Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Whatever its shape, global recovery from the recession will be digital

By Sergi Herrero and Kaan Terzioglu, Co-Chief Executive Officers at VEON

While we can’t yet predict the speed or shape of the post-coronavirus global economic recovery, we can be certain that it will be powered by digital innovation and connectivity.

Lockdowns and social distancing measures across the world have caused the global economy to slow to a near standstill. Yet, the services offered by many digital businesses are  arguably more important now than at any time in recent history.

For example, some of our own digital services have surged in popularity, including the streaming platform BeelineTV in Russia and the Pakistan-based digital financial services provider JazzCash. The pace of digital innovation and adoption has also accelerated – and according to data aggregator, Statista, the global market revenue for digital transformation will grow from 1.18 trillion USD in 2019* to 2.3 trillion in 2023 – proof of the scale and speed of the change.

No longer will savvy  consumers accept businesses which only trade offline. Digital footprints are now undoubtedly a must-have for any successful business at scale. As we come out of this crisis, governments – particularly in developing countries – must take all necessary steps to bolster a sustainable recovery, which includes capitalising unique opportunity to accelerate growth with robust digital infrastructure and lay the foundations for a digital recovery.

Some countries, such as Pakistan, have already made impressive strides in this regard. Through its “Digital Pakistan” agenda, Pakistan’s tech and digital industries have registered exponential growth.

We are proud to support these efforts through Jazz, our local operating company, which is supporting digital skills and literacy programmes to build capacity and has, most notably, launched the National Incubation Center (NIC).

This is Pakistan’s  first initiative to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs, innovators, academics, and investors, creating the perfect environment for innovative, digitally-enabled start-ups to prosper. The centre has assisted more than 160 start-ups, creating 5,000 jobs and numerous success stories. 

Similarly, in Bangladesh, the government recognises that digital innovation is the key to boosting GDP, which grew 7.3% last year but will, understandably, be impacted by coronavirus. Our operating company Banglalink is certainly playing its part through the Banglalink IT Incubator which has  supported  200 budding entrepreneurs in just the past year through incubation and skills enhancement.  

Regardless of what a post-coronavirus world looks like, digital will be one of the key ingredients to economic recovery. Technology and digital start-ups will prosper and take the place of businesses with tired, outdated operating models. 

As countries grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, digital entrepreneurs need to be encouraged to innovate and grow. Governments and businesses operating in developing countries have a responsibility to foster digital growth. For example, governments might do this by providing direct funding or pitch opportunities, linking up start-ups with investors, donating ICT equipment and setting up start up incubators. 

Mitigating the tragic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and building a more secure future requires a reset. For developing countries, this means sowing the seeds now for sustainable economic and social development which, if planned and executed in the right, could last for decades into the future. Collectively, we in business and government must not waste this opportunity to hasten the global recovery through digital development.