Innovation & Sustainability Event

#Tech4Society – New technologies and the economy

Transformative responses for a new economic normality

Together with leading experts and policymakers, we explored what is necessary to build an economy that is conducive to linking new technologies with sustainable and inclusive growth.

Responding to the Covid-19 crisis, governments worldwide have launched large-scale stimulus packages in order to support the recovery of the economy and create incentives for investment. With the aim of boosting economic growth and innovation, these stimuli not only need to be timely, targeted, and temporary, but also transformativeThe financial resources now provided will determine the path towards technological progress, innovation drivers, and inclusive and sustainable economies.

Read our workshop synopsis for a concise summary of the workshop outcomes and policy recommendations.


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The role of the state: balancing short-term and long-term objectives of an economic recovery plan

In times of crisis, there is more pressure on the state and the public sector to come up with an approach for an economic recovery that considers the needs of disproportionately affected industries and parts of society. The discussions at the workshop indicated that now more than ever, there is a necessity for investments that enable a boost in competitiveness and the build-up of infrastructures needed for new technologies. Key elements for that are resilience and a dynamic inclusive economy that would foster innovation. The Covid-19 pandemic offers a historic opportunity to bring forward economic structural change, particularly regarding digital solutions that allow the transition to a low-carbon economy.


Responses to Covid-19 as an accelerator of the digital transformation

The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated digital transformation across all sectors. Instead of being a long-term aspiration, equal access to a robust digital infrastructure has become an urgent necessity for alleviating the impact of the crisis. However, not everyone has the opportunity to work remotely. Critical workers are predominantly in low-paid occupations, such as frontline health and social care professionals, bus, tram and tube drivers or retail workers (pharmacies, supermarkets, and big-box stores, etc.). Improving conditions for a privileged share of the workforce which can work from home must thus be accompanied by improving the work environments and conditions (working hours, salaries, etc.) for those who have been bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis. 


A progressive vision

Progressives need to come together and discuss shared visions of what a post-Covid-19 world should look like. Instead of sliding back into business as usual and austerity politics, we need to create meaningful change in a way that enables transformation. While it is easy to demand that investments should take place, it is a more difficult task to decide where they should take effect. Robert D. Atkinson’s keynote pointed out that we need more effective worker training and adjustment policies to boost European productivity. Svenja Falk stressed the need for investment in technological infrastructures since it will define the competitiveness of countries in the future. The participants in the workshop discussed further key elements needed in three breakout rooms.  


In this digital room, participants discussed that progressives could make a case to expand the definition of productivity. There is a triple divergence when it comes to the term of productivity. There are different groups of employees, companies and regions shaping the economy. Reconciling their different interests may be one of the main challenges for constructing the economic stimuli that are necessary to transform the economy. Another idea was to use the tool of real prices to steer economic modernisation in the right direction. 

Regional imbalances must be discussed not only in a national and local, but also in a European and global context. Transition mechanisms must need to work bottom-up, which makes involving local stakeholders an indispensable condition for driving change. Undirected public funding is not effective in revitalising rural areas, as it was the case for East Germany. Instead, funding must be directed to foster innovation, in the metropolitan as well as in the rural areas.

To transform our economies in a sustainable and inclusive way, we need to assess the resilience of our current institutions and governance structuresNow more than ever, there is a necessity for investing in high-speed broadband, robust 5G networks, and digital governance at all levels. Institutions that can facilitate change should take a decentralised approach. Thereby, they can foster new ecosystems that not only focus on the economic but also on the societal and ecological impact. At the same time, centralised approaches are vital to facilitate the overall construction of digital ecosystems, for example implementing a governmental body responsible for digitalisation. 


The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how crucial it is for governance-structures, public service and administrations to maintain their capacity for action. A progressive vision must make the case for a short-term recovery and long-term-transformation of the economy, which is as dynamic and tech-savvy as it is inclusive and sustainable. 


 “We need to ask ourselves not only how to rescue 2020, but also what we need to do in order to prepare for 2030” – Danyal Bayaz

The transformation of our economy requires the economic stimuli that are now put in place to not only encompass nowadays’ challenges and negligences, they must also be bold, far-sighted, and targeted towards a green and digital transformation. Only then, will we be able to further new technologies that support economic as well as societal innovation.

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Our speakers

From left to right: Robert D. Atkinson (Founder and President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation), Svenja Falk (Managing Director at Accenture Research, Danyal Bayaz (Member of the German Bundestag, Alliance 90/The Greens), Max Neufeind (Policy Fellow at Das Progressive Zentrum)

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The online workshop “New Technologies and the Economy – Linking technological with sustainable and inclusive growth” is one in a series of three workshops in the #Tech4Society innovation series and took place at the Progressive Governance Digital Summit 2020.

The #Tech4Society Consortium: