Mukesh Ambani calls for bridging COVID-19 vaccine, digital divide

Reliance Industries CMD Mukesh Ambani on Monday called for bridging the COVID-19 vaccine divide among nations and also digital divide.

Speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum, Ambani said connectivity and communications have become basic need and fundamental right of every human being.

The billionaire identified vaccine divide among nations as the biggest challenge, and said the world has to get rid of it. While much of the developed world will be vaccinated by the end of the year, India has also taken a lot of steps and would do well by the end of the year or first quarter of next year, Ambani said.

However, the world needs to come together to vaccinate everyone, he said.

Speaking on digital infrastructure, the Asia’s richest man said it is difficult to imagine what India would have been without the 4G telecom network during the pandemic.

“The digital divide must be bridged, both among nations and within nations. This is because connectivity and communications have become the basic needs, and also fundamental rights of every human being on the planet (just) as basic as food, clothing, and shelter,” he said.

Ambani, who heads Jio Infocomm, said the day was saved because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for ‘Digital India’, much before the pandemic broke out.

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“Our Prime Minister (had) given a call for Digital India and I was privileged (that) our digital services company called Jio rolled out a 4G network across the length and breadth of the country by 2018,” Ambani said. “We have always wondered what would we have done without a 4G network across India in facing the corona crisis.”

He said digital infrastructure was very useful during the pandemic for people working from home, in vaccination, and in letting children learn and study from home.

“I think that this string of digital and physical (healthcare infrastructure) will be the new normal,” he said. “To my mind, it is an absolute must for all economies to integrate, and enhance this digital infrastructure which has been so very useful in the corona crisis.”

Ambani said the other challenge after the pandemic is to make sure that economies which did not have the benefit of stimulus support are nursed back and they grow. He said the whole world and global economy should grow in a sustainable way, and governments, companies and civil society will have to work together for this.

To a question, he said there is no option but for businesses to adopt a sustainable business model by embracing clean energy.

“We at Reliance have adopted this wholeheartedly and (are) transforming each one of our business lines to be sustainable, recyclable and fully transparent environment, social, and governance standards. And I think that’s a prerequisite for every business to survive, as we go forward,” he said.

Ambani also called for investments in education and healthcare by governments across the world to reduce inequality and provide equal opportunity for everyone.

“I believe that this pandemic will not be the last health crisis that humanity has seen and it is important…that all work together,” he said while stressing on the urgent need to upgrade healthcare infrastructure across the world.

(With PTI inputs)

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