IEEE-SA) joined hands with the eWorldwide Group (eWWG) to organise a series of urgent webinars focused on ‘Building Digital Resilience to support COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Recovery’. With the participation of renowned experts in their respective fields, and critical agencies. The webinar series intends to deepen understanding, facilitate partnerships amongst key stakeholders focusing on vital topics that could be leverage knowledge, experiences, innovative operational models and lessons learnt, suggest digital solutions, policy reforms, essential standards and guidelines to contain and address the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is envisioned that the webinar series to be an ongoing and constantly evolving platform to address multiple key issues that arise, while with navigating globally the response and recovery from this pandemic and support humanity

.The first webinar series 1, focused on Asia and The Pacific region due to their early exposure and experience with COVID-19 pandemic. This was held on 14th-16th April 2020 bringing together almost 100 participants around the globe, including high-level government officials, representatives from multilateral development banks and United Nations agencies, and a multidisciplinary group of experts from academia, civil society and industry. Over three days, the webinar series 1, provided opportunities for multi-sector stakeholder dialogue and focused on 3 key aspects; i) Covid-19 crisis management and emergency health systems; ii) social implications for people and iii) resilient recovery and food security. The discussions were organised over six specific sessions to deepen understanding, facilitate partnerships and identify concrete actions for the use of digital technologies to support COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery.

The initial six sessions focused on the following themes:

  1. Crisis management COVID-19
  2. Emergency healthcare services and ecosystem
  3. Refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and people with disabilities (PwDs)
  4. Mental wellness and social implications
  5. Digital resilience
  6. Smart village clusters

The sessions had a diverse panel of speakers and a moderators and was conducted in the style of a dialogue with active interactions between the speakers, moderators and participants.

The webinar series began with an opening session presided over by IEEE-SA, eWWG and UNESCAP. The speakers emphasised the importance of concerted actions and partnerships to build both human and digital resilience to overcome the crisis and build back better, ensuring that no one is left behind.

In summary, the Building Digital Resilience to Support COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Recovery webinar series explored digital innovations that have helped in COVID-19 crisis management, including providing life-saving information and relieving overwhelmed healthcare systems. The webinar series discussed the infrastructure requirements and capacity needed to replicate and localise these technologies in other countries, and the pressing issues to consider when deploying them, such as privacy, security and data protection.

In conclusion, based on these discussions in the webinar series among speakers and participants, the following recommendations are drawn for building human and digital resilience to support COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery:


