Thank you very much, Mr. Viik. Let me first of all congratulate Estonia and Singapore and especially Minister Reinsalu and Minister Balakrishnan for convening this conference on the digital response to Covid19.
Brazil is shaping a thriving economy but digital technology are today also essential for our vibrant democracy. In that sense, we firmly believe that Internet freedom and freedom of expression are absolutely fundamental in a democratic society and that protection and enhancement of Internet freedom are the most fundamental digital response to Covid 19. Brazil’s population is one of the most connected in the world; 99.2% of households have Internet access via cell phone and 57% of businesses sell goods or services over the Web. Brazil is transforming its governance with digital technologies, with the ambitious goal of making all public services, more than 3 thousand services, digitally available by 2022.
The current Covid 19 crisis has further increased the role of a robust digital infrastructure and for the widespread digitalization of services. We implemented several measures in order to keep Brazil connected during the coronavirus pandemic, in particular to ensure the availability of telecommunication services and Internet access to all. For example: a digital document validation service, which allows doctors, patients and pharmacists to work 100% online with safety in the exchange of documents. The provision of improved connectivity to over 14 thousand public health units, hospitals and healthcare centers as well as essential services, and the optimization of coordinated network management among service providers to ensure maximum Internet traffic, including for home offices and distance learning. Also, and very importantly, a system of electronic payments, which has allowed 50 million Brazilians, especially the most vulnerable, to receive an emergency benefit for 3 months, just extended for 3 more.
Indeed, digital technologies are key to the process of economic recovery, which will allow us to save jobs and livelihoods and ultimately also to save lives as much as the health services. Electronic transactions in the last two months have increased by an impressive 20% over last year. This indicates that in the post-Covid world, it is obvious that the digital economy will be substantively more important than even before the pandemic, and this must be taken into account in all policies, no only in economic policies, and it must be taken into account in our approach to the very structure of our societies, the kind of societies we will want to live in.
Internet freedom will be even more crucial than before. The power of information to create wealth, but also to create meaning for people’s lives can only be unleashed through free Internet. The Internet must keep and enhance its role as a tool not only to create prosperity but also to promote democracy. The globalization process of the last 30 years was blind to the question of democracy. This has been a tragic mistake. And the covid crisis can be an opportunity to address it and to correct it. In the digital world, this is particularly the case. As digital technologies can be the main instrument for freedom, on the one hand, but also, the main instrument for totalitarian social control, on the other. We have to use that opportunity to create value, to create freedom and to face the threat of totalitarianism. We can emerge from this pandemic not only better, stronger and more equal as was mentioned here, but also freer.
Let’s work towards that goal. The digital divide is not only a question of access to digital infrastructure, services and devices, but also access to contents and to basic freedoms, especially the freedom of expression. This debate is urgent.
Thank you very much.