Amid Global Pandemic, New Report Finds Promising Innovations Emerging for Public Health and Economic Policy

October 26, 2020

WASHINGTON—The public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 have varied in severity around the world, but overcoming the pandemic will require the global community to take greater collective action. Common threads are emerging in the public policy responses that work best, according to a new report released today by the the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Global Trade and Innovation Policy Alliance (GTIPA), a worldwide network of independent think tanks that support trade liberalization and integration.

The report provides an actionable catalogue of data and case studies for policymakers, summarizing public health and economic policy responses to the pandemic in 20 nations and regions around the world, including Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, the European Union, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Korea, Latin America, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

“This pandemic is a global problem that begs collaborative, global solutions,” said Stephen Ezell, ITIF’s vice president for global innovation policy. “Our goal in compiling this report was to highlight which types of policy responses are proving to be most effective so policymakers around the world can replicate them.”

The report finds that in responding to the public health crisis, governments have had the most success when they set up nationwide testing and contact-tracing systems and moved aggressively to contain outbreaks in local communities.

Among the short-term economic responses governments have taken, the most effective efforts have involved public-private collaborations to get personal protective and other safety equipment quickly to factory floors, keeping workers employed in productive enterprise to counteract supply-side shocks to the economy. Other effective responses have included supplementing income or providing short-term work schemes.

The report also highlights how countries are responding to the crisis in ways that could improve their long-term economic competitiveness. For instance, many are sweeping away low-value-adding regulations that impede the deployment of digital technologies, such as restrictions on the use of robots, drones, or autonomous vehicles. Some have also ramped up efforts to strengthen their digital infrastructure, including high-speed broadband Internet and next-generation mobile networks, while embracing digital applications such as e-government, telemedicine, tele-education, intelligent transportation systems, and contactless payment systems.

The report suggests there is hope that the hundreds of billions of dollars that nations are investing to develop vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for the coronavirus will lead to longer-term progress across various facets of biomedical innovation, including in clinical trial design, rapid detection systems, and new approaches and technologies toward developing vaccines.

But the report cautions that the uneven impact of the pandemic—with the Americas, Europe, and Central Asia experiencing more severe impact than the Asia-Pacific region—has led some nations to take self-interested measures, such as introducing  trade restrictions on medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.

“Global cooperation is needed now more than ever to effectively respond to the economic and public health challenges the coronavirus will wreak into 2021 and beyond,” added Ezell. “How the global community responds to this crisis will set the course for how the rest of this century unfolds—as one of greater collaboration among nations or as one where global economy and society become increasingly fractured along ideological, political, and regional lines. The members of the Global Trade and Innovation Policy Alliance call upon global policymakers to choose the more enlightened path.”

Read the report.