  • It is no longer sufficient to attend only to what is within one’s specific jurisdiction, sector or expertise. We must approach COVID-19 response and recovery with greater collective effort
  • Policies that promote the innovative use of integrated digital technologies and data must take into consideration privacy, data protection and security risks
  • Development of holistic global emergency pandemic response standards and guidelines that integrate; i) proven interoperable technologies such as medical devices, tools, health information systems, big data analytics, storage and connectivity. ii) ethical AI, data protection and information sharing protocols to ensure that privacy and transparency is agreed and iii) critical infrastructure requirements to support reliable operations during a crisis for the common goal of saving lives
  • Digital response and recovery solutions must be inclusive, ensuring that PwDs and older persons are able to use the innovations, and those without access to devices and the Internet are not excluded
  • Leverage old technologies with new technologies to bridge the digital divide to fast track the provision of vital information and services
  • Provide a neutral online platform to capture the innovative solutions and strategies for COVID-19 response and recovery to avoid reinventing the wheel and promote the replication and localization of innovations. These could include apps, information systems, mapping initiatives, dashboards, databases and collaborative tools
  • Collate globally-accurate COVID-19 data disaggregated by gender and age for informed decision-making, and leverage artificial intelligence, big data analytics and the Internet of Things for data collection and analysis
  • Greater consultation and collaboration to adopt an agile methodology to share, leverage and localise solutions
  • The pandemic underscores the importance of a robust and resilient ICT and healthcare infrastructure. COVID-19 response and recovery must include the upgrade and improvement of the ICT and healthcare infrastructure
  • Re-evaluation of the assessment criteria used to assess a country’s preparedness level for pandemic, as more holistic and contextualised parameters are required
  • Accelerate advancements in the digital health sector, including the exploration of 5G’s potential to revolutionise healthcare
  • Policies and incentives are needed to enable multi-sector stakeholder collaboration and cooperation to fast track sustainable and scalable healthcare services, particularly for rural areas and hard to reach communities. For example, in banks and donors’ approval of new projects for COVID-19 response and recovery, there could be a requirement that projects must include multi-stakeholder collaboration or public-private-civil society partnerships
  • Promote collaboration in scientific research for COVID-19 response and recovery, including the establishment of a Scientific Community Platform that links scientists seeking expert assistance and advice, and those willing to volunteer their time and expertise for the pandemic
  • COVID-19 response and recovery must safeguard the rights and wellbeing of marginalised and vulnerable groups, including children, ethnic minorities, IDPs, indigenous peoples, migrants and undocumented migrants, older persons, PwDs and women
  • The planning and implementation of COVID-19 response and recovery must be inclusive and involve civil society organizations that support marginalised and vulnerable groups. Measures need to include the support and empowerment of these organizations, and the strengthening of their capacity to effectively use digital technologies to reach and assist their targeted groups
  • Develop policies and standards for ‘holistic inclusion and protection’ of marginalised groups during emergencies that are issued and enforced by the United Nations or a collaborative body
  • Develop a recognised ‘digital identity’ to ensure inclusion and access to vital services for stateless migrants, IDPs and refugees
  • Develop creative methods for financial inclusion using fintech, blockchain and innovative financing to support sustainable economic empowerment of marginalised groups
  • Raise awareness of law enforcement, first responders and others involved in COVID-19 response on the barriers that different marginalised and vulnerable groups face in this crisis situation and provide training on the planning and implementation of inclusive response and recovery programmes
  • In line with UN Women’s recommendations, include essential services to address violence in COVID-19 response policies and plans, ensuring that victims have access to hotlines, shelters, counselling and other protection services. This should include their access to devices and ICT connectivity
  • Develop new ways for reporting violence and accessing support using innovation and technology and equip relevant organizations with technology, devices and tools and training to provide remote social support, counselling and other services. At the same time, ensure that these organizations have ICT connectivity and electricity
  • Provide financial, technical and psychosocial support to organizations working with marginalised and vulnerable groups to enable efforts to assist and meet the needs of their communities and constituencies in COVID-19 response and recovery
  • Raise awareness of law enforcement, first responders and others involved in COVID-19 response about the increase of violence against women and girls during COVID-19 and provide training on how to respond, protect and refer victims and survivors to appropriate services
  • Raise awareness of women, girls, children and other vulnerable groups of essential online safety and privacy practices, when engaging the digital spaces, particularly with social media and gaming sites. This should be complemented with localised awareness campaigns and safety messages in local languages
  • Review ICT policies and promote public-private-civil society partnerships to accelerate efforts to bridge the digital divide. This includes removing barriers like taxes and investing in the expansion of fixed-line broadband connectivity and availability of affordable devices, as well as adopting digital platforms and deepening regional co-operation
  • Support countries in the expansion and upgrade of its ICT infrastructure and systems to enable real-time data flow and analysis during crises
  • Incorporate in COVID-19 response and recovery policies and plans, the provision of marginalised and vulnerable groups with access to suitable devices and broadband connectivity, and development of digital literacy for online learning, working remotely, and accessing vital information and opportunities
  • Support the digitalization of SMEs, particularly women-owned SMEs, by introducing them to digital payment and e-commerce platforms, and data analytics tools, and providing free and discounted tools and services for remote working and communications, business management and online digital marketing
  • Efforts in building digital resilience must include the continued support in the fight against cybercrime in a collaborative and multi-stakeholder manner
  • In COVID-19 response and recovery, ensure that rural areas are included with funds and technical assistance allocated to support rural healthcare and telemedicine centres, keep the agricultural sector and supply chains working smoothly, and protect farmers, migrant workers, women and children
  • As part of COVID-19 response and recovery, adopt the smart village approach, focusing on the holistic integration and digital transformation of rural communities as a means to strengthen their resilience and ensure food security
  • A vital part of ensuring COVID-19 response and recovery solutions are sustainable, scalable, resilient and impactful, it is essential to formulate multi-sectorial partnerships that are in harmony with the local environmental sensitivities and opportunities, while supporting all aspects of the SDGs

Moving forward, these recommendations will inform the development of action plans and concrete digital resilience pandemic projects. These projects will be designed in a holistic, inclusive and collaborative manner with multi-sector stakeholders, to ensure that they ‘build back better’ and ‘leave no one behind’ and contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Find the report document below:

18-05-20- COVID-19 Outcome Report Webinar Series 1- Revised May, 2020 – IEEE and eWWG

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