Ambassador Pyatt’s Remarks at DCN Forum “The World After COVID-19: Digital Troubleshooting”

Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 4:15 p.m.

Καλησπέρα σας. DCN advisory board member Mr. Vladimir Spencer, Nikos, colleagues, friends: it’s a pleasure to welcome you to the DCN Southeast Europe Hub Forum on “The World After COVID-19.”

Over the past five months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted economies, health care systems, and travel around the world, prompting a closer look at nearly every aspect of our lives. Our governments have worked with epidemiologists like Dr. Tsiodras and Dr. Fauci in the United States to manage the crisis effectively and to protect the vulnerable.

But the necessity for social distancing has upended daily life, stressed supply chains, and forced us to reorganize our workplaces. Our personal relationships have also been tested by months of quarantine, and the virus has disproportionately affected essential workers and the less fortunate.

On a global scale, the pandemic has prompted us to examine our geopolitical relationships as well, from the necessity of closing borders to questions about government transparency and forthright information sharing in our effort to fight the pandemic together.

Since we’re all in this together, I think it’s very fitting that cooperation vs. division is a key theme of this forum. Greece has so far been successful in its response to the pandemic because of the Greek government’s decision to let scientific data and experts guide its policies, and because of the cooperation, discipline, and resilience demonstrated by the Greek people.

I am especially proud of the roles that American technology and science have played in helping to shape the Greek response to COVID-19.

From startups 3D-printing personal protective equipment for hospital workers and first responders, to businesses embracing telework to maintain operations, to families connecting virtually across miles and borders, technology has been central to our pandemic response. But this reliance on technology also raises urgent questions.

Questions about accessibility and equality when not everyone can work from home or access a computer. Questions about privacy when big data and artificial intelligence are used to model responses. And questions about the ethical use of data when apps for contact tracing are developed in Russia and China.

And, of course, the reason we at the Embassy are so grateful to Nikos and the DCN Southeast Europe Hub, questions about disinformation and how to convey clear, correct, and constructive information to help us all stay safe and healthy.

Especially at a time of stress and anxiety, you can see how easy it is for malign actors to spread disinformation—that the pandemic is a plot by Bill Gates to put microchips in our bodies, for example, or that COVID-19 is a myth created by George Soros—both false narratives that I have heard from regular people here in Greece.

I commend the organizers and participants of this forum for focusing on these difficult questions, and I urge you to use this opportunity to discuss and share smart recommendations for the use of technology that will continue to define our lives even after this pandemic has finally been defeated.

Ευχαριστώ πολύ.