G20 performance on the digital economy
G20 Summit

G20 performance on the digital economy

The Covid-19 pandemic catalysed the rapid expansion and transformation of the digital economy, and there are specific measures the G20 leaders can adopt to maintain momentum 

The G20 has paid fluctuating attention to the digital economy since its first summit in Washington in 2008, amid the global financial crisis raging then. But after the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, attention to the issue has surged. At the 2022 Bali Summit, where the Indonesian host has made the digital transformation a priority, G20 leaders should not lose that momentum, and focus on building a stronger, more inclusive digital economy.


From the 2008 Washington Summit until the 2021 Rome Summit, G20 summits produced 15,538 words on the digital economy, averaging 863 (6%) per summit. There have been 29 documents that referred to the digital economy, for an average of two per summit.

Prior to the 2016 Hangzhou Summit, the digital economy averaged 226 words per summit. Then the Hangzhou Summit had 3,042 words (19%) on the digital economy, a big jump from the 2015 Antalya Summit with only 299 words (2%). The 2017 Hamburg Summit then rose again to 5,029 words (14%) in seven documents, the highest number of both words and documents on the topic. Attention dipped to 1,420 words (17%) at the 2018 Buenos Aires Summit, 870 words (13%) at the 2019 Osaka Summit and 513 words (9%) at the 2020 Riyadh Summit. It increased again at the 2021 Rome Summit, to 2,330 words (24%).


G20 leaders have made 120 commitments on the digital economy, which includes information and communications technology and digitalisation. They began with two commitments (1%) at the 2015 Antalya Summit. The number soared to 48 (23%) at Hangzhou in 2016, the highest ever. The 2017 Hamburg Summit produced 26 (5%) commitments. Then the decline continued, as the 2018 Buenos Aires Summit produced 11 (9%), the 2019 Osaka Summit produced six (4%), and the 2020 Riyadh Summit produced three (3%). But the number rose to 26 commitments (12%) at the 2021 Rome Summit.


The G20 Research Group has monitored compliance with nine of the 120 commitments on ICT and digitalisation from 2016 to 2020. Compliance averaged 68%, lower than the G20’s overall average across all subjects at 71%. The four assessed commitments made in 2016 averaged 48% compliance. Compliance for the 2017 Hamburg Summit rose to 95%, the highest to date. The two commitments from Buenos Aires in 2018 averaged 48%. For 2019, compliance rose to 85%, and for 2020 to 90%. By June 2022, compliance for the 2021 Rome Summit was already 73%.

Causes and corrections

There are two ways G20 leaders can increase compliance with their commitments on the digital economy.

First, they can invoke multilateral institutions in their commitments. The top performing years were 2017, 2019 and 2020, with an average compliance of 90%, well above the G20’s overall average compliance of 71%; those commitments with high compliance all stressed the importance of multilateral organisations, including the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund.

Second, G20 leaders should make full use of the Digital Economy Working Group. At the 2021 Rome Summit, G20 members welcomed the transformation of the Digital Economy Task Force into the Digital Economy Working Group. The working group is set to meet at least twice a year and these more frequent meetings will help bolster compliance. This conclusion is supported by the correlation between ministerial meetings and compliance performance. Ministerial meetings for the digital economy began in 2017, and the G20 achieved its highest compliance – 95% – with the commitments from that year. The year prior, before the first ministerial meeting on the digital economy, compliance was at its lowest, at 48%.

The number of digital economy commitments surged in the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic catalysed the rapid expansion and transformation of the digital economy as companies rushed to adopt digital strategies to adapt to pandemic conditions. 

At the Bali Summit, G20 leaders should focus on those affected most by the pandemic and take an intersectional approach with equity in mind. They should use specific language that identifies groups of people who are historically and disproportionately disadvantaged. With the increasing digitalisation of the global economy and society, the need for increased accessibility and equity for youth, women, small and medium-sized enterprises, marginalised groups and the impoverished is more apparent than ever. Keeping these considerations in mind while transforming the economy is vital and necessary to recover together and recover stronger.