Collaboration between businesses, the state, the civil society and academia will be key for exiting the coronacrisis, but it must be based on trust, stressed the participants of the AmCham Business Breakfast at the Bled Strategic Forum.
According to Mr Igor Cesarec, Vice President of Global Economics Research at Citigroup, and Founder and President Emeritus of Association VTIS, trust is crucial. “There absolutely needs to be trust between all the different parts of society for us to take that step forward and take cooperation and collaboration to the next level.”
The importance of collaboration can be seen in what the world has achieved in the last few months since the pandemic started, he said. “When collaboration started, we were able to eliminate the first wave, we were able to make important strides towards the vaccine etc., so it’s definitely possible, but trust is the glue that puts all these things together.”
One positive change that the pandemic may have brought is more trust in experts. “I think this pandemic has taught us that in times of uncertainty we need experts … to get answers,” said Mr Jure Leskovec, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University.
At Stanford, companies are increasingly expressing interest in working with professors and investing in knowledge, he said. “We are actively working on tools, methods for forecasting how coronavirus is going to spread.”
This is important on the national level but also for companies, which want to avoid closing big factories in case of an infection, he said.
Noting the importance of good, rigorous work done by experts, Mr Cesarec also stressed the importance of communicating it to the general public. “Without that piece of the puzzle I think the first part is less effective.”
Mr Joe Philipsz, Senior Director at Amber Fund, pointed to Amber and the Tree Seas initiative as a good example of cooperation between governments and regions because it not only invests in infrastructure of the region but is designed also to encourage other private companies to invest in infrastructure alongside governments, and to show that governments and private investors can successfully cooperate to deliver good value and new infrastructure.
Joining the debate as a digital speaker from Paris, Ambassador Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen, Deputy Secretary-General at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said that the pandemic had demonstrated that cooperation was much easier than thought.
He believes globalisation is at risk in 2020, having peaked in 2009. “This coronacrisis has accelerated mega trends that were already under way: geopolitical turmoil, cold war, de-globalisation.” But one of the positive process it has accelerated in his opinion is the digital transformation.
Mr Knudsen is worried that the crisis and the unpredictability it brings for governments and businesses will lead to protectionism and nationalism, which in turn will harm the prospects for cooperation, which is now needed more than ever, especially in the face of the challenges in trade, climate, cyber space, and geopolitical communication.
But he believes there is hope at least for cooperation on the regional level. This crisis has also revealed how interdependent market, state, civil society and academia are, he stressed.
Mr Jonathan Moore, Senior Bureau Official at the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the United States Department of State, believes governments have to trust experts and scientists but also »your people«.
“When you look at energy security, all over Europe you see countries have taken a very scientific and professional approach to that. Slovenia is one of them. By having a very high-quality nuclear power plant, Slovenia is helping to deal with environmental challenges. There are a lot of countries elsewhere in Europe who have made exclusively political rather than scientific decisions to not pursue nuclear power.”
Meanwhile, Mr Jan Bervar, Cyber Security Architect at the Conscia Group, raised the issue of cybercrime and trust. He pointed to digital crime as a “shadow pandemic going on for a long time”. “That pandemic is getting worse combined with the coronavirus pandemic,” he warned. According to him, in the last five years cyber criminals have been inventing new business models that work. Combined with the coronavirus pandemic that has forced the world to work in a more distributed way, and collaborate more, the risks are getting worse, and this will remain the problem long after the world exits the coronacrisis.
On a more positive note, Mr Igor Zgrabljić, Government Affairs and Public Policy Manager at Google CEE, also joining the debate remotely, believes that technology will help the world get out of this crisis faster. He sees great opportunity in digital transformation for Central and Eastern Europe. Regional cooperation will be key, he said. “What works well in Slovenia could probably also work well in Croatia and vice versa,” he said.